The 6-2 USC Trojans visit Tucson tonight to play the 9-1 Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats are favored by 4.5 points with the over/under at 138 total points.
The Brothers Mobley & Company come to Tucson to play an Arizona team that is coming off a road sweep in Washington that culminated in a double overtime victory against Washington State. It was a highly contentious game against the Cougars and one in which the Cats exerted a tremendous amount of energy, both physically and mentally. Often times in the first game after such a highly charged game and a long road trip there can be a tendency for a bit of fatigue and lethargy that will need to be shaken off early by the Cats.
The Trojans are led by phenom frosh Evan Mobley. The 7 foot Freshman is averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds per game this season and will be a real challenge for the Cat’s interior defenders. He’s 1st in blocks per game in the Pac12 (2.9 per game), 2nd in FG% at 59%, and 3rd in rebounds per game (8). The Trojans can run a pretty deep bench as they have 9 players averaging at least 17 minutes per game. As a team they are 1st in the Pac12 in FG% at 48%, 1st in Effective FG% at 54% and 2nd in 3 point percentage at just under 37%. Oddly enough, despite those high percentages they are Last in the Pac12 in FT% at 60%.
USC is 17th in the country on kenpom’s defensive rating, allowing 91.3 points per 100 possessions. The Wildcats aren’t far behind at 43rd, allowing 93.2.
The Wildcats–early on in conference play–are 1st in points per game at 82.3, 1st in offensive rebounds with 14 per game, and 1st in total rebounds at 44 per game. They too will run 9 deep and are led by their back-court of James Akinjo (34.6 minutes per game) and Jermarl Baker (30.3 minutes per game).
Arizona continues to be effective in their ability to get to the foul line. They are 4th in the entire country with 26.9 free throw attempts per game. Their FT% has dropped off from the beginning of the season but they are currently right around the 70% mark as a team. Getting to the foul line is extremely important. Not only do free throws lead to “open” shot attempts/points as well as getting early into the “bonus” to shoot 2 instead of a 1 and 1, but they also lead to foul trouble for the other team which we saw, for Arizona, was helpful in winning their previous game against WSU.
This should be a really good game. The Trojans have the size and athleticism to match up with Arizona pretty well and may even have a slight advantage in those departments. Both teams play solid defense. The Wildcats are still undefeated at home this season (7-0) and hope to add to that home winning streak tonight.