USC (11-20) vs. Colorado (21-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 12, 5:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: MGM Grand Garden Arena (16,800) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: USC 8-8, Colorado 18-2. Away Record: USC 2-10, Colorado 2-8. Neutral Record: USC 1-2, Colorado 0-0. Conference Record: USC 2-16, Colorado 9-9. Series Record: Colorado leads, 6-3.
GAME NOTES: The fifth-seeded Colorado Buffaloes and the 12th-seeded USC Trojans will both try to start successful runs in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament when they meet in the first round at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
USC lured Andy Enfield away from Florida Gulf Coast after the Eagles' remarkable run in last year's NCAA Tournament, but his first year in Southern California has not gone well. The Trojans enter this tournament with a miserable 2-16 league ledger, and they are just 11-20 overall. They were pushed out in the first round in this event in each of the last two seasons, but did manage to win the whole thing as recently as 2009.
Many teams talk about overcoming adversity, but Colorado is one team that can say it and actually mean it. The Buffaloes lost their leading scorer, Spencer Dinwiddie (14.7 ppg), to a season-ending knee injury in the middle of January, yet they are still 21-10 overall and 10-8 in league ply, with a strong showing in the tournament possibly being enough to earn them an invite to the NCAA Tournament. Colorado is just two years removed from its surprise run to its first Pac-12 tourney title, when it did so as a No. 6 seed.
Colorado swept the season series with USC, securing an 83-62 win on Jan. 18 and an 83-74 victory a month later. The Buffs have won six of nine total meetings with the Trojans. Another win here would give them an opportunity to earn some revenge against fourth-seeded California, which defeated them in a 66-65 final in overtime in the regular-season finale.
USC also fell in its last game of the regular season, but in less devastating fashion, as it was handed an 82-75 setback by Washington. Nikola Jovanovic did score 21 points in the contest and the Trojans held the Huskies to just 39.1 percent shooting, but they were outscored both off of turnovers (20-16) and in second-chance points (20-15).
Despite Enfield's constant shuffling of starting lineups in the hopes of finding one that works, nothing ever came together for USC. The Trojans are next-to-last in the Pac-12 in scoring (71 ppg), and just a spot above when it comes to field goal percentage (.440). Byron Wesley (17.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is the only real offensive threat Enfield can rely on, as well as the team's top performer on the glass. Pe'Shon Howard (10.9 ppg, 3.9 apg) runs the point for the team, but he is only a 36.9 percent shooter and has been inconsistent as a distributor.
Justin Cobbs provided the dagger for California in its recent defeat of Colorado, sinking a pair of free-throws with 21 seconds left in overtime. The Buffaloes got two looks to take the lead in the final 20 seconds, but both Xavier Talton and Askia Booker missed 3-point attempts.
The task of carrying the load with Dinwiddie out has fallen to Josh Scott (14.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Booker (13.7 ppg), who were both scoring before the injury, but have been pushed into expanded roles since. Scott is a strong player on the inside, posting a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the season finale. Booker is a an erratic shooter, netting just 38.7 percent from the floor, but he is the only real outside threat on the roster. Xavier Johnson (12.2 ppg, 6 4 rpg) has also picked up the pace in terms of scoring recently, netting 24 points in the season finale, while scoring in double figures in 12 of the last 13 contests overall.
Losing Dinwiddie didn't send Colorado into a tailspin this season. The Buffaloes have learned to play without him and are certainly capable of knocking off a USC team that it dominated during the regular season, both times with Dinwiddie on the sidelines.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colorado 74, USC 61
03/12 10:39:16 ET