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USC basketball: Kansas pregame

December 18, 2010 |  8:25 am

Greetings and salutations!

Coming to you from basketball's hallowed grounds, just a ways up Naismith Drive, where "Pay heed all who enter, beware of the Phog" is the welcome sign inside the eardrum-shattering, bleacher-shaking, tradition-rich Allen Fieldhouse, which Saturday morning features USC (6-4) versus No. 3 Kansas (9-0) in an nationally televised ESPN affair.  

I've never been to Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, which, folks say, gets pretty loud thanks to some crazies. But this one here is louder, so says the experts at Penn State University's acoustic program. 

Here, here to that, I say. I've been twice, had a blast both times, and once I woke up the next day with sore eardrums. Really. But noise aside, KU's hall of fame and "Rock Chalk" chant are especially cool.  

On a side note, I agree with this writer, too, that Oklahoma State's Gallagher-Iba Arena is a great place to watch a game. Great environment, and that's me, an Oklahoma graduate, talking. (Boomer Sooner!) 

But I digress...

Here are some facts and stats to get you ready before tipoff at 9 a.m. PST (television broadcast on ESPN, radio broadcast on AM 710):

Points per game/opponents' points per game
USC: 68.9/62.7
Kansas: 87.3/59.9

Kansas probable starters

Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Class Hometown PPG RPG

G 10 Tyshawn Taylor 6-3 185 Jr. Hoboken, N.J. 10.9 1.2

G 12 Brady Morningstar 6-4 185 Sr.* Lawrence, Kan. 5.7 2.3

G 14 Tyrel Reed 6-3 193 Sr. Burlington, Kan. 10.0 2.0

F 21 Markieff Morris 6-10 245 Jr. Philadelphia 12.3 9.1

F 22 Marcus Morris 6-9 235 Jr. Philadelphia 16.9 6.2

USC probable starters

Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Class Hometown PPG RPG

G 10 Maurice Jones 5-7 155 Fr. Saginaw, Mich 12.2 3.4

G 15 Bryce Jones 6-5 200 Fr. Los Angeles 11.2 3.1

G 43 Marcus Simmons 6-6 220 Sr. Alexandria, La. 6.6 4.0

F 1 Alex Stepheson 6-10 250 Sr.* Los Angeles 8.6 8.3

F 5 Nikola Vucevic 6-10 260 Jr. Bar, Montenegro 16.5 10.6

* utilized redshirt season

USC player to watch: junior guard Jio Fontan

As I wrote in today's editions of The Times, Fontan has been looking forward to this game for a while, his first in more than a year, but USC has been looking forward to it even more.

USC Coach Kevin O'Neill calls Fontan his best player and best leader and swears the Trojans could be 9-1, or would be 9-1, if he had been eligible, but he had to sit out until Saturday due to NCAA transfer rules after migrating West in January from Fordham in the Bronx, N.Y.   

Fontan tells me he isn't nervous, that he is just looking to play. Of course, this is against Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks have won a school-record 64 consecutive home games, the nation's longest active home court winning streak.

He's a pretty cool customer though, and that comes from his background, which was chronicled in the very good PBS documentary about St. Anthony High School in Paterson, N.J., "The Street Stops Here." (Enjoy this powerful trailer.)

On a side note, St. Anthony's legendary coach Bob Hurley Sr. told me he'll be watching this one on television, both for Fontan and for Kansas junior guard Tyshawn Taylor, who was Fontan's teammate.

Kansas player to watch: freshman guard Josh Selby

Vasts amount of ink, digital as well as the real stuff, have been spilled regarding Selby, a play-making point guard who was considered the No. 1 recruit in the nation and will make his KU debut Saturday. (See more here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

Selby, a 6-foot-2 Baltimore native, was suspended for the Jayhawks' first nine games by the NCAA for allegedly accepting impermissible benefits. 

Some say he's the most touted freshman to hit town since Danny Manning a quarter-century ago, and Manning, from KU's famed "Danny and the Miracles" 1988 national championship team, was a good one.

The key question, though, which is brought up here, is how Selby, who has practically been deemed the "second coming" even though he's yet to play, will fit in with this team. We'll see. 

Key to the game: The first seven minutes

Kansas has a lot of numbers on its side.

It leads the Big 12 Conference in scoring (87.3), scoring margin (27.4), field goal percentage (55.8), three-point field goal percentage (40.5), three-point field goal percentage defense (25.4), assists (20), blocked shots (6.7) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5).

Plus, Kansas' bench averages 31.3 points compared to its opponents' 20.1 ppg. 

Let me take a breath. Whew. Lot of numbers there. 

Statistics notwithstanding, Kansas has also beaten USC in five consecutive matchups.

But the key number for USC is seven, as in, the first seven minutes. If the Trojans can withstand the Jayhawks' energy in that span, kind of but not really like these guys, they ought to be OK, especially if they can get some defensive stops. 

And on the subject of defense, USC is really one of the only teams Kansas will have played so far that prides itself on defense.

The others were Arizona and UCLA, both Pacific 10 Conference schools, and though each lost, each lost by single digits, Arizona by eight, UCLA by one. 

Lastly...

-- USC has alternated two wins and two losses all season. It's coming off two wins. You can imagine what might happen Saturday.

-- USC has lost five straight road games dating back to last season. It's also lost its only two true road games this season.

-- Dave Pasch and Bobby Knight are calling the action today for ESPN. Love me some Bobby Knight. Speaking of Sir Knight, if you haven't read this book, do it now. 

-- Baxter Holmes in Lawrence, Kan.

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