Gharib: Despite lack of love, USC poised to make statement

USC could separate itself from the rest of the Conference with a win against UCLA on Saturday

Posted on February 3, 2021

  By Anthony Gharib, SuperWest Sports

It seems like there’s a new favorite each week in the wild Pac-12 conference. One week it’s Oregon, the next UCLA, then maybe Colorado or USC in another.

The deepest conference in the country is beginning to heat up with Stanford, Arizona and even Oregon State gaining traction after a slow start to the season. Colorado, which had a hot start, is coming back to earth, allowing other schools to make a run in the Pac-12 tournament.

However, the real school everyone so quickly forgets is USC—arguably the most talented team in the conference.

Outside of the weekly columns I write, the love for the Trojans seems to be limited. It seems like they still need to prove something for everyone outside of the Pac-12 to finally take notice.

Coming back to exact their revenge against Oregon State last week was a great win and a huge morale boost for USC. If they had lost that game, the momentum they have been building through the season would have plummeted tremendously.

The win over Stanford on Tuesday was no less important, with the Trojans coming from behind and holding up well under pressure.

Nevertheless, against UCLA on Saturday, the Trojans have an enormous possibility of separating themselves from the rest of the Pac-12.

The Bruins have an extremely deep team and an outstanding combination of guards. Their talent and depth combined with their offensive firepower make the game against USC a clash of Titans.

Tyger Campbell leads the charge for the Bruins. | UCLA Athletics

Sophomores Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. are fantastic guards that control the pace. Campbell is the heart and soul of the Bruins, running the show like a puppeteer while averaging 6 assists per game.

His play alongside senior Chris Smith and sophomore Johnny Juzang make UCLA a dangerous squad that can most definitely take down the Trojans.

Outside of the four guards, junior Cody Riley has been a key contributor for the Bruins, averaging double-digit points. Riley, most notable for being part of Liangelo Ball’s situation in China, is a bruiser and a tough forward that can disrupt Evan Mobley.

Unlike USC, UCLA does not have the length on the defensive end, however, they make it up with hustle and effort.

With all this praise for the Bruins, you might expect them to be the clear favorites. But that’s what makes this matchup so important for USC to win.

Even though the Trojans will have another chance to take down UCLA the last game of the season, dropping a game at home to their rival would be a huge disappointment. It’ll halt the confidence they rebuilt after losing to Oregon State.

Not only that, but USC also has to continue to protect their home court. Defeating the Bruins will elevate the Trojans’ chances of winning the Pac-12 Tournament.

Obviously, it’s still too early to decide, and crowning USC the winner would be very premature—there’s still a lot of basketball left. The Trojans still have to play Colorado and UCLA on the road, as well as battle Stanford and Oregon.

The Pac-12 Tournament is also always unpredictable, and we could see a school like Colorado make a deep run. But USC has everything they need to steal the crown.

I’m not suggesting the Conference cancel the season and call it a day if USC wins on Saturday. All I’m saying is that all Trojans would have left to prove, were they to defeat the Bruins Saturday, would be whether they could play at that level consistently.

The ball is in USC’s court, and they look ready to slam it in.

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