NCAA Wednesday Night Basketball: USC/Arizona State Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday night basketball on ESPN2 features a battle of Pac-12 foes looking to extend recent winning streaks.

Arizona State returned to the court last week after experiencing their second pause because of COVID this season. The Sun Devils had not played since January 30th before hosting Oregon last Thursday in a 75-64 loss. Bobby Hurley’s team rebounded on Sunday by defeating Oregon State, 75-73, as a 4-5-point favorite for their third win in their last four games. Remy Martin scored a team-high 23 points in the victory against the Beavers. The senior leads the Sun Devils with a 19.2 points-per-game scoring average.

Arizona State had been on a six-game losing streak through most of January before winning their last two against California and the Cardinal before their most recent pause in play. The Sun Devils also experienced a three-week hiatus earlier in the season. It took three weeks for them to get back on the court after getting upset by UTEP, 76-63, despite being a 13-point favorite on December 16th. Arizona State was without four players in their regular rotation, including captain Remy Martin when they returned to the court on January 7th against UCLA. Yet the undermanned group took the Bruins to overtime before losing, 81-75.

This team was considered Hurley’s most talented in his sixth year with the program. Martin and Alonzo Verge bypassed the NBA to return to the team, and Hurley added a five-star potential one-and-done recruit in Josh Christopher. COVID complications and playing shorthanded explains much of the reasons why the Sun Devils are 7-9 at this point of the season. Yet the play on the court has been a disappointment. Arizona State is last in the Pac-12 by making only 30.7% of their shots from 3-point land in conference play, which is problematic in Hurley’s run-and-gun system that prioritizes 3-point shooting. The Sun Devils take 38.0% of their attempts from behind the arc, 166th most in the nation. Yet only 29.1% of their points come from these shots, 217th nationally. Arizona State is ninth place in the Pac-12 with a 4-6 record, with a win against Stanford being their most impressive accomplishment.

Hurley has lost three players due to COVID, with Taeshon Curry in the COVID being the most significant as he averaged over 16 minutes-per-game. The Sun Devils have rarely been at full strength this season. Freshmen Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley did not play on Sunday and are both listed as questionable with injuries. Christopher is second on the team with a 14.3 points-per-game scoring average, with Bagley fourth with his 11.8 points-per-game clip.

USC won their sixth straight game on Saturday in a 76-65 win at Washington State as an 8-point favorite. Tahj Eddy scored a season-high 29 points in the victory. The senior transfer from Santa Clara is second on the team with a 13.5 points-per-game scoring average, and he has scored 69 points in his last four games. Evan Mobley leads the Trojans with 16.6 points-per-game and 9.9 rebounding-per-game marks. The 7’0 five-star freshman helps the team rank 11th in the nation by blocking 14.8% of their opponent’s shots.

Andy Enfield’s team ranks 17th in the Associated Press poll with a 17-3 record. USC leads UCLA by one game atop the Pac-12 standings with an 11-2 record. The Trojans have defeated Arizona and the Bruins in conference play while earning an impressive non-conference victory against BYU. Their three losses were against Oregon State and Colorado and a non-conference setback to UConn.

USC ranks 29th in the adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They rebound 36.5% of their missed shots, 7th best nationally, with a free throw rate that is 23rd in the nation. The Trojans are ninth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They are fifth in opponent’s effective field goal percentage with a 43.6% clip due to their stout defense inside the arc as they hold their opponents to 42.5% shooting of their 2-point shots, 2nd nationally.

BetAnySports lists USC as a 10-point favorite with the total set at 147.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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