The Providence Friars, after a tough stretch at the end of the season, find themselves matched up against the USC Trojans in the NCAA Tournament. It will be an 8/9 matchup and the winner of this game will likely play #1 seed UNC in the next round, but first they have to play this game. It will be a tightly contested game between USC and Providence in Raleigh, North Carolina and we checked in with our friends at Conquest Chronicles to find out more about USC.
What are the main strengths to this USC team?
Julian Lopez: I would say that the main strengths of the USC basketball team are: athleticism and balance on offense. USC has six players that average at least nine points a game and the team averages over 80 per game. Jordan McLaughlin has been hot lately and leads the team with 13.4 points per game but with five guys averaging over 11 points per game, USC has the balance on offense where any single game, a different offensive leader can step up. As far as athleticism, put on the game tape of USC vs. UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament and you will not what I am talking about. The team leaps up for offensive rebounds and they love to run on offense. Oh yeah, they also are now called: "Dunk City" because of all the dunks they throw down each game.
How has Andy Enfield changed the face of USC basketball in his three years as coach?
JL: Well, the funny part about this question is that USC wasn’t supposed to be this good until next year. They were projected to finish 10th, I believe, in the Pac-12. I think Andy Enfield has changed the face of the program because of the style of play they use and how successful it has been this year. Two of the guys that Enfield recruited that are freshman now: Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu fit this system perfectly. They can both shot and are extremely athletic. Enfield loves the up-tempo pace and the players he has fits his system.
USC lost their last five of their last seven games, what happened during that slide?
JL: Four of those five losses came against the top three teams in the conference with the Trojans losing to Utah twice so they struggled against the top competition. However, in most of those games, USC came out flat and was missing their shots. When USC comes out slow and misses their shots, they normally will not find success the rest of the game. Fortunately, I think they have momentum coming into the tournament with their blowout win over UCLA before their tough loss to Utah, a game they should have won.
The Trojans have to travel to the East Coast for this game, do you think that will play a factor in this game?
JL: USC struggled on the road this year and won only five games away from the Galen Center so it will be a challenge for the Trojans. They arrived earlier today and are probably practicing today so they have a couple days before they play Providence. I still don’t think it will possess a huge problem for the Trojans and I don’t expect this game to have huge crowds from each fanbase.
How do you think Jordan McLaughlin will matchup against Kris Dunn? Who will win that battle?
JL: Both McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs are pretty good defenders but I think Dunn could be in for a huge game. USC struggled against elite guard play this year and it will take a full team effort to slow down Dunn and the Friars.
X-Factor and prediction?
JL: The X-factor to me is Chimezie Metu. He had a big weekend in the Pac-12 tournament and when comes off the bench and is flying around everywhere (blocking shots, offensive rebounds, powerful dunks) he electrifies the team. As far as prediction, I think this game will go down to the wire and I will say USC gets one more big shot than Providence and wins 72-68