BYU begins three games in three days Wednesday in the Battle 4 Atlantis when they play USC in the first round. The entire bracket and matchups can be viewed here. Tennessee or Butler await BYU in the semifinals.
All projections see a close game, including Vegas who as of this writing has BYU as a 1.5-point favorite over the Trojans. The game will tip off at 5pm ET on ESPN2.
Both teams are 3-1 and have had up and down starts to the season. USC lost its season-opener to Florida Gulf Coast 74-61 as a double-digit underdog and have had two close wins since. USC’s frontcourt took a big hit this offseason when 5-Star freshman Vince Iwuchukwu shut things down due to a heart condition. He was expected to start at the 5, so the Trojans have had to piece things together there.
Regardless, USC is a talented, athletic team that is coming off a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament and was picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12. The two main players to watch are preseason All-Conference guards Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis. Peterson is a 6-foot-9 guard who leads USC with averages of 16 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists. The Trojans run a lot of their offense through Peterson in the high post, who takes advantage of his size on smaller defenders and finds open guys on double teams. I expect Gideon George to get the main assignment on Peterson, who will use is 7-foot wingspan to try to slow down Peterson.
Boogie Ellis is another All-Conference guard that also averages just a touch under 16 points per game. Ellis can attack the rim, but half his shot are from three, where he is 11-22 on the season. 6-foot-11 big man Joshua Morgan averages 9.5 points per game and is averaging 4 blocks per game so far.
Like BYU, USC has struggled with turnovers this year. The Trojans also shoot just 29% from three, but don’t take many from there either. A big shooting day for the Trojans could make things get out of hand. USC has defended really well, so BYU will need to be active on defense to allow some easy shots on the offensive end.
BYU-USC by the numbers
BYU KenPom: 58
USC KenPom: 62
KenPom Prediction: 73 BYU, USC 72; BYU 53% Win Probability
USC Wins: Alabama State (96-58), Vermont (59-57), Mount St Mary’s (83-74)
USC Loss: Florida Gulf Coast (74-61)
BYU Wins: Idaho State (60-56), Missouri State (66-64), Nicholls (87-73)
BYU Loss: San Diego State (82-75)