USC TROJANS (9-4) at UCLA BRUINS (11-2)
PLACE: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
DATE & TIME: Sunday, January 5, 2014, 12:00 noon PT
TV: Fox Sports 1
LAST SEASON: Bruins and Trojans split two games, USC winning 75-71 on January 30, 2013 while UCLA won, 75-59, on February 24, 2013
ALL-TIME SERIES: UCLA leads, 133-105, and has won five of the last six meetings
UCLA – Jordan Adams, 18.5 points per game
USC – Byron Westley, 17.0 points per game
UCLA – Kyle Anderson, 8.7 per game
USC – Byron Westley and Omar Oraby, 7.2 per game
Whoever made the Pac-12 basketball schedules clearly wanted to start the conference season off with a bang, because this will mark the first time that these two rivals will begin their Pac-12 games against each other since the 1990-91 campaign.
For the record, the Bruins beat the Trojans in that game, 98-81.
It will also be the first time that both teams have new head coaches as UCLA’s Steve Alford and USC’s Andy Enfield – who made things a bit chippy with his “If you want to play slow, go to UCLA” comments – will meet.
Sure, the Bruins and the Trojans sport good records, particularly the Bruins at 11-2, but those won-loss marks need to be taken with a grain of salt as the wins have, quite honestly, come against (with all due respect) cupcakes whom they were supposed to beat.
UCLA’s wins have been against teams like Sacramento State, Chattanooga, and Prairie View A & M, and both losses have been to guys their own size, 7th-ranked Duke and #25 Missouri.
The Bruins’ latest win over Alabama on December 28 was a good one, but would have been ten times more impressive if the sport was football rather than basketball.
Meanwhile, ‘SC’s wins have likewise come against (again, with all due respect) little brothers of the poor squads like West Alabama, Cal State Bakersfield, and Howard, and they haven’t all been blowouts either as the Trojans beat Cal State Bakersfield and Northern Arizona by only four points.
At least they got a good win over mid major power Xavier on November 30.
What I’m getting at is this:
I’m honestly not sure what to make of either of these squads going in to conference play, especially UCLA as while there are many teams who would be exceedingly glad to be 11-2 right now…
I frankly haven’t been impressed enough to boldly proclaim a great future for these Bruins, as least as of yet.
While it has been good that Alford has let them play rather than hold a overseer-like atmosphere over them like former coach Ben Howland did, their slow feet on defense has handcuffed them and prevented them from finshing off certain opponents.
They will get a chance to remedy that this Sunday against their crosstown rivals, and especially on January 9 when the number one team in the country, the Arizona Wildcats, comes to Pauley Pavilion.
All Arizona did in their last game was to annihilate Washington State 60-25 on Thursday, taking a 21-2 lead and giving up but seven points in the first half.
But let’s get back to this upcoming battle:
No one gave the Trojans much of a chance in the Pac-12 this season as pundits had ‘SC finishing anywhere from tenth to last.
Wesley has been the star for them this season, but what gets me is the fact that a 7′ 2″, 270 pound guy like Oraby is only tied for the team rebounding lead with Wesley, who stands a full nine inches shorter than him.
That center, who is a senior no less, should be averaging at least 13 to 15 points a game instead of 9.5, and his rebounding average needs to be in double digits as well, as big as he is.
In short, here is a guy who can and should easily dominate a court like Shaquille O’ Neal did in his day, but doesn’t.
The Bottom Line: I’m not 100% sure how this game will unfold.
Maybe the Bruins will explode, maybe the Trojans will like they did last year in Pauley.
I suppose we’ll soon find out.