Remember the Trojans
Player of the Week
Jordan McLaughlin, Guard (USC)
Andy Enfield’s USC Trojans are now remarkably off to a 13-0 start. McLaughlin’s production has played a big role in throttling them to this hot start. The junior guard is continuing to play some outstanding basketball, scoring in double figures three different times this week. What’s more impressive, however, is the level of efficiency at which he is scoring. He is shooting just under 52% from the field, while also posting a near 3:1 assist to turnover ratio. McLaughlin is also getting to the charity stripe at a higher rate this season, where he is converting 82% of his free throws. It is probably still too soon to consider USC the real deal, but we’ll find out just how good they really are when conference play begins. With McLaughlin leading the way, however, the Trojans will be a difficult matchup.
Torian Graham, Guard (Arizona State)
Arizona State is a team that can really score. Three of their starting guards are all averaging over 15 point per contest. Leading the trio has been Graham, who is averaging 17.8 per game, which is second in the Pac-12. Graham scored 24 points on Tuesday in a close loss to Creighton; then he followed that performance with a 26 point outburst against Central Arkansas on Thursday. He also made eight threes during that two game stretch. He is not a player who gets to the free throw line very often, but when he gets hot from the outside, he is a dangerous offensive player. The Sun Devils will continue to rely on him as their primary scorer going forward. Graham will need to have some big games in conference play for Arizona State to be competitive.
Marcus Allen, Guard (Stanford)
Reid Travis has been tremendous this season for the Cardinal, but he is not getting much help. Stanford was expected to be a potential sleeper in the Pac-12 coming into this season. While it is still early, Marcus Allen has taken a major step back in his final season with the Cardinal. Allen is playing nearly 10 fewer minutes per game than he was last season, and he has regressed in almost every category. On Monday against SMU, he didn’t score a point. After averaging 11 points per game as a junior, he is only posting four points per contest this season while shooting a dismal 30% from the field. There is still plenty of time for him to turn things around, but Stanford will need more from him going forward.
Top Conference Games to Watch in January
5. UCLA vs. Colorado (January 12th)
UCLA is off to an impressively torrid start and is among the elite teams in college basketball. Colorado, on the other hand, is a team flying under the radar but is still a quality team. The Buffaloes already have a quality wins over Xavier and Texas, and they will look to create even more buzz with an upset win at home over UCLA. It won’t be easy, but Colorado is a very underrated team led by Derrick White, one of the best players in the Pac-12.
4. California vs. Oregon (January 19th)
Oregon hasn’t lived up to expectations early on the season, but there are still no questions about whether they will challenge for a Pac-12 title. They are excellent defensively and with Dillon Brooks easing his way back into the rotation, the Ducks will keep getting better. California has talent, with multiple guys who can fill it up offensively. Their biggest concern is depth, and Ivan Raab needs to play more consistently, but the Golden Bears are talented enough to keep up with anyone in the conference.
3. Arizona vs. USC (January 19th)
Sean Miller and Arizona have weathered the storm very well early on this season despite some unexpected roster turnover before the season. If Alonzo Trier ever returns for the Wildcats, they will be a dangerous team going forward. On the other hand, Andy Enfield’s USC Trojans are still undefeated. They have not played against great competition to this point, so this game will be a major test for them.
2. UCLA vs. USC (January 25th)
The matchup among the guards from both teams will be fun to watch in this one. USC has two outstanding guards in Elijah Stewart and Jordan McLaughlin. We’ll see how they hold up against one of the deepest and most talented backcourts in the country led by Lonzo Ball. The Bruins have four guards averaging double figures. Another intriguing individual matchup will be between UCLA’s TJ Leaf and USC’s [Chimezie Metu].
1. Arizona vs. UCLA (January 21st)
These two squads are arguably the most talented in the entire conference. UCLA plays so cohesively, which has made them extremely tough to beat thus far. Even though they haven’t been great defensively at times they’ll be a tough matchup for anyone. Lauri Markkanen has quietly been one of the top freshmen in college basketball, but the Wildcats need more consistency from others.