Sun Devils Hoops Welcome Talented USC Trojans to Tempe in PAC-12 After-Dark Matchup
By TJ Mathewson // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, Ariz. — There’s no place like home, and ASU (17-6, 5-6 Pac-12) will get to reap the full benefits of that, with five of the next seven games being played in Tempe to close out the regular season.
The Sun Devils will welcome the USC Trojans (17-7, 8-3 Pac-12) to their home floor, a team that before losing to UCLA in their last matchup, was riding a six-game win streak and is second in the Pac-12.
After finishing the 2016-17 season 26-10 (10-8 Pac-12) and advancing to the Round of 32 as a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament, USC entered the 2017-18 season with high expectations.
The Trojans returned all five starters from the previous year’s team, were selected to finish second in the Pac-12 preseason media poll and were ranked No. 10 in the preseason AP Poll.
A four-loss non-conference slate, to Texas A&M, Oklahoma, SMU, and Princeton, left many people wondering if the Trojans could live up to their lofty preseason standards.
Remember, this was one of the teams caught in the NCAA FBI scandal along with Arizona, Louisville and Auburn, to name a few.
That scandal resulted in the suspension of USC assistant Tony Bland and sophomore guard De’Anthony Melton, whose eligibility was in question after the investigation.
USC split their first four games in conference, dropping games at home to Washington and at Stanford, before winning six of seven and propelling their way to second place in the Pac-12.
Projected late first-round pick Chimezie Metu, a year removed from starting every game for USC and winning Pac-12 Most Improved Player award, leads the Trojans in points (15.8), rebounds (7.5) and blocks (1.7).
Far and away the leading assister in the Pac-12 is USC’s senior guard Jordan McLaughlin, averaging a whopping 7.7 assists, 2.3 more than anyone else in the conference, while adding on 12.3 points.
Much like ASU, USC does have a bit of reliance on senior guards. Elijah Stewart is another senior guard for the Trojans, ranking in their top-10 all-time in 3-pointers made and is averaging 11.4 points in 29 min/game.
The Sun Devils will have to be careful with Bennie Boatwright, who could be used to create mismatches while USC is on offense. Despite being 6-10, Boatwright can score from all over the court, forcing the ASU defense, most likely their best rebounders in Romello White, De’Quon Lake or Mickey Mitchell, out of the paint.
In terms of pure talent, USC is in the top tier of that department in the Pac-12 and it should be no surprise if ASU drops yet another front end of a weekend series Thursday. You can listen to the game on Blaze Radio Online Mixlr with Drew Andre and Noah Friedman on the call at 9pm.
TJ Mathewson is a beat writer for Blaze Sports covering ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow TJ on Twitter @TJMathewson.