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Cal Men's Basketball Hosts the USC Trojans

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Beware of frat bros bearing gifts.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

While the Trojan gridiron warriors have long been notorious as LA's best professional team, their hardwood counterparts have typically played the part of unheralded shield-bearers. But as capricious as the mood swings of a spoiled child, programs can rise and fall when given the right leadership.

After struggling to a 12-20 record last year including only four conference wins, Coach Andy Enfield has quietly put together a season worthy of COY consideration. Although famous for the "Dunk City" style of play that carried Florida Gulf Coast to an improbable Sweet Sixteen in 2013, it's been more like "Brick Shanties" for the Scrappy Enfields. No longer.

With six four-star recruits in the past three recruiting classes including last year's reinforcements which rated as a top-25 haul, these Trojans have been girding themselves to lay siege to the Pac-12. The future may be now as they've put themselves solidly in the mix near the top of the conference standings. Like our sturdy Golden Bears, they've been darn near invincible at home. And just as we enjoyed bitter Wildcat tears, their signature win was a 4-OT upset over Zona.

Unlike their football team of recent times, the Trojan hardwood warriors seem to be playing like more than the sum of their individual parts. They play fast and have a balanced attack with a diverse arsenal of inside and outside threats. Six guys average double-digits and all of them are capable of going off on any given night. Theoretically speaking, it almost seems as if their boosters have decided to spread the love around instead of focusing on one key superstar.

On defense, they'll mix up zone looks with man. USC may not be exceptional in any given area, but they're disciplined and rarely foul. Cal fans may not have any idea what this looks like or if it was even allowed under the current rules.

Kenpom predicts a decisive Cal victory with 71% certainty. Our computer overlords can't be bought, can they?

Projected Starters:

F Nikola Jovanovic(Jr), 6'11, 235 lbs, 12.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg - Their best inside scorer. Versatile and skilled.
F Bennie Boatwright(Fr), 6'10, 220 lbs, 11.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 35% 3FG - Dangerous stretch-four. Went off for 22 against Wichita State including 5/9 from deep.
G Katin Reinhardt(Jr), 6'6, 220 lbs, 11.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 37.3% 3FG - Has seemingly played for Trojans since BC times. Solid all-around game.
G Julian Jacobs(Jr), 6'4, 180 lbs, 12.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.6 apt - Thunderous dunker. Shaky outside shot, but he's a good penetrator and set-up man.
G Jordan McLaughlin(So), 6'1, 170 lbs, 13.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.0 apt, 42.5% 3FG - Lightning quick. Rising star with great vision and shooting ability. Might as well start hating him now.


Bench:

G Elijah Stewart(So), 6'5, 180 lbs, 10.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 42% 3FG - Sixth man is very dangerous from deep. Gets plenty of run.
F Chimezie Metu(Fr), 6'11, 215 lbs, 6.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg - Rated #40 on the ESPN100, he's a prodigious leaper and their best shot-blocker.

When USC
has the ball

Category USC
Offense
California
Defense
D-I Avg
Efficiency 107.8 5 100.3 1 103.6
Avg. Poss Length 15.6 2 17.0 7 17.3
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 52.0 5 44.5 1 49.8
Turnover %: 16.6 6 13.3 11 18.3
Off. Reb. %: 29.7 7 26.0 2 29.9
FTA/FGA: 37.2 6 44.1 9 36.7
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 37.8 4 31.7 2 34.7
2P%: 49.8 5 43.4 1 48.6
FT%: 70.3 8 70.6 6 69.8
Block%: 10.3 8 10.8 6 9.2
Steal%: 8.0 7 5.7 11 8.7
Style Components
3PA/FGA: 31.6 7 24.8 1 35.3
A/FGM: 49.6 8 45.2 3 52.6
Defensive
Fingerprint:
Mostly
Man
Point Distribution (% of total points)
3-Pointers: 27.5 5 19.6 12 29.3
2-Pointers: 52.4 6 54.4 4 50.2
Free Throws: 20.1 7 26.0 1 20.5
Personnel
Bench Minutes: 31.6% 222 32.4% 196 33.0%
Experience: 1.25 yrs 304 1.46 yrs 255 1.70
Effective Height: +4.8 9 +4.1 16 0.0
Average Height: 78.6" 12 78.9" 3 76.8"

When California
has the ball

Category California
Offense
USC
Defense
D-I Avg
Efficiency 107.8 4 104.7 6 103.6
Avg. Poss Length 17.2 6 17.0 6 17.3
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 53.4 3 48.5 4 49.8
Turnover %: 18.9 10 16.2 7 18.3
Off. Reb. %: 29.9 6 32.4 11 29.9
FTA/FGA: 45.0 1 30.9 3 36.7
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 39.3 2 31.1 1 34.7
2P%: 50.7 4 49.4 9 48.6
FT%: 65.7 11 70.6 5 69.8
Block%: 9.6 5 11.2 4 9.2
Steal%: 7.9 5 8.1 6 8.7
Style Components
3PA/FGA: 32.2 5 33.3 9 35.3
A/FGM: 50.3 5 50.6 7 52.6
Defensive
Fingerprint:
Inconc-
lusive
Point Distribution (% of total points)
3-Pointers: 27.9 3 26.2 8 29.3
2-Pointers: 50.4 8 55.4 2 50.2
Free Throws: 21.7 5 18.4 10 20.5
Personnel
Bench Minutes: 32.4% 196 31.6% 222 33.0%
Experience: 1.46 yrs 255 1.25 yrs 304 1.70
Effective Height: +4.1 16 +4.8 9 0.0
Average Height: 78.9" 3 78.6" 12 76.8"

Keys to the Game:

1) The backcourt battle.
The Trojans have two dynamic guards who are tough match-ups for our squad. As much as we'd love to deny dribble penetration, it's been a struggle to contain quick guards. Guys will need to take pride in being able to defend one on one because USC's entire lineup can score if we leave them open after helping. Much like we did against UW, we need to stay focused on stopping the ball because they will push and run at every opportunity. Our x-factor remains Jabari Bird. When he's playing with confidence, it transforms our entire offense.

2) The front court brawl.
This is a fun match-up between a number of athletic young bigs. Kam and King offer a more imposing defensive presence, but the Trojan bigs are capable of big offensive numbers. Speaking charitably, we've been inconsistent all year with getting the ball to Rabb and he's had trouble holding position against some of the bigger forwards in the Pac-12. This is one game where he shouldn't be overpowered in the paint so it might be a prime opportunity to establish him in both posts.  USC isn't a great rebounding team, so it behooves us to press our size advantage on the glass.

And all hyperbole aside, they simply don't have anyone who can check Jaylen Brown if he continues his streak of transcendent play. I'm quite okay with that.

3a) Look at the guys who can't see
And let fly with whistles so free
They ruin the game flow
Won't let our guys go
May Oski curse the referees

(Yes, I'm running out of ways to say "avoid foul trouble.")

3b) Throw it to the guys with the "Cal" logo.
(Turnovers are bad. This is a recording.  Fortunately, forcing TO's is not 'SC's strength.)

4) Make buckets.

Haas has been good to us.  Let's close out the year with rain.

5) The little things count.

50-50 balls.  Boxing out.  Checking corner shooters.  Knowing when to help and when to stay.

Remembering the best place to list the traditional secret to victory.

Go Bears!

Tip-off: Sunday, February 28, 2016 (5:00 PM PST, Fox Sports 1)