The USC Trojans are searching for their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2007, but to do so they have to beat a Baylor Bears team that began the season 20-1 and was at one point ranked No. 1 in the country.
When they match up Sunday evening (approximate starting time of 4:45 p.m. PDT), USC and Baylor will be vying for a trip to New York City next week to play in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden. If seeding holds true in the other Round of 32 matchup being played in their region on Sunday, the winner will play No. 2 seed Duke.
The Trojans (26-9) and Bears (26-7) had similar paths to this point in the season. Both started the season undefeated in non-conference play before taking a whooping to a conference power in their first loss -- USC losing by 25 to Oregon and West Virginia handing Baylor a 21-point loss in their first game after being ranked No. 1. Baylor had showcase non-conference wins over Oregon, Michigan State, VCU, Xavier and Louisville.
But both teams struggled during the back half of the conference schedule. USC lost four straight before the final week of the regular season while Baylor finished the season 5-6 prior to the NCAA tournament.
The two teams are built similarly with long, lean, athletic players that can attack off the dribble. Baylor has a strong inside game with All-American Johnathan Motley and 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. Point guard Manu Lecomte drives to create both for himself and teammates while Ishmail Wainright and Jake Lindsey both are pass-first guards. Al Freeman brings instant offense off the bench while forward Terry Maston is capable of knocking down the mid-range jumper, particularly at the elbow when opponents try to use a zone against the Bears.
Top 25: 5-4
Vs. 100+: 10-1
Last 10 games: 6-4
Best wins: Louisville 7, vs Oregon 9, vs Iowa State 21, Virginia Commonwealth 22, vs West Virginia 24, vs Xavier 37, at Oklahoma State 40, vs Oklahoma State 40
Worst losses: at Texas Tech 123, Kansas State 57, vs Kansas State 57
How They Got Here
The Baylor Bears earned an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament after going 25-7 with a 12-6 mark in Big 12 play. The Bears started the season 15-0, raising all the way to No. 1 in the country, but immediately lost their next game to fall out of the top spot. They won the next five games and had moved back up to No. 2 with a 20-1 record before plunging into a slump that saw them lose six of their last 11 games heading into the NCAA tournament, finishing No. 12 in the Associated Press top 25. Baylor ended the season with an RPI of 11 and earned a No. 3 seed in the East Region.
Baylor is making its fourth straight tournament appearance and seventh under Scott Drew. After making a run to the Sweet 16 in 2014, the Bears had lost their first round matchup the last two seasons, losing to 14-seed Georgia State and 12-seed Yale.
Coach: Scott Drew, 278-179 (14th season)
Players (10 mpg or more):
Johnathan Motley (JR, 6-10, 230 F) – 17.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.0 bpg, .517/.281/.714 (30.5 mpg)
Manu Lecomte (JR, 5-11,175 G) – 12.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.8 apg, .434/.417/.824 (30.0 mpg)
Al Freeman (JR, 6-4, 200 G) – 10.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.1 spg .447/.405/.829 (23.7 mpg)
Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (JR, 7-0, 220 F) – 9.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg. 2.6 bpg, .549/.333/.489 (26,3 mpg)
Terry Maston (JR, 6-8, 230 F) – 6.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.6 apg, .540/.000/.809 (15.4 mpg)
Ishmail Wainright (SR, 6-5 235 G) – 5.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.7 spg, .410/.291/.667 (29.3 mpg)
Jake Lindsey (SO, 6-5 200 G) – 4.6 ppg. 2.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, .441/.408/.690 (22.5 mpg)
King McClure (SO, 6-3 215 G) – 4.5 ppg. 1.2 rpg, 0.8 apg, .430/.328/.733 (13.9 mpg)
Nuni Omot (JR, 6-9 205 F) – 4.3 ppg. 2.1 rpg, 0.3 apg, .402/.317/.864 (11.9 mpg)
Team averages (national rank from sports-reference.com):
.475 FG (38), .531 2-PT. FG (49), .361 3-PT. FG (128), .722 FT (111), 1258 REB (76), 73.3 ppg (178)
.399 FG (16), .443 2-PT. FG (22), .318 3-PT. FG (37), .711 FT (226), 960 REB (7), 63.0 ppg (17)
Offensive Statistical Comparison
|Avg Score Margin||+5.3||+8.9|
|Effective FG %||51.9%||52.9%|
|Off Rebound %||29.7%||38.5%|
Defensive Statistical Comparison
|Opp Effective FG %||49.9%||45.4%|
Not a USCFootball.com member? Sign up now and you'll get a seven day FREE trial! Join the Peristyle Family and get all the great information from USC football practices, Trojan football and basketball games, access to the Peristyle and all of the premium recruiting updates on USCFootball.com! Become a member today!
Follow Shotgun on Twitter: @ShotgunSpr