The top two teams in the Pac-12 standings face off early Saturday evening when the USC Trojans host the Stanford Cardinal.
TV Schedule: Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 6:30 PM ET, PAC12
Location: Galen Center, Los Angeles, California
Only two teams in the Pac-12 are ranked this week: Oregon and Colorado. But the two best teams in conference play so far are actually the Stanford Cardinal and USC Trojans (the latter is tied with Colorado for second in the conference standings).
There might not be a game with larger ramifications in the country this weekend than USC hosting Stanford on Saturday evening.
The way these two teams are viewed both nationally and by the AP pollsters vary wildly.
Stanford fell just short of being ranked in the most recent AP poll. The Cardinal is the only unbeaten team left in Pac-12 play and three of their four wins have come by at least 15 points, convincing performances throughout. Only one of those victories has come on the road, a 15-point win at UCLA on Wednesday night.
The production of the young players has been the biggest boon for Stanford, both now and in terms of expectation-setting for the future. Against UCLA, freshmen Tyrell Terry and Spencer Jones combined for 38 points, hitting eight three-pointers between them. Terry is getting dangerously close to surpassing Oscar da Silva as the best player on the roster.
USC, on the other hand, has just one more loss than Stanford so far this season. Yet the poll voters don’t seem to buy in yet, as the Trojans received just one solitary vote in the AP rankings this week. None of their three losses are to particularly bad teams, although some of then were particularly ugly.
The game that comes to mind most is the sole conference loss, at Washington. It was one of the more embarrassing performances of the season, with the Trojans losing by 32 points, scoring a measly 40 points in the contest. Yet they’ve followed that up with convincing wins over UCLA and Cal – not the best teams, but still Pac-12 programs nonetheless.
Like Stanford, USC is relying a ton on their youngest players. Onyeka Okongwu has emerged as one of the best freshmen in the country, with the forward averaging 16.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He’s been even more spectacular at home, averaging 19.9 points and 9.4 rebounds.
Freshman forward Isaiah Mobley is carving out an important role as well. The 6-foot-10 big man is averaging 7.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. His play has tapered off a bit since conference games commenced, but he’s primed to break out of his slump in a major way soon.
USC is on the cusp of a challenging stretch in a wide-open Pac-12. After Stanford, USC plays both Oregon and Oregon State on the road, Utah and Colorado at home, Arizona and Arizona State on the road, and then those pesky Huskies once more, this time in Los Angeles.
That’s a tough slate of games for a polarizing team. But they’re able to pull shock wins as easily as they’re able to get trounced out of nowhere. With the home-court advantage on their side, expect USC to guarantee no team finishes Pac-12 team unscathed.
Prediction: USC 73, Stanford 69