What to watch, TV schedule, radio: USC vs Providence in NCAA tournament

What to watch Thursday evening when the USC men's basketball team (21-12) makes their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011, facing off against Providence at approximately 6:45 p.m.

The USC Trojans have made it.

They are in the NCAA tournament. Now...can they make any noise? They have a tough first round matchup in Raleigh, N.C. against a quality Providence squad that features a pair of dynamic playmakers in two-time Big East Player of the Year Kris Dunn and Big East leading scorer Ben Bentil.

It's a classic "stars versus team" matchup. But it is a winnable battle if USC plays its game. The Friars aren't great shooters and don't rebound well. However, will the Trojans do either of those well themselves? When they have done both, they have been unbeatable, but when USC hasn't, anyone has been able to play with them.

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:

Double Trouble - Kris Dunn is the Big East Player of the Year two years running, but he's not even Providence's leading scorer. That would be Ben Bentil. The duo is one of the best guard/forward tandems in the country. Dunn is a likely top five draft pick while Bentil is an extremely tough matchup because of his inside-outside versatility. At 6-foot-9, he is capable of banging down low, but he also can catch the ball on the wing, rise and fire or put the ball on the deck and drive by slow-footed bigs. Bentil does a lot of damage from the free throw line where he led the Big East in attempts and makes while shooting 78.8 percent.

It would be advantageous if USC can get either in foul trouble -- playing Bentil straight up and trying to draw a charge while having Dunn, who was fourth in the nation in steals per game, get a reach in foul or two.

But Andy Enfield said it's not just about Dunn and Bentil.

"We're not just focused on two players. We're focused on the Providence team. We think they're as good as any team we've played this year. We've got a lot of respect for them. It'll be a very challenging game for us matchup-wise."

No DC Down Low - Darion Clark was really looking forward to this week. The Atlanta native spent his first collegiate season at Charlotte, so this was supposed to be his triumphant return to the state of North Carolina. Instead, Clark spent Wednesday's practice session with his right arm in a sling and he stayed up until 5 a.m. posting on social media. Clark doesn't appear likely to play after re-injuring his right shoulder that he previously separated with a tumble to the court in practice in early February.

The backup forward missed seven games and the Trojans struggled mightily, going 2-5 and having issues inside with toughness. Clark is a banger and USC's best rebounder. He averaged nearly five boards while playing just 11.1 minutes per game. Providence struggles rebounding the basketball, so Clark could have given USC an advantage in the paint off the bench. 

Inexperienced - USC has a cumulative of one NCAA tournament game of experience. Redshirt junior Katin Reinhardt lost to California in 2013 during his freshman season at UNLV. Reinhardt scored 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting. That's it. That's the only postseason experience among the Trojan players. 

Of course, USC does have an experience ace in the hole in head coach Andy Enfield, who orchestrated Florida Gulf Coast's historic run to the Sweet 16 the same season as Reinhardt was playing for UNLV.

Know Thy Enemy - Providence enters with a 23-10 record and had a similar season trajectory as the Trojans. They got off to a great start before having some struggles during conference play (9-7) and then splitting a pair of games in the Big East tournament. The Friars lost five of six at one point, but followed that with four straight wins prior to their conference tourney loss to Villanova.

The Friars are one of the worst shooting teams the Trojans will face all season. They are No. 260 in the country with 42.2 percent shooting and even worse from three-point range at 32.1 percent -- good for No. 285 in the nation. But they make up for their shooting percentage by getting to the free throw line a lot and not fouling much. They shot 200 more free throws than their opponents and they also win the turnover margin. Providence is No. 18 in that statistic.

It Takes A Team - The Trojans are building a program that is focused on the team rather than the individuals. It takes good individuals to succeed, but USC has had success this year because of the team mentality. They share the basketball. They make the extra pass. They aren't concerned about who gets the points and the accolades as long as the team has success.

USC's seven primary rotation players are each capable of scoring 15-20 points on any given night. That's why they are able to spread the ball around, finding an open shooter rather than relying on having a particular player do all the work. USC has had seven different players score at least 19 points in a game this year. Four Trojans have at least 55 three-point baskets this season and six players are averaging at least 9.8 points. Seven players are grabbing at least 3.6 rebounds.  

"It's our system. It's our identity as far as sharing the basketball," Enfield said. "I'm very proud of the players for buying into the team concept offensively, but to do that you have to defend."

If USC wants to advance beyond the first round, it will have to play sound team defense as well. The Trojans have to play solid help-and-recover defense, especially with Providence's two stars. If they play together, they can win together, but if they get caught up in the moment, it could be a long night for the Trojans and all of those people supporting them:


Last Matchup: Providence won 70-66 on Jan. 26, 1972.

USC entered 11-2 and ranked No. 7 in the country, but 9-2 Providence came into the Los Angeles Sports Arena and knocked off the Trojans with a four-point victory.

Where to Watch:

Game Time, TV channel: 6:45 p.m. PST, TBS (Kevin Harlan, Dan Bonner, Reggie Miller, Lewis Johnson)

Live Stream: NCAA March Madness Live

Radio: ESPN 710, TuneIn Radio (Chris Fisher, Jordan Moore)

Follow Along: GameTracker. USC Twitter - @USC_Hoops; Providence Twitter - @PCFriarsMBB

Projected Starting Lineups:

G - Kris Dunn (6-4 junior)
G - Junior Lomomba (6-5 junior)
G - Jalen Lindsey (6-7 sophomore)
F - Rodney Bullock (6-8 sophomore)
F - Ben Bentil (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)

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