Washington State finishes off their regular season schedule as they face the USC Trojans today at 3 pm Pacific Time. Both teams are looking to head into the conference tournament on a positive note after blowout losses on Thursday night.
If WSU manages to win their second conference road game, that will put them at 7 Pac-12 wins. If someone had told me the Cougs would win 7 in league play before the season, I would have probably considered them a rational person. Then the league spent the whole non-conference losing and winning more games seemed like a very real possibility.
That didn't happen, and this game is largely meaningless for WSU. But we preview on anyway after the jump!
From a month ago:
Coug fans are well aware of the struggles their team has had on defense throughout conference play. USC is the mirror opposite of that, as they have been the worst offense in the league during Pac-12 play. If you look closely, you may see a pillow fight under USC's basket at some point in this game.
Jones represents the USC offense pretty well as a whole, as the Trojans are 322nd in eFG%, 316th in free throw rate, 327th in three point percentage, and 328th in free throw percentage. The only thing Southern Cal does reasonably well on offense is take care of the basketball. They turn it over on just 19% of possessions, good for 89th.
The only player that had been performing above average on offense this season for USC was Aaron Fuller. He was lost to a shoulder injury two weeks ago. The next most efficient guy has been 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon, who has been exactly average with a 100 offensive rating. He makes 56% of his twos, but has a surprisingly low free throw rate for a man of his size.
You don't win just 1 out of 17 games in the worst major conference without being truly terrible at something, and the Trojans are truly terrible on offense. KenPom has them ranked 317th in offensive efficiency.
The last time USC was over 0.90 points per possession was against the Cougs in Pullman. They followed that up with 0.59 against the Huskies. For WSU to look bad on defense today, they may have to actually try to play bad defense.
The Trojans are giving up almost a point per possession during league play. That is something that WSU fans dream of, but for Southern Cal, who is trying to make up for an atrocious offense, it has not been enough. The loss of CougCenter favorite Nikola Vucevic to the NBA is felt just as much, if not more, on the defensive end than it has been on offense.
The USC defense has fallen off as the season has wore on. They are now ranked 7th in conference play in defensive efficiency. In their last game against UW on Thursday, the Trojans gave up almost 1.2 points per possession, their worst performance of the year.
Southern Cal has been the best at forcing turnovers in the Pac-12, as opponents are giving it away on a quarter of their possessions. They forced the Cougs into turnovers 23% of the time in the first match-up. WSU will have to avoid those on the road where they might not be able to rely on free throw rate to carry the offense.
The first game between these two was an ugly affair, with WSU grinding out a win. Kenpom predicts the Cougs to get the season sweep, 60-57 with 64% confidence.