#21 USC (15-3, 4-1) at Oregon (14-4, 3-2)
When: Thursday, January 21st 2016
Where: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR
Time: 9:00 ET | TV: PAC-12 Network
The first-place USC Trojans travel up to Oregon for a pair of games beginning Thursday with the Oregon Ducks and Saturday with the Beavers. The Trojans, who were picks to finish 10th in the Pac-12 this season, are ranked for the first time since November of 2008. Expectations were not great as the Trojans finished 12-20 overall and 3-15 in conference play. The confidence is only building at USC as the Trojans just knocked off Arizona and UCLA last week to claim a first-place tie with Washington in the Pac-12. They haven’t started this well since they went 17-3 to start the 1991-92 season. USC leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 84.6 points a game and have six players averaging double-digits. Leading scorer Jordan McLaughlin (13.5) also ranks second in the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting percentage at 46.6%. USC leads the conference in three-pointers made and have sank 12 or more six times this season. Their 41.1% three-point shooting also ranks 13th nationally. Julian Jacobs is second in scoring (12.5) while averaging a conference-leading 5.7 assists per game. UNLV transfer Katin Reinhardt (12.4), 6-11 junior center Nikola Jovanovic (12.2), 6-10 freshman forward Bennie Boatwright (11.8) and sophomore guard Elijah Stewart (10.6) also are averaging in double figures.
The Ducks had won three-games in a row before faltering on Sunday at Colorado 91-87. Oregon was outrebounded by the Buffaloes 39-25 in that game and was outscored 26-12 on second-chance points. Dillon Brooks leads the Ducks in scoring (15.8), but it could be a lot more if it weren’t for his poor 26.3% shooting from beyond the arc. 6’10” forward Chris Boucher, who averages a team-leading 7.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game, was limited to just four rebounds and no blocks against Colorado. It was just the second game all season he hasn’t registered at least one block. Freshman guard Tyler Dorsey (14.2), senior forward Elgin Cook (12.6) are also averaging double-figures in points. PG Casey Benson leads the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio at 5.2 and has only turned the ball over twice in the past five games. At 3-2 in conference play and no significant non-conference victories, the Ducks need to finish above .500 if they want to be invited to the NCAA Tournament. A Pac-12 win at Utah last week will help their cause. The Ducks have UCLA on deck followed by Arizona next week.
I like the way this USC shoots the ball and spreads it around. They have a lot of confidence right now and are getting five points in this contest. I’ll take them here tonight.
Pick: USC +5