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Q&A With Conquest Chronicles

Before we tip-off tomorrow night's game, we decided to get a little Pre-Game chat going with Conquest Chronicles, the SB Nation USC blog. We asked Joey Kaufman some questions about tomorrow's game, and his responses are below. You can view my responses to Joey's question's here. Enjoy!

Q. Who has been the best player so far the Trojans? Who should Beaver fans be looking out for?

A. While coach Kevin O’Neill insists that Fordham transfer (can we still call him that?) Jio Fontan is the Trojans’ best player, there remains little doubt that Nikola Vucevic carries this team, averaging 16.1 points per game in addition to nearly 10 rebounds per game. He can score inside, and so far this season, he’s also shown the ability to score from the perimeter. When Kid Euro, as he is affectionately known as on the message boards, scores 20+, ‘SC is a mere lock to win, and if Oregon St. stands a chance, it’s going to need to limit his touches. 

Q. Obviously, the Trojans are a dangerous team after defeating Texas, Tennessee, and Washington State. But the Trojans also lost by 20 against Rider, and by 1 against a 6-10 Bradley team. Obviously teams have bad nights, especially early in the season, but what went wrong in those games?

A. For staters, ‘SC was playing with a seven-man rotation with Fontan inelgible to play. The game against Rider was the team’s third game in five days, and at that point, fatigue was a serious issue. Point guard Maurice Jones, a freshman, was being forced to play 40 minutes per game. That was never a good combination, and with Fontan in the lineup, the team has been given some added lineup flexibility.

Q. What must happen for USC to make the NIT, or even the Big Dance?

A. Two things must happen. For starters, USC needs to play well against a zone, and historically under O’Neill, they’ve had some serious difficulties against it. Possibly even more important, however, will be not fading down the stretch. Last season, the team lost its last five games and took a serious nose-dive despite an opportunity to win its first outright Pac-10 regular season title.

Rest of the Q&A after the break

Q. Which newcomer has had the biggest impact for the Trojans?

A. No question, Jio Fontan. While O’Neill is prone to serenade Fontan in post-game pressers, there remains little doubt that he’s provided this team with a huge mid-season lift, averaging nearly 14 points in the six games he’s been in the lineup. With Fontan starting, USC is 4-2, including tough losses to prospective Tournament teams Kansas and Washington.

Q. Did you guys lose anyone from last year's team, and if so, were they key player(s)?

A. Marcus Johnson was arguably the team’s best on-the-ball defender, but Marcus Simmons has been just effective on the defensive end of the floor. If I had to pick one, I’d say they miss shooting guard Dwight Lewis, who was ‘SC’s best 3-point shooter.  

Q. Predictions for the game?

A. Oregon State’s zone defense will make this game competitive by itself, but in the end, I have a tough time pegging the Beavers on this fact alone. In the end, I’ll take USC 65-57

Go Beavers!