USC fans will be treated to a Thanksgiving treat in the form of some holiday basketball! USC will take on St. Joe’s in the opening round of the Wooden Legacy, hosted in nearby Anaheim. The Trojans enter an important segment of their schedule, as this will be the team’s best opportunity to earn critical out-of-conference victories. Joining the Trojans and Hawks in the Classic will be San Diego State and Georgetown.
St. Joe’s enters the game in the midst of a two game losing streak, dropping games to Drexel and Monmouth. Despite their recent struggles, St. Joe’s will present some unique challenges to the Trojans.
St. Joe’s will be the biggest team that USC has seen, with a back court that will rival USC’s. The Hawks are led by 6’8” Forward Taylor Funk, who enters the game averaging 18.5 points per game. Despite his size and rebounding prowess, Funk does most of his damage from the perimeter. So far this year, Funk is making over 50% of his three point attempts, and this is not a small sample size. Roughly 75% of Funk’s attempts are from beyond the arc.
Unsurprisingly, Funk is also an efficient foul shooter, and is capable of taking a defender off the dribble and absorbing contact. Although we are still in the early phases of the season, Funk will be one of the tougher challenges that USC will face this year.
Complementing Funk, is 6’7” wing Jordan Hall. Hall is more of a traditional gunner, and can catch fire in an instant. Hall looks to run and has no qualms about pulling up in transition. We have seen some defensive lapses and/or lazy spells after Trojan scores and Hall will certainly look to capitalize on these moments. So far this year, Hall is averaging 15.5 points per game, and has shot a admirable 44% from the field.
Rounding out the starting lineup are 6’8” Wing Kacper Klaczek, 7’0” Center Ejike Obinna and 6’2” Guard Erik Reynolds. On paper, the Hawks can match USC size wise, and it will be interesting to see how Andy decides to play this one. St. Joe’s relies heavily on the three pointer, and if USC is able to disrupt their rhythm and keep them off the offensive glass, things should bode well for USC.
USC has been the bigger team is each game so far this season. St. Joe’s will be the first to match USC’s length. Will Coach Enfield decide to match up in his starting lineup, and include either Max Agbonkpolo or Isaiah White. White has gotten off to a very slow start offensively, but Andy has always raved about his tenacity on the defensive end of the floor. The only repeat lineup so far this season has been the opening lineup with both Ellis and Anderson, joined by Mobley, Goodwin and Peterson. With both guards in the game, USC could look to speed the game up and take advantages with the trifecta of ball handlers with Peterson, Ellis and Anderson. My guess is that Andy decides to match up size wise and start Ellis, Agbonkpolo, Peterson, Mobley and Goodwin. Agbonkpolo is a good matchup for Jordan Hall, and either Peterson or Mobley can pester Funk.
St. Joe’s runs a 8-player rotation, with 7-footer Charles Coleman as the only big who regularly sees minutes for the Hawks. It will be interesting to see how USC attacks the paint. If either Obinna or Funk find themselves in foul trouble, things could get ugly for St. Joe’s. Isaiah Mobley’s passing ability has been an X-factor thus far, making him impossible to double-team. Goodwin’s effectiveness and efficiency have only complicated matters for opposing defenses. USC will be able to run line shifts against the shorter St. Joe’s rotation, and I expect fresh legs to provide a huge advantage to the Trojans.
Lastly, what role, if any will Reece Dixon-Waters play in the rotation in tonight’s game? The freshman is coming off the best game of his young career, and he looks primed to play a bigger role moving forward. Dixon-Waters has always be pegged as a great scorer, and we saw flashes of his pure jump shot against Dixie State. That being said, his nose for the ball on defense is what should force Enfield’s hand and get him into the lineup sooner rather than later.
Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game, USC will have its first back-to-back games of the season. How will USC react and play on short rest? In any basketball game the question always exists, “do we adjust to the other team, or force them to adjust to us?” Fortunately USC’s team is so deep that they can mix and match lineups as needed, bringing a different flavor to any matchup. We will see tonight, if Andy works against his opponent or forces St. Joe’s coach Billy Lange to adjust to the talented Trojan roster.
St. Joe’s has some talented pieces, but overall this is not a team that should challenge USC in this game. I think USC will target Taylor Funk defensively, and attempt to get him into foul trouble. Mobley and Goodwin should feast inside, and just as we have seen the Trojans proficiency from deep should make tonight a tough game for the Hawks.
I like the Trojans to win this game by 14-20 points.
Fight On! And Happy Thanksgiving!