PAC-12 conference play begins early with the USC Trojans traveling to Eugene, Oregon to face the Oregon Ducks.
TV Schedule: Thursday, December 28th, 2023, 9:00pm ET, ESPN 2
Arena: Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon
Two PAC-12 opponents enter Eugene, Oregon with distinctly different records but almost the same product. The Oregon Ducks hold the advantage in the win-loss column with eight wins and three losses while the Trojans have suffered two more losses and two fewer wins. Additionally, the Ducks are 6-0 at Matthew Knight Arena where this matchup will occur. USC, on the other hand, is 1-1 in away games.
Diving into team stats with a closer look, it would be hard to distinguish the teams. Oregon shoots the ball better overall (46.9 FG% compared to 44.8 FG% for USC) with the Trojans showing more prowess at the free throw line (72.2 FT% compared to 66.5 FT% for Oregon). As it stands, the teams are evenly matched from beyond the arc (34.3% and 34.9%).
Leading the Trojan charge offensively is Boogie Ellis. The 6 '3'’ guard has found a home in Southern California after a journey that included a commitment to Duke before following through with two years at Memphis. Ellis enters his fifth year - a year removed from an All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention. After improving dramatically from his junior to senior season, Ellis is continuing this pace of improvement in his fifth year. He is shooting more, shooting more efficiently, turning the ball over less and shouldering the offensive burden for the Trojan team. Ellis is third in PAC-12 scoring with 19.5 points per game and his 44.2 3PT % is fourth in the PAC-12.
The Oregon Ducks have a budding star of their own in freshman Kwame Evans Jr. Evans started off slow during the first seven games of the season but since then has been a completely different player. Before Kwame played a game, draft prognosticators had him pegged as a mid-late first round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. Despite early struggles, Evans appears ready to prove these predictions correct.
After shooting 35.6% through his first seven games, Brown has improved to a 57.7% FG% while playing more minutes (28 MPG compared to 21MPG). Brown’s real, dramatic improvement came within the three-point line where he struggled with a 40.7 FG%. In December, Brown is shooting an otherworldly 77.8% inside the three point arc. He has averaged almost four more points per game in December than in November in addition to more assists, rebounds, and blocks per game.
Defensively, USC is a slightly better team. They average 1.7 more blocks per game than their opponent in Oregon (5.2 and 3.5 respectively) while trailing slightly behind Oregon in the steals category (7.9 spg and 6.5 spg respectively) giving the Trojans a slight edge defensively.
With the teams so much alike, one individual will step up and become the lynchpin of success for this particular game. Kwame Evans will keep up his current pace that he’s trending with in December and be that lynchpin. A project first round NBA Draft pick and a pre-season All-Pac-12 honorable mention, Evans will have his official coming out game against the Trojans.
Prediction: Oregon Ducks 77 | USC Trojans 73