UCLA vs. USC Basketball (Round 1) Pregame


Well the crosstown rivalry was renewed (again) on the gridiron, but the hardwood’s matchup is kinda of a lack-luster. UCLA (7-9) will take on USC (10-6) at Pauley tonight.

This is a game where one team has practically zero motivation, and another has zero confidence, and in a conference where you can play the worst game you’ve played all year and beat the top team in the conference, this game… honestly, has zero NCAA tournament implications.

However, bragging rights are still in the equation.

UCLA is coming off a roller coaster ride in the Bay Area as they upset Cal, thanks to a Michael Roll jump-shot in OT, and then committing 22 turnovers in Maples to fall to Stanford.

USC, with a couple of marquee wins against UNLV and Tennessee, still is trying to find their way in this crazy conference. USC’s trendy type of left wing basketball is starting to catch on in this conference as they haven’t been playing “good” basketball in conference thus far, but that is mostly OJ Mayo’s fault. If you live under a rock like some of us, USC self imposed sanctions by banning itself from any form of postseason play.

More after the break.

USC is led by three veteran players; Dwight Lewis, Marcus Johnson, and Mike Gerrity who transferred over last year.

Dwight Lewis is principally known as a “Bruin Slayer” as his past few outings against UCLA have been big, most likely the deciding factor for beating UCLA. So far this year, Lewis has averaged 13.2 PPG, but has been almost disgusting in the other categories. His assist to turnover ratio is 1:2, and is seldom found near the boards.

His likely opposite will be Malcolm Lee, that is, if UCLA decides to go with the man defense instead of the newfangled zone defense that has Howland losing sleep about even considering going against his mojo. Malcolm Lee didn’t have a great offensive showing up north, but he did have a good defensive effort out there. Cal’s Jerome Randle was stuffed in that game, and Stanford’s Landry Fields was contained to a certain degree. The only difference is that Lewis, although he is really good, is USC’s only major threat on the court, whereas Cal and Stanford have other firepower in their lineups.

Marcus Johnson is another big factor in this game as he is doing good enough to keep his team afloat. He averages just under 10 points per game, and just under 5 rebounds per game. He is one of those long, athletic guys who can frustrate smaller defenders. He will most likely be defended by UCLA freshman, Tyler Honeycutt.

If there is a deciding factor in this game, it would have to be Gerrity. The small guard has been able to rack up consistent points, and has been the staple to the quicker lineup. He averages a solid 10 points per game, but isn’t the greatest shooter at 41% on the year, but still, his leadership at the point has been the most obvious improvement for the Trojans this year. Up in the Bay Area though, Gerrity seemed out of his comfort zone, frequently committing bad turnovers. He will most likely be seeing Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee in a rotation tonight.

Jerime Anderson has looked practically pathetic so far in this early year, and has been beat off the dribble more times that I can even fathom. If he can’t contain Gerrity, it will be basically Gerrity versus UCLA at that point because there isn’t anyone who is quick enough to matchup one on one with him.

In the front court, Alex Stephenson and Nikola Vucevic (in tandem) average 18 rebounds per game, and three blocks. They combine for 21 Points per game, shooting around 50:50 from the field. As is the story with the Bruins, USC’s big men have had free throw problems, Vucevic is shooting 65% from the line, pretty good compared to UCLA, but Stephenson is even worse than many of the Bruins right now. Reeves Nelson, James Keefe, Nikola Dragovic, and Brandon Lane will be scrambling in and out of the lineup to find some sort of combination that works against the bigger, and stronger Trojan Duo.

UCLA, on film, has the better team. If history tells us anything, UCLA will have a decent night shooting, and USC might have to play catch-up for most of the game. However, if your mind tells you anything as a UCLA fan, USC could come out fired up, and then just totally trash the Bruins late in the first and put it on cruise control for the rest of the way.

In my opinion, if UCLA gets beat off the dribble by either Gerrity or Lewis, they’ll have to change it up to that zone and hope USC can’t find their stroke. However, if UCLA can contain them to a relatively close margin, and it would come down the the wire, USC has practically zero depth, especially with Lil’ Romeo getting kicked off the team earlier this week, and UCLA gets the nod.

Final Predictions:

There are plenty of “if’s” going into this game for both UCLA and USC . Any UCLA fan would tell you that they have no clue how this team will play tonight. If UCLA comes out focused right from tipoff, it should be easy for them to take it to the Trojans and put them away early. However, if USC can get something going offensively, and just play “OK” defense, they will be able to pull it out. Hm, I think I’m going to say that because Norm Chow stayed at UCLA, they’ll win it tonight… that’s how shaky this game could be.