USC Hopes To Regroup Against Ranked Utah

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Things are looking a bit grim for USC.

The Trojans are 1-2 and now they face No. 24 Utah on the road Friday. A loss to the Utes would make for the Trojans’ first 1-3 start since 2001. An 0-2 start to Pac-12 play would mean USC would likely need to go undefeated in its remaining conference games just to have a chance at a league title.

And now coach Clay Helton is switching quarterbacks. Redshirt freshman Sam Darnold will make his first start for the Trojans, replacing Max Browne. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder has played in all three games and thrown for 136 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and completed 63.6 percent of his passes. Darnold also provides a running threat.

”I would not have made the change if I wasn’t confident in the decision,” Helton said. ”What he has done on that stage versus Alabama showing the poise he did, versus Stanford showing the poise he did, the anticipation he has shown in his throws, his knowledge of the offense right now, he is making plays.”

Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson said Helton had one message this week.

”In life there’s only two things, you can be the answer or the one that makes excuses,” Jackson said. ”So, obviously, we got to be the answer.”

On the opposite sideline, there’s a little revenge at stake for the Utes. Utah was ranked No. 3 in the country in 2015 when a loss to USC started a downward spiral that ended with the Utes playing in the Las Vegas Bowl after at one time being in the conversation for the College Football Playoff.

”They’re probably the most talented 1-2 team in the country,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. ”They’re dangerous. We’re fully aware of that. We don’t really pay any attention to record. We know what their capabilities are. We’re not stressing that we owe them or anything like that. … We’d like to create some momentum going into league play.”

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Gonzaga Whoops on Utah, Play Syracuse in Sweet16

Written by Lindsay H. Jones at

Don’t let the seed fool you, but Gonzaga is no Cinderella.

The No. 11 Bulldogs now appear to be the most under-seeded team in this NCAA tournament, something the Zags proved emphatically Saturday night with an 82-59 rout of No. 3 Utah at the Pepsi Center.  Even Las Vegas didn’t seem to consider Gonzaga an underdog in this game, which was considered a pick ‘em prior to tipoff.

Now Gonzaga likely will be favored in its Sweet 16 matchup next week against the winner of Sunday’s game between No. 10 Syracuse and No. 15 Middle Tennessee State. The Zags will try to make their second consecutive trip to the Elite Eight.

And after back-to-back blowout wins in Denver, first against Big East tournament champion Seton Hall on Thursday before their second-round dismantling of Pac-12 runner-up Utah, Gonzaga might as well be considered one of the most dangerous teams remaining in the tournament.

Gonzaga has benefited from the expected dominance of its front-court duo of Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, but the recent emergence of solid guard play in the first two rounds — guard Eric McClellan had a team-high 22 points Saturday — Gonzaga finally has found the balance to an offense that was missing for much of the season.

“Right now we’re just kind of riding our momentum,” Wiltjer said. “We’re playing our best basketball.”

Indeed, with each win Gonzaga made the case for how flawed the seeding process for the NCAA tournament can be. This is a team that started the season with massive expectations and a No. 11 ranking in the preseason USA TODAY Sports coaches poll, and when it dropped some early games — such as losses to Arizona and UCLA before Christmas, followed by West Coast Conference losses to Saint Mary’s (twice) and BYU.

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NCAAB All American Team

Written by Nicole Auerbach at

Fourteen schools, four classes and six conferences are represented on the 2016 USA TODAY Sports men’s college basketball All-America teams. Nearly all of them will have the chance to lead their teams to a run in the NCAA tournament.

The teams, with players listed in alphabetical order:

First team

Buddy Hield, Sr., G, Oklahoma — An efficient scorer from nearly any spot on the court, Hield was the nation’s best pure shooter and most terrifying deep threat. The Big 12 Player of the Year dazzled even in defeat; his 46 points in a triple-overtime loss at Kansas was the singular performance of the season. Hield was the nation’s second-leading scorer, averaging 25.1 ppg, but the most impressive stat is this: Last season, Hield shot 35.9% from beyond the arc; this year, he shot an eye-popping 47.3%.

Brice Johnson, Sr., F, North Carolina — Johnson had shown flashes of this throughout his first three years with the Tar Heels. The talent was always there; consistency was the question. Johnson put it all together night in and night out this season, making himself one of the country’s most improved players and its most dominant. He led the ACC in rebounding, field goal percentage and double-doubles (19 total, 12 in league play). He averaged a double-double (16.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg) throughout the regular season and anchored one of the nation’s most consistent teams during a wild year.

Jakob Poeltl, So., F, Utah — Poeltl’s decision to bypass the NBA this past offseason was one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises for college basketball fans. The Austrian 7-footer is the most dominant player in the Pac-12, and one of the nation’s most dominant big men in general. He’s nearly doubled his output from last season, averaging 17.5 points to go along with 9.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. The future NBA lottery pick carried Utah to a second-place finish in the Pac-12 regular season, and can perhaps carry the Utes deep into March.

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