I can't think of a game that has two distinctly different teams than USC and OSU.
- While OSU retains its core from last year the Trojans graduated theirs last year.
- The Beavers are relatively healthy this season while USC loses a key starter before the season started and now has another major contributor, Aaron Fuller, out for the year due to injury.
- OSU wants to play at a frenetic pace. The Trojans prefer a slow tempo.
- OSU has a problem guarding while the Trojans have less problem doing that.
Who will win in this Battle of Opposites? More after the jump.
A lot has been said about Kevin O'Neill's inability to generate good offense throughout his tenure in the Land of Troy, and this year is no exception. If there's one thing SC does well offensively in their extremely low 59 possessions a game , it's not turning the ball over. Most of their offense is mistake free, as their turnover percentage is real low. But what sinks SC's chances for winning is their inability to put the orange-esque ball through that ring-like structures that we refer to as baskets. Their struggles offensively makes our issues against ASU look like Nova-Georgetown 1985: 35.6% from the field, 23% from 3. They don't get to the line often, and even if they do, they shoot 60% there. To their credit they win the offensive rebounding battle against conference opponents, but the offensive rebound rates are in favor of the opposition on a nightly basis.
There's also been a lot of talk about Coach K.O's penchant for defense, and while that claim is overstated in the conference schedule they are still pretty good in that category. Opponents shoot 42% from the field and 36% from 3, the latter number subpar by defensive standards. But a bigger weakness is that opponents outboard the Trojans on a nightly basis, resulting in numerous second chance opportunities. The Trojans don't block a ton of shots but to their credit are good at generating steals and turnovers on the defensive side of the floor.
Now on to the personnel; it's filled with players that had to do much more than they are reasonably capable of doing. Count Maurice Jones in that category of players. Yes, he's a good PG, leading the team in scoring and assists. But as fast and talented as he is, he's asked to do way too much, from igniting an offense, shooting the ball well, being team leader and defending hard all at the same time. As a result, despite good numbers his shooting percentages are really low. With Fuller gone, the load is going to be larger for biggie Dewayne Dedmon, a high motor athletic big who is averaging double digits in Pac 12 play and leading the team in boards and blocks. Hopefully Brandt and the other OSU bigs have learnt something when guarding against the UCLA frontline, as Dedmon is a talented frontcourt piece. Oh, and it would be in the interest of the Beavers to guard the guy, because Dedmon is shooting over 50% from the floor.
Beyond those two, though, there's little production, though those players had minutes to show their stuff. The next proficient scorer is Byron Wesley, a slashing wing, while Alexis Moore is a well rounded guard who is the teams best 3 point shooter (though that's not saying a lot). With Fuller out, center James Blasczyk will get a good deal of minutes even though he hasn't done much. Then expect Garrett Jackson to be in multiple positions depending on the team's needs or foul trouble situation. Just don't expect Jackson to, you know, score so much.
This is a game that will have its end determined by the pace of the game. If USC gets the game in the 50s, their chances for winning the game triples. OSU has to make sure that the tempo stays high, but note that playing fast does not mean excuse bad defense. Specifically, don't apply token pressure and expect results, because Maurice Jones will break the pressure and cause problems. Make sure offensive execution is sound, as just playing streetball (ie. handing it over to Ahmad Starks, settling for jumpers) will give USC a chance to pull the upset. To sum it up, as long as OSU plays fast, scores enough off of great offensive execution and plays decent defense against a bad USC offense, this game is theirs to take.