Tonight's game is for anyone already nostalgic for the Ball State game in Vegas or eagerly awaiting a sneak preview of the two Kansas/Kansas State matchups: expect the point where ineffective offense meets solid defense to blur completely out of focus. USC leaves home for the first time this year sporting a 5-1 record with wins over St. Mary's (CA), The Citadel, Long Beach State, Mississippi Valley State, and Loyola-Marymount following a season-opening, overtime loss to South Carolina.
USC's offense averages under one point per possession due to a combination of poor shooting (48.8 eFG% on the season, 42.5 eFG% against all schools not named "The Citadel") and an extreme willingness to turn the ball over (25.2% of Trojan possessions end by giving the ball away). Sound familiar?
USC has been extremely effective at keeping their opponents from scoring, with only South Carolina (106) scoring more than 84 points per 100 possessions in any game. As shown below, USC's defensive success is built almost entirely on forcing missed shots.
|Long Beach St||34.1||31.7||25.0||0.72|
USC hasn't depressed opponents' scoring by slowing the pace of games. They've averaged four more possessions per game than have the Jayhawks this season. That, combined with Kansas's penchant for forcing turnovers and USC's willingness to give the ball away should give the Jayhawks ample opportunity to work on their transition offense, their spacing in which, thus far, resembles nothing so much as that typical of an under-8 soccer game.
Until their performances show sustained improvement, or until they play Florida again, I am considering this Kansas team to be poor-to-mediocre offensively. Which still makes them slightly better offensively than USC. Assuming Kansas gives a good defensive effort for 40 rather than just 35 minutes that should be difference enough for the Jayhawks to squeak out an ugly win.
Prediction: Kansas 67 USC 63
USC INDIVIDUAL LEADERS