Arizona heads to the Galen Center tonight, kicking off their tour of Los Angeles. The Wildcats are 6.5 point favorites and, per KenPom, hold a 70% chance of victory.
But did you know that the Wildcats are just one-for-their-last-four at USC? That lone win coming during last year's abomination of a basketball season for the Trojans? Indeed this has been a tough roady in years past for the Wildcats and this one should prove no less difficult.
USC possess an interesting challenge talent-wise as so much has been made of the chip-on-the-shoulder, transplant, castoff thing. But their head guy was eventually the only true castoff and now, under long time assistant Bob Cantu, the Trojans are playing alright. Credit him or the laissez faire attitude playing for an interim coach can engender, since he took the helm, they're 5-5 with a fighting shot at the top half of the conference.
Their greatest threat is the carefree attitude they seem to play with. It's that very fact that the Trojans pose a threat to the Wildcats.
As is well documented, Arizona has some energy and urgency issues to begin games. It's why Kevin Parrom was inserted into the starting lineup as a proverbial shot in the arm to ensure the Wildcats curbed their habit of falling into quick, early, and deep holes. Let a team believe they can win and they just might. It's killed the Wildcats against UCLA and Cal (though that was a second half thing but similar) and nearly did so against Colorado, Washington, and Stanford.
So what particularly frightens me about USC is that should Arizona allot them that lead, should the Wildcats come out slow and give the Trojans a sliver of belief that they can hang with the nations #11 team, they very well could carelessly shoot their way to victory. JT Terrell takes shots like he's at a fraternity initiation party: 28% of the team's shots on just 35% shooting while 57% of those are threes, the key to any upset victory. Get a guy like this hot and the win is possible.
An additional concern would be the overlook factor. Arizona has previously destroyed USC and has a big, national game this Saturday with championship ramifications inside Pauley Pavilion. Arizona will have revenge, the Pac-12 title, and a possible NCAA 2-seed on the mind for that one which is a lot to be thinking about. Something they very well could be thinking about heading into tonight's game.
But enough fire and brimstone.
As I mentioned, Vegas and the numbers say Arizona is going to win this game and I have to agree. Sean Miller recently said he was turning this season over to his seniors and when he did that, they rolled up the Washington schools. I expect that momentum to continue as Arizona rediscovers itself as the aggressor when they take the floor and as they head to March. And then to Pauley (whoops, maybe I'm looking ahead a little, too).
One thing I'm most interested to watch in this one is the play of Kaleb Tarczewski. He'll be matched up against DeWayne Dedmon and/or Omar Oraby who offer similar skill sets to Tarc. When this has been the case, the big freshman has done relatively well. Then, last weekend, against a stretch four in Brock Motum, Tarc was able to assert himself and play his best offensive game as a Wildcat. Can he continue this? If he can, Arizona becomes an increasingly dangerous team as the floor can become that much more spread for shooters to shoot and Lyons and Hill to slash.
All in all, tonight is a terrific slate of Pac-12 games. Enjoy.