The Pac-12 season has already gotten going, but it truly sets off on Wednesday night when bitter rivals USC and UCLA go to battle at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, California. Neither team has separated itself within the conference as a true contender, while both teams have already lost at least two games inside the conference. Tonight one of them gets a leg up on the other in an attempt to climb the standings, however, as well as carry some bragging rights into their next matchup, which could end up being a climatic regular season finale.
For now, fans from both sides will have to embrace the hype that comes with this meeting, as 10-7 UCLA tries to come in and steal a win on 9-7 USC’s home court. A rich history of 240 clashes bypasses early struggles in a game that will undoubtedly have Trojans tickets returning serious value at just $50.52 on average, according to Barry’s Tickets. The current get-in price is just $18 for the game.
Despite starting the 2014-15 college basketball strong (4-0), the UCLA Bruins have tumbled as of late, falling into a horrific five-game losing streak between December 13th and January 4th. Life wasn’t easy for the Bruins during that span, but they can hardly be torn down for three of those five losses, which came against #1 ranked Kentucky, #10 ranked Utah and #9 ranked Gonzaga. Eventually UCLA needs to find a way to get wins against the better teams in the nation if they want to make it into March’s big dance, however, so they’ll be looking to edge USC and start to get things back on track. A huge double overtime win over Stanford last Thursday got them going in the right direction, and a win on Wednesday night over the Trojans would have them suddenly blazing on a three game winning streak.
If UCLA’s 2014-15 season ends up being anything like last year, they just might blow by the Trojans to get that hot streak rolling again. The Bruins ran all over USC in their first meeting last year, whipping their rivals 107-73 at home. They didn’t score quite as much in the second meeting, but still had the gas pressed down firmly in a solid 83-73 win in USC’s house. If a sweep (or even one win) is to come again this year, UCLA will probably need to be at their best offensively. That could mean a big game out of leading scorer Bryce Alford, who has failed to top 15 points in any of his last four contests.
The Trojans went back and forth to start the year and were just 3-3 through their first six games before ripping off a nice four-game run between November 25th and December 7th. Since then they’ve been back to rotating games and runs, as they’ll enter this intense conference battle after going just 3-3 in their last six contests. USC’s main issue has been finding consistency on offense, as they’ve struggled to top 70 points in seven of their 16 battles. That could be an issue when they take on UCLA, who come in as the 73rd best scoring team in the country. Naturally, the normally spread out and balanced Trojans may be looking for Jordan McLaughlin or Nikola Jovanovic to step up and take over this contest.
The recent success has Bruins tickets carrying the upside in this matchup, but USC hosts and will be out for blood after getting swept in the season series a year ago. They should be able to lean on a hard fought overtime win over the Bruins from the 2012-13 season, while the history of this matchup seems to always offer up a potential tight battle that can go down to the wire.
Neither the Bruins or Trojans have separated themselves from each other nor the rest of the pack in the Pac-12, but Wednesday night brings the opportunity to do just that. A UCLA win would move the Bruins up to 3-2 in conference play and could put them as high as third place, while the Trojans (1-3 in the Pac-12) would remain in the middle of the pack and sustain some continuity as they head into the remainder of a rigorous January schedule.