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Some pregame musings at USC

COUGARS

By this time of the season, basketball is simple. You do what you do and the other team tries to stop it. There are few secrets. Oh, an occasional entry you've held back that works against a zone or man or whatever. But the basics of who you are have been established. For example, Washington State isn't going to start jamming the ball inside on every possession and overpower you. Some games, sure, the Cougars will attack inside-out more often, but they will never be a post-oriented team. And that leads us to our thoughts on today's game with USC. Read on.

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• I have a good buddy who is a USC season ticket holder. But the early start time, TV and the New Year's Eve schedule has ensured he won't be here today. And my guess he won't be alone. If there are more the 3,000 people in here, I'll be shocked. At least the curtains on the north side of the Galen Center are closed. ... After that short pause, I'll get back to the thoughts I had to open this post. USC's nature is to be physical, physical in the post with Nikola Vucevic, Alex Stephenson (both 6-foot-10) and Marcus Simmons (6-6) who are 260, 250 and 220 pounds, respectively, and more importantly for the Cougars, physical out front. One day, talking basketball with Kevin O'Neill in the back halls of Beasley, we discussed defense for about 10 minutes. O'Neill is of the school that if you don't grab and hold out front, you can't defend. Moving you feet is important, sure, but not as much as being physical with your hands. That's his philosophy and he's stuck with it no matter where he's been. If USC gets away with it too much today, the Cougars are in trouble. Physical guards make it tough to get free off screens, make it tough to get good looks off penetration, tough to run the offense. That's why it's done. Does it work? Sure, but it all depends on how the game is called, which is something you just can't predict. If it's tight out front, adjustments have to be made. If it's loose, keeping pushing it. ... On the other end, expect Washington State to zone. I know I said that Wednesday and the Cougars did it for three possessions. But even if USC hits them hard early today as UCLA did, I expect them to stay with it longer. Too many matchup problems in man for WSU. ... And that's all I have for you now, except to say Notre Dame is sure kicking Miami around.

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• We'll be on Twitter during the game (vinceg55) and back here at halftime. Until then ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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