2015-03-03

WASHINGTON WIZARDS (34-26) at CHICAGO BULLS (37-23)



The Wizards will be going for their second straight victory when they head to Chicago on Tuesday and face a Bulls team that is depleted by injuries.



The Wizards hosted the Pistons on Saturday and won 99-95 as 5-point favorites. Washington had lost six straight games heading into that one and the team is now 0-5-1 ATS in its past six games. The Wizards are really struggling offensively, scoring less than 100 points in seven of their past eight contests. The Bulls, meanwhile, lost 96-86 as 2-point home underdogs against the Clippers on Sunday. Chicago is also struggling to put up points, averaging just 88.8 PPG over its past four games. The Bulls are, however, allowing just 88.5 PPG in those contests. The team has not found its defensive identity all year but perhaps their recent injuries will force the players to clamp down and win some ugly games. Chicago won-and-covered in Washington in the first meeting between these teams on the season, but the Wizards have won-and-covered in two straight against the Bulls since then. Washington has won its past five games at United Center SU and the team has also covered in seven straight games in Chicago as well. The Wizards are, however, 2-8 ATS after a win by six points or less this season. The Bulls, meanwhile, are 9-4 ATS when revenging a loss where an opponent scored 100 or more points in their previous meeting this season. PF Kris Humphries (Groin) is questionable for the Wizards and SG Jimmy Butler (Elbow), PG Derrick Rose (Knee) and PF Taj Gibson (Ankle) are all out indefinitely for the Bulls.



The Wizards finally got back into the win column with a victory over the Pistons on Saturday and PG John Wall (17.2 PPG, 10.1 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.8 SPG) came up big in that one. He played 38 minutes and finished with 22 points (8-for-14 FG), six assists and two steals. Wall should be able to tear up Chicago, as the team is now weak at the point guard position with PG Derrick Rose (18.4 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.1 RPG) rehabbing his knee. Wall is averaging 18.3 PPG and 10.0 APG in three meetings with the Bulls this season and hell need to attack the basket for some easy buckets right from the opening tip. SF Paul Pierce (12.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG) will also be a big weapon for the Wizards in this game. Pierce had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists in his return from a knee injury on Saturday. He is averaging 13.7 PPG and 5.0 RPG against Chicago this season and should be in for a much bigger performance with the Bulls being without SG Jimmy Butler (20.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.7 SPG). Butler is one of the better on-ball defenders in the NBA and usually checks the opposing teams small forward. Pierce should be able to post up whomever else Chicago throws at him and hes always a threat to knock down his outside shots as well (38percent 3PT). C Marcin Gortat (11.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.3 BPG) had 16 points, 17 rebounds, three steals and a block against the Pistons last game. Hes been a monster on the glass, grabbing 10+ rebounds in each of his past five games. Gortat is averaging 15.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG and 2.0 BPG against the Bulls this season and will need to keep up that solid play on offense against a talented Bulls frontcourt. SG Bradley Beal (14.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG) had eight points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in his return from a stress reaction in his leg on Saturday. Beal is averaging 16.3 PPG in three meetings with the Bulls this season and he will need to knock down his outside shots as he is the Wizards best shooter from deep (43percent 3PT).



The Bulls are going to need some guys to really step their games up with PG Derrick Rose and SG Jimmy Butler out for the next few weeks. PG Aaron Brooks (10.6 PPG, 2.8 APG) is the one who will be taking over Roses duty as the primary ball-handler. Brooks had 14 points and three assists in 31 minutes in the loss to Los Angeles. He is not as good of a passer as Rose is, but he can put up points in a hurry. Brooks is a lethal outside shooter (42percent 3PT) and will use that to continue his success against the Wizards this season (12.3 PPG, 3.7 APG in 22.0 MPG). SF Tony Snell (5.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG) will likely take a big portion of Butlers minutes on the wing. Snell had 13 points (3-for-7 FG, 3-for-5 3PT, 4-for-4 FT) and seven boards in 33 minutes against the Clippers. He is a good perimeter defender and can really knock down shots from the outside (40percent 3PT). Hell look to put up his fifth straight game with 10+ points when he faces Washington Tuesday. PF Nikola Mirotic (7.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG) is one more player who will be asked to bring his game to another level with Butler out. Mirotic prefers to play the power forward position, but hell see some time at both power forward and small forward with the injuries to Butler and PF Taj Gibson (10.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG). Mirotic had 29 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes against the Clippers last game. He is a very good shooter (34percent 3PT) for a guy that is 6-foot-10 and he will need to use his size to make Paul Pierce uncomfortable when the Wizards veteran is guarding him. C Joakim Noah (7.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.3 BPG) is one of the best passing big men in basketball and he will run the offense a lot with Rose out. Noah has had 6+ assists in each of his past three games and that is a trend that is likely to continue until Rose is healthy. PF Pau Gasol (18.2 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.1 BPG) had just four points (2-for-13 FG) in his return from an illness against Los Angeles last game. He did, however, have 15 boards and four assists and should shoot better as he gets healthier. This will be a physical game inside, so the Bulls need Gasol to play tough on both ends of the court.




2015-03-03

WASHINGTON WIZARDS (34-26) at CHICAGO BULLS (37-23)



The Wizards will be going for their second straight victory when they head to Chicago on Tuesday and face a Bulls team that is depleted by injuries.



The Wizards hosted the Pistons on Saturday and won 99-95 as 5-point favorites. Washington had lost six straight games heading into that one and the team is now 0-5-1 ATS in its past six games. The Wizards are really struggling offensively, scoring less than 100 points in seven of their past eight contests. The Bulls, meanwhile, lost 96-86 as 2-point home underdogs against the Clippers on Sunday. Chicago is also struggling to put up points, averaging just 88.8 PPG over its past four games. The Bulls are, however, allowing just 88.5 PPG in those contests. The team has not found its defensive identity all year but perhaps their recent injuries will force the players to clamp down and win some ugly games. Chicago won-and-covered in Washington in the first meeting between these teams on the season, but the Wizards have won-and-covered in two straight against the Bulls since then. Washington has won its past five games at United Center SU and the team has also covered in seven straight games in Chicago as well. The Wizards are, however, 2-8 ATS after a win by six points or less this season. The Bulls, meanwhile, are 9-4 ATS when revenging a loss where an opponent scored 100 or more points in their previous meeting this season. PF Kris Humphries (Groin) is questionable for the Wizards and SG Jimmy Butler (Elbow), PG Derrick Rose (Knee) and PF Taj Gibson (Ankle) are all out indefinitely for the Bulls.



The Wizards finally got back into the win column with a victory over the Pistons on Saturday and PG John Wall (17.2 PPG, 10.1 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.8 SPG) came up big in that one. He played 38 minutes and finished with 22 points (8-for-14 FG), six assists and two steals. Wall should be able to tear up Chicago, as the team is now weak at the point guard position with PG Derrick Rose (18.4 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.1 RPG) rehabbing his knee. Wall is averaging 18.3 PPG and 10.0 APG in three meetings with the Bulls this season and hell need to attack the basket for some easy buckets right from the opening tip. SF Paul Pierce (12.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG) will also be a big weapon for the Wizards in this game. Pierce had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists in his return from a knee injury on Saturday. He is averaging 13.7 PPG and 5.0 RPG against Chicago this season and should be in for a much bigger performance with the Bulls being without SG Jimmy Butler (20.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.7 SPG). Butler is one of the better on-ball defenders in the NBA and usually checks the opposing teams small forward. Pierce should be able to post up whomever else Chicago throws at him and hes always a threat to knock down his outside shots as well (38percent 3PT). C Marcin Gortat (11.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.3 BPG) had 16 points, 17 rebounds, three steals and a block against the Pistons last game. Hes been a monster on the glass, grabbing 10+ rebounds in each of his past five games. Gortat is averaging 15.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG and 2.0 BPG against the Bulls this season and will need to keep up that solid play on offense against a talented Bulls frontcourt. SG Bradley Beal (14.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG) had eight points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in his return from a stress reaction in his leg on Saturday. Beal is averaging 16.3 PPG in three meetings with the Bulls this season and he will need to knock down his outside shots as he is the Wizards best shooter from deep (43percent 3PT).



The Bulls are going to need some guys to really step their games up with PG Derrick Rose and SG Jimmy Butler out for the next few weeks. PG Aaron Brooks (10.6 PPG, 2.8 APG) is the one who will be taking over Roses duty as the primary ball-handler. Brooks had 14 points and three assists in 31 minutes in the loss to Los Angeles. He is not as good of a passer as Rose is, but he can put up points in a hurry. Brooks is a lethal outside shooter (42percent 3PT) and will use that to continue his success against the Wizards this season (12.3 PPG, 3.7 APG in 22.0 MPG). SF Tony Snell (5.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG) will likely take a big portion of Butlers minutes on the wing. Snell had 13 points (3-for-7 FG, 3-for-5 3PT, 4-for-4 FT) and seven boards in 33 minutes against the Clippers. He is a good perimeter defender and can really knock down shots from the outside (40percent 3PT). Hell look to put up his fifth straight game with 10+ points when he faces Washington Tuesday. PF Nikola Mirotic (7.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG) is one more player who will be asked to bring his game to another level with Butler out. Mirotic prefers to play the power forward position, but hell see some time at both power forward and small forward with the injuries to Butler and PF Taj Gibson (10.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG). Mirotic had 29 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes against the Clippers last game. He is a very good shooter (34percent 3PT) for a guy that is 6-foot-10 and he will need to use his size to make Paul Pierce uncomfortable when the Wizards veteran is guarding him. C Joakim Noah (7.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.3 BPG) is one of the best passing big men in basketball and he will run the offense a lot with Rose out. Noah has had 6+ assists in each of his past three games and that is a trend that is likely to continue until Rose is healthy. PF Pau Gasol (18.2 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.1 BPG) had just four points (2-for-13 FG) in his return from an illness against Los Angeles last game. He did, however, have 15 boards and four assists and should shoot better as he gets healthier. This will be a physical game inside, so the Bulls need Gasol to play tough on both ends of the court.




2015-03-03

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH(24-5) at LOUISVILLE CARDINALS(23-6)



No. 12 Notre Dame visits No. 16 Louisville as longtime Big East foes meet for the first time as ACC members.



No. 16 Louisville and No. 12 Notre Dame go back at it after a year off in a series thats had its fair share of memories as Big East heavyweights. Louisville seems to be at peace, now that troubled G Chris Jones (13.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.0 APG) is off the team. The mercurial guard, who was suspended previously on two different occasions by Head Coach Rick Pitino, had finally worn out his welcome. In his absence, the Cardinals reeled off road wins at Georgia Tech and Saturday at Florida State. The most recent win over the Seminoles, an 81-59 drubbing (the line was -5), included 21 forced turnovers and had Louisville holding Florida State to 1-for-9 shooting behind the arc. Seven days will have passed since Notre Dame was stunned in a 65-60 home loss to Syracuse. Notre Dame is 4-0 SU following a loss this season (0-3 ATS) and 11-1 SU on 3+ days rest. The Fighting Irish really struggled against the Orange zone in the loss, as they went a horrid 3-for-22 (14percent) from deep. Louisville is no picnic to play against, but the extreme contrast in defensive style and the time off could be just what Notre Dame needs to see to rebound offensively. Notre Dame is 5-3 SU (3-5 ATS) on the road in conference play so far, while Louisville is 5-2 SU (2-5 ATS) at home in conference play. Louisville has struggled mightily to cover at home recently (3-10-1 ATS in their past 14 home games) and the Cardinals are 1-4 ATS in their past five games overall. Notre Dame allows eight more points per game on the road and this contributes to four of their past six road game totals going Over. Historically, Louisville is 8-5 SU (5-8 ATS) since both squads joined the Big East and played each other regularly (2006). The past two meetings between these squads both were won by Louisville (one in Louisville, one in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament), as the Cardinals covered both times as well. Notre Dames last win in this series was the five overtime thriller in South Bend, 104-101 where current Fighting Irish senior G Pat Connaughton (13.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.7 threes/game) had 16 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists as a sophomore.



Notre Dame boasts one of the nations best offenses (79.1 PPG, 9th in NCAA; 1.21 points/possession, 1st in NCAA; 1.63 A:TO ratio, 4th in NCAA; 39.4percent 3PT, 22nd in NCAA), but you wouldnt have known it from watching them struggle versus Syracuse last Tuesday. Facing Louisvilles swarming defense on the road isnt how you draw up a bounce-back game, but Notre Dame has exceeded expectations all year. The last time the Fighting Irish faced the Louisville press, in March of 2013, star G Jerian Grant (16.9 PPG, 6.6 APG, 50percent FG) struggled mightily (6 turnovers, 2-for-8 from three) and sidekick Connaughton couldnt repeat his five overtime game magic, as he only went for nine points. F Zach Auguste (12.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 61percent FG) has been solid all season, but has struggled to find consistency and his regular allotment of playing time recently (less than 20 MPG in three of the past five games; 7.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG in that span) isnt helping. Stepping in to replenish Augustes dip in production has been impressive freshman F Bonzie Colson (5.4 PPG). Colson barely played until February, but since Augustes one-game academic suspension has found himself part of Coach Mike Breys permanent rotation. In Colsons last five games, hes poured in 10.4 points per game in just 16 minutes per game and has given the Fighting Irish a defensive presence around the basket (1.2 BPG in that span). Notre Dames offense is rounded out by complementary perimeter players, G Demitrius Jackson (12.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG) whos not looking for his shot much as of late (8.6 PPG in past five) and G Steve Vasturia (9.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG) whos logged 36 minutes per game over his past four (2nd on team in that span).



As Louisville finds its updated identity without the departed Jones, it will have to rely on its stars, G Terry Rozier (17.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2 SPG) and F Montrezl Harrell (15.4 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 57percent FG) even more (or so you would think). Rozier has actually struggled mightily from the field since early February (14.3 PPG, 31percent FG, 27percent 3PT) and Harrell has only scored eight and 16 points respectively in the two games since Jones was dismissed. While Rozier has struggled scoring, hes picked up in Jones absence in looking to distribute and on defense, as his nine assists and six steals against Florida State will show. Make no mistake, though, Louisville isnt missing a beat because of their oft-overlooked supporting cast. F Wayne Blackshear (10.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.6 threes/game) has rebounded from his embarrassing line of zeroes (no points, assists or rebounds) at Syracuse on Feb. 18 to post three straight double-digit scoring efforts, including 18 points at Florida State on Saturday. G Quentin Snider (2.8 PPG) has seamlessly stepped into Jones role in the starting lineup and done an admirable job (10 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.0 APG in three games as starter), while Coach Pitino also may have something in reserve G Anton Gill (2.8 PPG), who popped off for 14 points against Florida State. Up front, F Chinanu Onuaku (3.3 PPG, 1.5 BPG) continues to improve game-by-game, pulling down five or more rebounds in his past five contests. A big factor in Louisvilles success will be seeing if the three-point defense without Jones (Louisville has held Georgia Tech and Florida State to a combined 2-for-21) holds up as stingy against a sharp-shooting team like Notre Dame, or whether the level of opponent propped up the Cardinals dominant perimeter defensive play.




2015-03-03

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH(24-5) at LOUISVILLE CARDINALS(23-6)



No. 12 Notre Dame visits No. 16 Louisville as longtime Big East foes meet for the first time as ACC members.



No. 16 Louisville and No. 12 Notre Dame go back at it after a year off in a series thats had its fair share of memories as Big East heavyweights. Louisville seems to be at peace, now that troubled G Chris Jones (13.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.0 APG) is off the team. The mercurial guard, who was suspended previously on two different occasions by Head Coach Rick Pitino, had finally worn out his welcome. In his absence, the Cardinals reeled off road wins at Georgia Tech and Saturday at Florida State. The most recent win over the Seminoles, an 81-59 drubbing (the line was -5), included 21 forced turnovers and had Louisville holding Florida State to 1-for-9 shooting behind the arc. Seven days will have passed since Notre Dame was stunned in a 65-60 home loss to Syracuse. Notre Dame is 4-0 SU following a loss this season (0-3 ATS) and 11-1 SU on 3+ days rest. The Fighting Irish really struggled against the Orange zone in the loss, as they went a horrid 3-for-22 (14percent) from deep. Louisville is no picnic to play against, but the extreme contrast in defensive style and the time off could be just what Notre Dame needs to see to rebound offensively. Notre Dame is 5-3 SU (3-5 ATS) on the road in conference play so far, while Louisville is 5-2 SU (2-5 ATS) at home in conference play. Louisville has struggled mightily to cover at home recently (3-10-1 ATS in their past 14 home games) and the Cardinals are 1-4 ATS in their past five games overall. Notre Dame allows eight more points per game on the road and this contributes to four of their past six road game totals going Over. Historically, Louisville is 8-5 SU (5-8 ATS) since both squads joined the Big East and played each other regularly (2006). The past two meetings between these squads both were won by Louisville (one in Louisville, one in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament), as the Cardinals covered both times as well. Notre Dames last win in this series was the five overtime thriller in South Bend, 104-101 where current Fighting Irish senior G Pat Connaughton (13.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.7 threes/game) had 16 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists as a sophomore.



Notre Dame boasts one of the nations best offenses (79.1 PPG, 9th in NCAA; 1.21 points/possession, 1st in NCAA; 1.63 A:TO ratio, 4th in NCAA; 39.4percent 3PT, 22nd in NCAA), but you wouldnt have known it from watching them struggle versus Syracuse last Tuesday. Facing Louisvilles swarming defense on the road isnt how you draw up a bounce-back game, but Notre Dame has exceeded expectations all year. The last time the Fighting Irish faced the Louisville press, in March of 2013, star G Jerian Grant (16.9 PPG, 6.6 APG, 50percent FG) struggled mightily (6 turnovers, 2-for-8 from three) and sidekick Connaughton couldnt repeat his five overtime game magic, as he only went for nine points. F Zach Auguste (12.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 61percent FG) has been solid all season, but has struggled to find consistency and his regular allotment of playing time recently (less than 20 MPG in three of the past five games; 7.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG in that span) isnt helping. Stepping in to replenish Augustes dip in production has been impressive freshman F Bonzie Colson (5.4 PPG). Colson barely played until February, but since Augustes one-game academic suspension has found himself part of Coach Mike Breys permanent rotation. In Colsons last five games, hes poured in 10.4 points per game in just 16 minutes per game and has given the Fighting Irish a defensive presence around the basket (1.2 BPG in that span). Notre Dames offense is rounded out by complementary perimeter players, G Demitrius Jackson (12.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG) whos not looking for his shot much as of late (8.6 PPG in past five) and G Steve Vasturia (9.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG) whos logged 36 minutes per game over his past four (2nd on team in that span).



As Louisville finds its updated identity without the departed Jones, it will have to rely on its stars, G Terry Rozier (17.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2 SPG) and F Montrezl Harrell (15.4 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 57percent FG) even more (or so you would think). Rozier has actually struggled mightily from the field since early February (14.3 PPG, 31percent FG, 27percent 3PT) and Harrell has only scored eight and 16 points respectively in the two games since Jones was dismissed. While Rozier has struggled scoring, hes picked up in Jones absence in looking to distribute and on defense, as his nine assists and six steals against Florida State will show. Make no mistake, though, Louisville isnt missing a beat because of their oft-overlooked supporting cast. F Wayne Blackshear (10.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.6 threes/game) has rebounded from his embarrassing line of zeroes (no points, assists or rebounds) at Syracuse on Feb. 18 to post three straight double-digit scoring efforts, including 18 points at Florida State on Saturday. G Quentin Snider (2.8 PPG) has seamlessly stepped into Jones role in the starting lineup and done an admirable job (10 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.0 APG in three games as starter), while Coach Pitino also may have something in reserve G Anton Gill (2.8 PPG), who popped off for 14 points against Florida State. Up front, F Chinanu Onuaku (3.3 PPG, 1.5 BPG) continues to improve game-by-game, pulling down five or more rebounds in his past five contests. A big factor in Louisvilles success will be seeing if the three-point defense without Jones (Louisville has held Georgia Tech and Florida State to a combined 2-for-21) holds up as stingy against a sharp-shooting team like Notre Dame, or whether the level of opponent propped up the Cardinals dominant perimeter defensive play.




2015-03-03

USC TROJANS (11-18) at UCLA BRUINS (18-12)



The Bruins look to pad their NCAA tournament resume with a home win over a lousy USC team on Wednesday.



USC is coming off of a 70-55 home victory over Washington as a 5-point favorite. The Trojans are now 2-8 SU in their past 10 games, but they have covered in five of those contests. One thing that has been impressive for this team is that it has held its past three opponents to under 42percent shooting from the field. If the Trojans can continue to play that type of defense then they will be in a lot more games when the final minutes come around. UCLA, meanwhile, has now won two straight games after beating Washington State 72-67 as a 15-point road favorite on Sunday. This ATS loss for the Bruins was their first in their past six games. UCLA has dominated USC in this head-to-head series, winning-and-covering in four straight games against the Trojans and going 8-2 SU and 7-3 SU in their past 10 meetings overall. USC has, however, won-and-covered in three of their past seven trips to Pauley Pavilion. They are 4-3 ATS in those games altogether. As a road underdog this season, the Trojans are just 2-8 SU but an impressive 7-3 ATS. UCLA, meanwhile, is 15-2 SU and 10-7 ATS when playing as a favorite this season. The Bruins are also 13-0 SU and 9-4 ATS when playing as a home favorite. G Jordan McLaughlin (Shoulder) is out for the season for USC and F Darion Clark (Knee) is questionable for this game. UCLA is not currently dealing with any injuries.



USC has had issues on both ends of the floor this season, averaging just 66.6 PPG (191st in NCAA) on 41.6percent shooting (276th in NCAA) and allowing a miserable 69.9 PPG (271st in NCAA). The Trojans did, however, play a solid game against Washington and will look to carry some momentum into Los Angeles. F Nikola Jovanovic (12.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG) is the most important player for this USC team. Jovanovic had 16 points (5-for-7 FG), seven rebounds, three assists and a block in the win over Washington on Saturday. The 6-foot-11 forward can score in a number of ways and is impressive with his ability to hit midrange jumpers. He put up 20 points and grabbed five rebounds the last time he faced the Bruins and will need to put up similar numbers this time around. Defensively, hell need to do a better job protecting the rim (0.8 BPG) on Wednesday. G Katin Reinhardt (12.1 PPG, 1.0 SPG) will also need to come up big for the Trojans in this game. Reinhardt can really shoot well from the outside (36percent 3PT), but has struggled recently (2-for-14 in past three games) for this team. Reinhardt had 10 points in 34 minutes the last time he faced UCLA and with G Jordan McLaughlin (12.1 PPG, 4.5 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG) out for the season, USC will be even more dependent on the sophomores shooting. G Julian Jacobs (8.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.1 SPG) has been remarkable as a passer recently. Over the past three games, Jacobs is averaging 8.7 APG and hell need to continue to find his teammates against a UCLA team that can really score. Jacobs has also rebounded very well for his position, grabbing 7.2 RPG over the past five contests. His toughness and ability to fill up the stat sheet has made things much easier on the Trojans since losing McLaughlin. G Elijah Stewart (5.3 PPG, 1.2 BPG, 1.0 SPG) had 14 points, nine boards, two blocks and two steals in 29 minutes against Washington Saturday. He is the toughest defender the Trojans have and will need to bring some tenacity on Wednesday.



UCLA has been a very good offensive team this season, averaging 71.0 PPG (86th in NCAA) on 43.3percent shooting (189th in NCAA). The Bruins are tough on the glass (38.7 RPG, 18th in NCAA) and can also pass the ball pretty well (13.8 APG, 93rd in NCAA). Defense has been the issue for this team though, allowing 67.7 PPG (215th in NCAA). UCLA must improve on that end of the floor fast because it will need to win a few more games in order to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. G Norman Powell (16.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.9 SPG) is the guy that USC will be planning to stop. Powell is averaging 26.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 2.0 SPG in his past two contests and put up 22 points the last time he faced USC. Hes an explosive guard that is extremely tough to stop once he attacks the basket. Hell create plenty of opportunities for himself at the free-throw line and can also knock down outside shots if the defense plays too far off of him (32percent 3PT). G Bryce Alford (15.2 PPG, 5.1 APG) is another guy that will give the Trojans a ton of issues. Alford is a very good shooter (35percent 3PT) and has improved his ability to create his own shot off the dribble. If the defense pays too much attention to Powell than Alford will make his opponent pay for it. G Isaac Hamilton (10.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.1 APG) is another solid guard in this rotation. Hamilton is averaging 8.0 APG in his past two contests and has a tremendous feel for the game. He is yet another guy who can shoot (36percent 3PT) in this backcourt and hell look to make some plays offensively in this one. Fs Kevon Looney (12.3 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG and 1.0 BPG) and Tony Parker (10.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG) will need to man the paint in this game. Both of them will spend a lot of time covering Jovanovic and they cant let the big man get it going offensively. Looney is extremely athletic and has the ability to score around the basket and from behind the arc (43percent 3PT). Hell need to use his length to put pressure on USC on both ends of the floor. Parker, meanwhile, has been on a tear for the Bruins. Hes averaging 17.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG over the past two contests and will look to keep it up on Wednesday.