College Hoops

USC’s limitations exposed by Tom Izzo in NCAA Tournament

USC’s limitations exposed by Tom Izzo in NCAA Tournament

USC’s men’s basketball team has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. That’s no fun. No one likes being bounced early and being unable to continue the ride for at least one more game. USC won’t have a chance to play its way into the Sweet 16 on Sunday. Michigan State stopped the Trojans cold on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.

This loss will certainly sting for Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson as their USC careers come to a close. Not being able to perform at one’s very best when the bright lights are shining truly hurts. Yet, if you look at the bigger picture, Boogie and Drew and the rest of this team overachieved to get here in the first place. Let’s unpack that point while reviewing Friday’s game:

Mar 17, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA; USC Trojans guard Boogie Ellis (5) dribble the ball defended by Michigan State Spartans guard Tre Holloman (5) in the first half at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

You could see that Tom Izzo wasn’t going to let Boogie roam freely. He sent waves of bodies at Boogie all game and forced him to make the pass to an open teammate, who needed to hit shots. Late in the first half, when USC erased an 11-point deficit, you saw Reese Dixon-Waters and Josh Morgan score off assist passes from Ellis and also Drew Peterson. That didn’t happen nearly as often in the second half.

Mar 17, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; USC Trojans players stand for the National Anthem prior to their game against the Michigan State Spartans during the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

Kijani Wright made a few good plays, and Reese Dixon-Waters scored seven points when USC made its big push late in the first half, and that was it. The Trojans simply didn’t have the options or the bodies needed to keep pace with Michigan State, which ran the floor better in transition and got some easy buckets. That mattered a lot. USC’s limitations were exposed, as you might expect when going up against Tom Izzo in March.

Mar 2, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Kerr Kriisa (25) beats USC Trojans forward Vincent Iwuchukwu (3) to a rebound in the first half at Galen Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Vince Iwuchukwu could not play. That simply hammered USC. Imagine an alternate universe in…

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