The Texas Christian University Horned Frogs head out to the west coast to face the Trojans of USC Friday night. While this is technically a neutral site game as it is being played at the Staples Center and not the Galen Center on USC’s campus, I can’t imagine the crowd will be too friendly for the Horned Frogs. TCU comes into this game with a 6-1 record on the season. The Frogs have yet to really play any real competition though as their schedule ranks as the 251St in the country heading into tonight’s game.
The Trojans are just 5-3 on the season but have played a much tougher schedule with losses to undefeated teams like Nevada and Texas Tech, as well as a loss to a 6-2 Vanderbilt team. The Horned Frogs are -2-point road favorites. The game total over-under is set at 148 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 PM PST from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
It is hard to say a game is a must-win game this early in the season, but this is a must-win game for the USC Trojans. USC has had a couple of opportunities for resume-building wins, but they have yet to win any games to hang their hat on come March. They have one more decent team on their non-conference schedule, against Oklahoma, and then they start league play in a PAC-12 conference that looks to be very down this season. If they want big wins, then need to get them now.
The Trojans aren’t without talent, they have multiple NBA caliber players on the roster, they just can’t seem to win the big games they need to get them an at-large selection to the NCAA tournament. The Trojans are led by senior Bennie Boatwright who is averaging fifteen points and six rebounds a game. Boatwright completely no-showed in the second half against Nevada-Reno, a game the Trojans led for much of the first half, and they will need a full game out of him tonight.
USC’s other big gun is junior forward Nick Rakocevic who has exploded onto the scene as a double-double machine this year. Rakocevic is scoring fifteen points a game and is dragging down nearly twelve boards a contest. He adds in three blocks and a steal as well, and has established himself as one of the best big men in the country. The Trojans will need big efforts out of both Rakocevic and Boatwright if they want to pull off the big upset.
TCU hasn’t played a tough schedule so far this year, but that isn’t to say they couldn’t beat good teams if they were to play them. The Frogs lost a head scratcher to Lipscomb, but besides that, have been perfect on the season. TCU fell apart in the second half of the season last year with a very promising team, without their best player, Jaylen Fischer on the floor.
Fischer has been banged up again this year and missed the Frogs first four games of the year. And since returning, just hasn’t looked quite like himself. Fischer is the fifth leading scorer on the team right now and has seen his production drop significantly over last year’s numbers. His scoring his down, his rebounding has been non-existent, and his assists have dropped in half. In the Frogs one loss on the season, Fischer scored zero points.
If TCU wants to go into Los Angeles and beat the Trojans in their home city, they are going to need a huge effort from Fischer, and I just don’t see that happening. I think USC breaks through tonight and finds a way to get the job done. It wouldn’t at all shock me to see this USC team emerge as the best team in the PAC-12 once league play hits.
Oregon seems like they aren’t nearly as good as everyone thought they would be. Washington has fallen out of the top twenty-five, and Arizona is clearly rebuilding. Arizona State has lost everything from last year, and despite their hot start, I am not sure they can be trusted. That leaves us with this talented and experienced USC team.
Yeah, they lost a couple of games already this year but the teams they have lost to are a combined 22-2, and all should be tournament teams this year. So, there isn’t too much shame in the fact that the Trojans scheduled tough and came up short. I think USC wins tonight and it kick-starts a big run that sees them find themselves in the top twenty-five nationally as well as find them at the top of the PAC-12 standings. Give me the USC Trojans as small home underdogs getting +2-points tonight from the Staples Center!