For USC, it's time to rebound.
The Trojans need to figuratively rebound from yesterday's thorough thrashing of UCLA, flush away the victory and be prepared for a new challenge. And they need to literally rebound against a Utah front line that killed them in the first matchup. Jakob Poeltl is USC's main concern after beating the Trojans up in the first game with 29 points on 11-of-13 shooting.
Can the Trojans slow Utah's Poeltl Power and snap the Utes' seven-game win streak?
Here's what else to watch, where you can see the game, a flashback to the last time these teams played and the projected starting lineups.
What to Watch:
#ItTakesATeam - USC had probably its most complete team effort Wednesday in the opening round against UCLA with six players in double figures and a seventh with nine points. When the Trojans are at their best, they are spreading the wealth offensively and attacking the glass as a group defensively.
Since all seven of their primary rotation players are capable of scoring 15-20 points on any given night, the Trojans just have to worry about finding the open man rather than getting the ball in a certain player's hands. Seven different Trojans have scored at least 19 points in a game this season. USC has four players with at least 54 three-point baskets this season and six Trojans are averaging double-figure scoring. Eight players are grabbing at least 2.8 rebounds.
Win With Defense - To beat Utah, USC must play much better defense than it did against the Utes in the first matchup. The Trojans can't afford to have an opponent shoot 54 percent in the Pac-12 tournament. When they play defense and make open shots, the Trojans are a very dangerous team that is capable of winning the entire Pac-12 tournament. They did that Wednesday against UCLA.
"[We] haven't been a great team the entire season, but when we play like this, we can beat anybody on our schedule," Enfield said after the Crosstown Showdown victory.
SC Block Party - While there haven't seemed to have been as many highlight-worthy swats in the last few weeks, USC has blocked a school-record 177 shots this season. The Trojans are currently eighth in the nation in total blocks and No. 12 in blocks per game with 5.5 after rejecting six against UCLA yesterday. Chimezie Metu leads the way with 51 on the season, but USC has four players with at least 25 on the year. In the first matchup against Utah, the Trojans managed just three.
Poeltl Power - USC struggles with high-quality big men that can bang down low and Utah's 7-foot Austrian center Jakob Poeltl might be the best in the country. Slowing him down is the key to the entire game for USC. Poeltl dominated the first matchup, both with his scoring in the paint and his ability to kick the ball out to open shooters when the Trojans ran extra defender at him. USC tried a couple of different strategies, including guards helping down to double and big-to-big double teams, but nothing worked. What will Andy Enfield devise in the 20 hours he'll have between yesterday's win and today's tip-off?
Know Thy Enemy - Utah comes in at 24-7, having won seven straight. Andy Enfield has never beat Larry Krystkowiak and the Utes. In the series against USC, Utah currently has a six-game winning streak. Led by Pac-12 Player of the Year and likely lottery pick Jakob Poeltl in the middle, the Utes are a fundamentally sound team that take quality, high percentage shots. They are No. 12 in the nation in field goal percentage, led by Poeltl's 66 percent shooting -- sixth-best in the nation.
While Poeltl is the engine running the offense, Brandon Taylor is the spark plug that makes it fire a little bit better. The Los Angeles native loves playing against USC and always puts together solid under-the-radar games to lead the Utes to victory. He usually finishes with around 10 points and plays great perimeter defense, despite giving up size to both Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs. Taylor is lightning quick and when he can knock down outside shots as well, the dynamic of the Utah team completely changes.
That's Mr. All-Pac-12 to You - Julian Jacobs comes into this week's games in Las Vegas with plenty of motivation.
First, he snapped a streak of five seasons without a first team all-conference player for USC earlier this week when he was the first ever Trojan picked for the All-Pac-12 first team. But since his points per game wasn't close to the other selections some fans from other teams have dismissed his worthiness.
Jacobs is also playing in front of his own home crowd, being a Las Vegas native and today he faces off against the school he initially committed to in high school. He committed to Utah and coach Larry Krystkowiak before eventually deciding on USC. Krystkowiak turned around and landed Delon Wright instead and both programs have benefitted from the move. But this is one more opportunity for Jacobs to show Utah what they missed.
With all the different motivating factors, Jacobs got off to a great start Wednesday, scoring 11 points and dishing out seven assists to only one turnover in the first half as the Trojans built a 19-point halftime lead.
Last Matchup: Utah won 80-69 on Feb. 21.
USC had no answer for Jakob Poeltl in the middle. He was bigger, stronger and more skilled than any of the USC post players. He scored 29 points on 11-of-13 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Utes handed the Trojans their first loss at Galen Center this year. Utah shot 54 percent and USC couldn't buy a free throw, going nearly 26 minutes before even attempting one. Jordan McLaughlin scored 20 points to lead USC.
Where to Watch:
Game Time, TV channel: 6:15 p.m. PST, Pac-12 Networks (Ted Robinson, Bill Walton, Lewis Johnson)
Radio: AM 690, TuneIn Radio (Chris Fisher, Jordan Moore)
Projected Starting Lineups:
G - Brandon Taylor (5-10 senior)
G - Lorenzo Bonam (6-4 junior)
G - Jordan Loveridge (6-6 senior)
F - Kyle Kuzma (6-9 sophomore)
C - Jakob Poeltl (6-9 sophomore)
G - Julian Jacobs (6-4 junior)
G - Jordan McLaughlin (6-1 sophomore)
G - Elijah Stewart (6-5 junior)
F - Bennie Boatwright (6-10 freshman)
F - Nikola Jovanovic (6-11 junior)