The Trojans have improved significantly over last season’s dismal results, yet Kevin O’Neil was fired all the same just days after an impressive 15 point road win over Utah. Still, the Trojans are now 5-5 in the Pac-12 with four other teams including the Huskies. The Trojans are fresh off a win over WSU and an OT victory over UCLA on the road.
The Dawgs should be feeling pretty desperate right now. They are barely above .500 and have reached 10 losses in February for the first time since the ’07-’08 season when they finished 16-17. The Huskies of ’12-’13 look to be on much of the same path with little hope to turn things around. The Huskies continue to throw the ball away at an alarming and just plain embarrassing rate, while also struggling at the foul line and lacking any sort of offensive execution. If you need any sort of quick explanation as to why the Huskies are so bad this season, look no further than their assist to turnover ratio of 12 assists to 13 turnovers a night. No team can win when they give the ball away more than they share it.
The Trojans are a balanced team with four players averaging 9.5 points or more per game as well as four players with 4 or more rebounds per game. On the negative side, they also have five players averaging at least 1.5 turnovers per game, a feat the Huskies can more than relate to.
The Trojans play a fairly deep roster with an 8 man rotation. 6-6 240lb senior forward Eric Wise leads all scorers with 12.3 points as well as a second best 5.5 rebounds per game. Wise’s season highs are 12 boards against Long Beach State and 19 points against Dayton in a two point overtime win.
Jio Fontan has made a solid come back after missing last season. Averaging just under 10 points on top of his excellent 5 assists per game, Fontan is one of the Trojans most important players and is one of the main reasons for his squads improved efforts.
One of the more impressive features of the Trojan line up is their frontcourt featuring 3 players that stand at 7-0, 7-1, and 7-2. Dewayne Dedmond, 7-0 255lb, and Omar Oraby, 7-2 270lb, combine for 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. The size of the Trojans will prove to be a tough match-up for the Dawgs who lack depth in the frontcourt. If they Trojans want to win this game, their key lies in pounding the paint over and over again. Only Aziz N’Diaye and Shawn Kemp have enough muscle and height to shut down such a Trojan attack.
As ugly as the UCLA game was this could be uglier still. The Trojans fail to execute their offense pretty much on par with how the Huskies have “performed” this season.This will likely be a slow, drawn out match featuring many steals, turnovers, and missed opportunities.
Maybe our expectations of this team have been too high and the criticism is unjustified, yet I can’t help but feel that with such senior leadership our record should be much better than it is. After crushing our way to a tremendous 4-0 start, the Dawgs have shut down completely and are 1-5 since that time. The Dawgs have won four straight Pac-10/12 titles and that record looks to be broken this season. Three games back from the regular season title and facing better teams in UA, UO, UCLA, and ASU in the tournament almost certainly mean that the Dawgs will have to be happy in the NIT as the NCAA is essentially out of reach barring a miracle run to end the season.