The Pac-12 rivals USC and Oregon will meet again in the Sweet Sixteen. USC versus Oregon will even feel like a traditional Pac-12 after dark game with a tip at 9:45 p.m. Both teams have looked extremely impressive in the NCAA Tournament. USC has been lockdown on the defensive end while Oregon has put on an offensive clinic. What are some keys to this Pac-12 Sweet Sixteen matchup?
USC’s defense has been extremely impressive in March Madness. This season, USC ranks third holding opponents to 38.7%. Also, the Trojans rank 160th holding opponents to 33.6% from three. USC’s postseason defense has been stifling holding opponents to 29.2% from the field. In addition, their perimeter defense has been elite allowing opponents to shoot 27.1% from three. USC needs to continue playing great defense against Oregon. To clarify, Oregon put up 95 points against Iowa while shooting 55.9%. Oregon perhaps had the most impressive offensive performance of the tournament versus Iowa. Therefore, USC has to have an elite defensive performance.
Additionally, USC’s size and length may cause problems for Oregon. USC’s starting lineup consists of players standing at 6-foot-2, 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8, 6-foot-10 and 7-foot. Meanwhile, Oregon plays a position-less style of basketball with all starters standing at 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6. All of Oregon’s starters have the ability to handle the ball. In addition, they are versatile on defense being able to guard multiple positions. However, Oregon’s shots may be greatly impacted by USC’s size. USC and Oregon faced once this season and USC won by 14. Also, Oregon only shot 40.4% while scoring a below-average 58 points in their previous matchup against USC.
Further, USC is averaging 5.5 blocks in the NCAA Tournament. For reference, this would rank third in the country. This is no anomaly as USC is sixth averaging 5.3 blocks per contest. USC has already slowed down Oregon before, and with their recent rim protection they could do it again. USC must challenge every possible shot due to their size advantage against Oregon.
Oregon’s offensive output versus Iowa was mind-boggling. Not only did they score 95 while shooting 55.9%, but they also shot 44% from three. Four Oregon starters scored 17+ points against Iowa. Chris Duarte had 23 points shooting 9/12. Eugene Omoruyi had 17 points shooting 8/15. Next, LJ Figueroa was 5/9 from three with 21 points. Lastly, Will Richardson shot 70% while pouring in 19 points. The Ducks had scoring options all over the floor versus Iowa. Furthermore, this is typically the case as all five Oregon starters average 10+ points per game. Once again, Oregon will need even-distributed scoring against USC. This will keep USC honest defensively. USC will not be able to double team any Oregon Duck if everyone on the floor is a threat to score.
In the past USC versus Oregon clash, the game was at a slower pace. For USC, a slow pace of play favors their defensive-minded team. Oregon had 57 shot attempts against USC, and this was with nine offensive rebounds. Against Iowa, Oregon was able to score in bunches since they had 68 shot attempts. Oregon does not want to get into a slow-paced, defensive contest against USC. Oregon’s game is playing up-tempo and scoring in transition. Also, considering Oregon’s smaller lineup against USC, Oregon should want to run since they should have a speed advantage. Above all, Oregon needs to dictate the tempo of this Sweet Sixteen showdown.
Players to Watch
For USC, Evan Mobley and Isaiah Mobley are on a tear. The younger of the two, Evan, is widely projected as a top three pick in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft. He is a 7-foot center that can stretch the floor with his shooting, is a great rebounder, good shot-blocker and is extremely athletic. Mobley can run the floor as well as the number two pick in the 2020 NBA Draft James Wiseman. Mobley is averaging 16.5 points this season and 12 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.
The older brother, Isaiah, averages 9.5 points with 7.3 rebounds. However, in the NCAA Tournament Mobley is averaging 16 points while shooting 5/7 from three. This season, Mobley shoots 45.7% from beyond the three point arc.
USC also has a shot-creating guard in Tahj Eaddy. Eaddy stands at 6-foot-2 averaging 13.5 points per game. Eaddy has not played up to standard this postseason, but he is capable of returning back to form against Oregon.
As previously mentioned, Oregon has scorers all over the floor. The main two to watch are Duarte and Richardson. Duarte averages 17 points while shooting an efficient 53.3% and 42.8% from three. Meanwhile, Richardson is on a hot-streak averaging 16 points in his past five games. On the year, Richardson typically averages 11.7 points. In addition, Richardson is shooting 64.4% from the field and 68.4% from three in his past five games.
USC and Oregon are both playing fantastic basketball right now. Both teams are polar opposites. Oregon is high-scoring and plays position-less. While USC is a big, lengthy defensive squad. Both teams have NBA prospects in Mobley and Duarte. This should be a very exciting and entertaining game.
The way Oregon handily beat Iowa was one of the most impressive games of the NCAA Tournament. However, USC’s blowout win against Kansas was also extremely impressive. The Pac-12 clash could come down to the last few possessions. USC is favored by only two points as of 3/26. Due to Oregon’s recent game against Iowa, they look to be clicking at the perfect time. The Ducks’ offense could be too much for USC to keep up with. The Pac-12 foes clash Sunday at 9:45 p.m. on TBS.
Prediction: 73-71 Oregon
All stats courtesy of ESPN and Team Rankings.