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UCLA Basketball Vs. USC: Gameday Q&A With SC Hoops Prodigy, Evan Burdovich


Why, yes, Bob Cantu *does* look like Steve Carrell from “The Office.” Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

UCLA basketball is set to take on USC on Wednesday night, new digs and all. We spoke with Reign of Troy‘s USC hoops expert, Evan Budrovich, to discuss the Trojans.

1. USC has three seven-footers in the rotation with big men Dewayne Dedmon and Omar Oraby taking up a chunk of the minutes. During the O’Neill days, they didn’t play together often. Has that changed with Cantu now taking over? Should it be changing?

USC has three seven-footers on their roster, but the third man James Blasczyk plays very few minutes. Under Head Coach Bob Cantu, Dewayne Dedmon has started every game except one leaving Oraby as the key reserve for the Trojans. Sadly, Dedmon is foul prone and has not played more than 28 minutes in the last five games. At first, I liked when both Dedmon and Oraby played together but now it has become too much of a defensive liability to have two slower big-men on the court.

2. Sticking with the big men, which of them is the more skilled big man? Oraby is more efficient, at least statistically, but why is it that Dedmon gets more minutes? 

Deciding between the better skilled big man is like trying to pick the better rotten apple, neither are that pleasing. Dedmon makes the sensational plays with his athleticism in the paint, but Oraby has an ability to draw fouls with his size in the post. Dedmon gets more minutes than Oraby because Oraby struggles from the free-throw line, currently shooting 57 percent. Not only does Oraby miss free throws, he gets backed out of the post by stronger defenders, making his offensive game inept against most starting frontcourts. Dedmon needs to improve his off-ball game to stay involved in the basketball game.

3. J.T. Terrell has been extremely frustrating, or so it seems, for most USC fans, but how do you think he’s done this season and how far do you think he can go? 

JT Terrell has had his highs and lows but overall remains a disappointment for the Trojans. It seems as if Terrell still struggles to create easy shots for himself, which can be solved by playing better team basketball. For now, Terrell will remain a double-digit scorer but he will shoot very inefficiently. Next season will get better as Terrell will have another year to develop his off-ball game in his Senior year. I expect Terrell to average 16 PPG next season on about 44 percent shooting, which would be much improved from this season.

4. Based on PER, it seems as if Eric Wise is the best player on this team. Is that accurate? If not, who is? Why?

Eric Wise may be the best scoring option on this team but he is not the best player. I would argue that Jio Fontan and Byron Wesley and better pure players in terms of their overall strengths. Fontan has tremendous basketball i.q. and can make plays with the ball. Wesley is the team’s best attacker of the basket that can create his own shot form almost anywhere on the court. Wise has tremendous post presence and an improving three-point touch, but does not have the maturity on defense to be called the best player.

5. UCLA loves to run and play uptempo, at least this season. Even with all of USC’s size, do they still like to play uptempo and run the court? Also, how would you describe their rebounding abilities, especially considering UCLA has been subpar in crashing boards all year?

USC played little uptempo basketball under Kevin O’Neill but have switched gears under Bob Cantu. The change in philosophy has led to more points, but also less effort on the defensive end of the floor. The Trojans have size on their roster but rank near the bottom of the Pac-12 in rebounding, largely in part due to their horrendous shooting percentage. UCLA definitely has the advantage on the glass and it would behoove them to push the pace after grabbing those rebounds.