USC seeks sharp start vs. Michigan State in NCAA tournament
Trojans look to shake their recent postseason trend as they open against the Spartans on Friday at 9:15 a.m. in Ohio
Adam Grosbard (OC Register) — COLUMBUS — USC’s last two playoff games have followed a similar pattern.
Last week in the Trojans’ Pac-12 Tournament opener, USC fell behind Arizona State 8-0 and was never able to dig out of that hole.
Last year in the NCAA tournament, Miami jumped out to an 11-point lead as USC didn’t score its 20th point until there was 1:03 left in the first half. Despite Drew Peterson’s last-minute heroics, the Trojans could not weather the Hurricanes.
So as 10th-seeded USC prepares for this year’s NCAA tournament opener against seventh-seeded Michigan State on Friday at Nationwide Arena, the Trojans want to avoid a similar slow start that dooms their March dreams.
“As I told our players, this is what you play for. This is what you dream about as a young player growing up,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “You’re on the biggest stage and competing for a national championship. So they better be ready. I’m sure they will.”
This season has been one of exceeding expectations for these Trojans (22-10). Opening the season with a Quadrant IV loss to Florida Gulf Coast seemed to portend a rebuilding year, with Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis the only returning starters and many freshmen and sophomores around them.
But USC won 11 of its next 12 games and built a résumé of wins over tournament teams Vermont, Auburn, UCLA and Arizona State. The Trojans played their typical brand of defense, Ellis blossomed as a playmaker and young wings Kobe Johnson, Reese Dixon-Waters and Tre White grew into their roles.
It was enough for the Trojans to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, their third consecutive appearance. Standing in the way – the Spartans (19-12).
This isn’t your typical Tom Izzo-coached team. Only a plus-three average rebounding margin, allowing opponents to shoot 45% from the floor. Only one real big man, Joey Hauser, who is a threat to score in the paint.
Instead, Michigan State has relied on guard play and 3-point shooting this season, reminding Ellis of Arizona State.
“Tyson Walker is an elite scorer. He can shoot it with range. Very quick,” Enfield said. “He’s one of their leaders. But they have a lot of other good players that complement what he does.”
The Spartans’ reliance on guards will play into undersized USC’s favor. The Trojans have typically played with one big on the court this season, with defensive stalwart Joshua Morgan starting and being relieved by Kijani Wright or Vincent Iwuchukwu.
Iwuchukwu has missed USC’s past two games with a back injury. Enfield described the freshman 7-footer’s condition as day-to-day on Thursday. But during the Trojans’ public shootaround at Nationwide Arena, Iwuchukwu did not participate and instead watched from the sidelines in plaid USC pajama pants.
USC won’t have much to time to change out of its PJs on Friday. The Trojans’ tournament opener tips off just after noon in Ohio, or 9:15 a.m. in Los Angeles.
It’s a change of pace for USC after so many 8 p.m. starts this year, and another factor the Trojans will need to combat as they try to avoid another slow March start. But USC flew to Columbus on Tuesday to adjust to the new time zone and ensure it is ready for Friday.
“We knew it’s all about preparation going into a game like this. We’re prepared, getting good sleep, all that stuff,” Peterson said. “I think we’re the first game on Friday, so excited to be able to get that showcase slot.”
No. 10 USC vs. No. 7 Michigan State
What: NCAA tournament, first round
When: Friday, 9:15 a.m. PT
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
TV: CBS (Ch. 2)
LOL ….Tonight in the NY Times Sports Dept …….”Somebody start digging up what they can find out about FDU “.
Just now on Twitter >>>>> (FDU is in Teaneck NJ )
7 minutes ago
Knights at Boilermakers
Trending in United States
Trending in United States
Trending in United States
Trending in United States
This announcer is correct ………..FDU is a tiny ……tiny school !
Just an unreal game. FDU deserved this big-time.
I apologize FDU ……….. I did not have the guts to believe you could do it !!!!!!!!!!
Cant screw up this possession Purdue .
If Purdue wants to be considered #1 THEY HAVE TO make this basket .
Please ………..DO NOT let the Refs decide this !
This is probably TOO MUCH of me LOVING USC …..But now I am wishing SC had a shot at playing Purdue ….I mean If FDU can do this ……………………………
USC has nobody inside to handle PUR. JMHO.
Allen I can not Fathom how big a story this would be .(If it happens).
I’m rooting for FDU now. Me, and the rest of the country I suppose. Go Knights!
I’ll give FDU this ………They HAVE affected Purdue’s way of playing now in this game .
OK …..This on Twitter just now >>>>> Trending in United States
5 Minutes left FDU still in it .
What’s your prediction?
A right down to the last 20 seconds game .
Won’t stick your neck out, huh?
It would be fun but I am not a big David beating Goliath believer .
PUR looks scared.
USC is hosting a magnificent group of 40+ recruits from all over the country this weekend.
Check out the complete WeAreSC list compiled by Payton McMane for all the details and photos.
It is particularly interesting to see a DC area pipeline developing. I think that can be attributed to Caleb Williams, but also Marshon Lloyd. There are two players from the DC area coming this weekend. More on the way to come see Shane Lee, Sam Green, and Colin Mobley, all from the DC area Catholic league. To top that off Elijah Hughes is from Arlington, across the river from DC who is enrolling in the summer.
Tiny ……..Tiny……….. TINY ….. NJ College Fairleigh Dickinson University Leading #1 Purdue at the half !!!!!
PUR only has five offensive rebounds. FDU also leads the Boilermakers in points scored in the paint!
As we saw in the USC/MICH ST game, the 2nd half may be wildly different.
Yea thinking Purdue might be in lockeroom considering where this would be News-wise …..Nationally If FDU could pull off this Miracle .
More physical and better defensively, MICH ST is pulling away 66-51 with 4:30 to go.
Decided to turn it off. Game is over. I think this was an excellent learning experience for the team and the staff. Mich State was much more physical, intense and played really good D, better than any team I saw SC play in the Pac this year. Andy now knows what he must prepare for. There was a reason that the Mountain West sent as many teams to the Tournament as the Pac. Tom Izzo is an elite coach for a reason. Andy has moved himself from being a mediocre HC to a good HC. Can he make the next… Read more »
MICH ST was all over Ellis like a cheap suit all game long. Not only was Boogie cold (six points!), but he was also always smartly contested and couldn’t find shots despite his amazing quickness. Hat’s off to the Spartans, simply better today. They spanked USC pretty well, even though USC put in a lot of effort to no avail.
He was cold because he was facing an elite and intense D. They had a defender who was able to take him out of his game. I doubt Ellis has seen such physical and intense D this year. Peterson was also a non-factor. Izzo figured out that if you stop Ellis and Peterson, you stop SC. And he was right.
Not exactly superb insight by Izzo since literally everyone on the planet already knows that Ellis and Peterson’s performance dictate USC’s success.
At half, USC and MICH ST are tied 34-34, even though Boogie Ellis had a very cold 1st half.
Imagine where USC would be if they weren’t so frequently battling back from large deficits.
I’m looking forward to Boogie getting hot.
Another typical USC bad start, losing 24-13 with nine mins to go in the 1st half.
Charles Barkley picks USC to win today.
Hope SC gets off to a good start and can win today. Fight On!
My Trojan Alum friend Gerry and I were talking about the fact that the team needs to be in Ohio by Tuesday and your article stated that they did. This is a practice that all of SC sports teams are going to have to do going forward into the BIG10. As we know, in the PAC12 we go to Colorado and Utah which is only Mountain time and one hour difference. With the advent of the BIG10 road games we will be mostly in Eastern Time zone locations. The university better bring tutors, teachers etc. along with the players and… Read more »