Trojans expect Utes’ best shot

first_imgUSC will get another chance to impress on a national stage this week as it gears up for its Thursday matchup against Utah in Salt Lake City. The last time the Trojans were under the national spotlight was two weeks ago in Palo Alto, Calif. when they were upset by Stanford. Now, coming off a victory over California and a bye week, the team is ready for the next challenge.Playing keep-away · Quarterbacks have not been throwing into Nickell Robey’s coverages. As a result, he has yet to record an interception. – Carlo Acenas | Daily Trojan“The players are ready to play again after having some extra time off,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “We’re excited for what I think will be a very entertaining game. That place will be rocking as we go in there, and it will be a good test for us.”Rice-Eccles Stadium is expecting a sellout crowd in what Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said before the season would be one of the biggest games in the school’s history. Utah’s various media outlets echoed this sentiment at Pac-12 Media Day in July.A lackluster start for Utah, however, has seemingly quelled such rhetoric. After winning their season opener against Northern Colorado in decisive fashion, the Utes faltered in their second game against rival Utah State, losing 27-20 in overtime.In the loss, senior quarterback Jordan Wynn also suffered a season- and career-ending shoulder injury. Injuries to Utah’s star running back John White and members of its offensive line have rendered the offense inconsistent, as evidenced by the team’s 37-7 loss to Arizona State last week.Still, regardless of what the Utes have done this season, Kiffin expects a different showing from their offense on Thursday night.“They’re replacing a lot of linemen, just like us,” Kiffin said. “I anticipate them being at full strength after having some time off, just like us. I think White will be ready to go.”In last season’s meeting, the Trojans’ defense held White to just 56 rushing yards on 20 carries — a far cry from his 2011 season average of 116 yards per game.The star for Utah in last year’s meeting was receiver Devante Christopher, who had 11 catches for 136 yards. Even with new quarterback Jon Hays, who has a 6-3 career starting record, the USC secondary will face challenges against the Utes’ passing attack, particularly at the second cornerback spot opposite junior Nickell Robey.“We need to play better at the other spot and force them to throw at [Robey],” Kiffin said. “Right now, nobody’s throwing at him.”Kiffin hopes another defender will emerge opposite Robey so that the lockdown corner can have more opportunities to make plays on the ball and get turnovers.“There’s no secret. We haven’t played well there all year,” Kiffin said in reference to the second cornerback spot. “It’s unfortunate for Nickell, because the ball is always going the other way. We have to be more consistent in tackling and in press coverage.”last_img read more

NCAA’s Dan Gavitt says selection committee would face huge challenge if college hoops played only league games

first_imgOn the day the NCAA men’s basketball committee concluded its summer meetings — conducted virtually, of course — the Big Ten Conference announced its fall sports seasons would consist of conference games only. It is anticipated that most or all of the “autonomy conferences,” better known as the Power 5, will follow that course.If that same circumstance were to develop in college basketball because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the selection committee would face a far more daunting predicament than deciding between two terrific teams for that final No. 1 seed. It’s only four months away from the scheduled start of the season, though, and fall sports have been affected in dramatic ways.If college basketball were to be placed in a circumstance where there were few or no non-league games to help establish how much comparative value there is in winning a conference game, Gavitt said he believes the selection committee is well-positioned to select, seed and bracket the field. Nine of the 10 members, including chairman Mitch Barnhart of Kentucky, are veterans of the process.“If they’re faced with having to rely more on observation and less on analytics, they’ll be prepared to do so,” Gavitt said. “But it would be a challenge. There’s no question.” BENDER: Big Ten made right call with conference-only seasonNCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt told Sporting News that scenario would present “pretty significant” challenges for the committee, including the possibility of “compromising the integrity” of the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), the primary metric used to sort the teams and gauge accomplishment.“You could imagine a scenario where some conferences play only conference games and others play conference and non-conference games,” Gavitt told SN. “We talked to Google, who helped us develop the NET, and have gotten their counsel on what effect that would have on the NET ranking system. And what they’ve told us back is if there are no non-conference games or dramatically fewer non-conference games, it would impact the effectiveness of the NET.“That kind of cross-pollination is vital to the accuracy of the NET.”Gavitt remains optimistic that if people are playing serious basketball in this country in 2020-21, then colleges will be among them. The return to action of various other sports leagues, most notably the NBA, Major League Baseball and, hopefully, college football will permit those in charge of college hoops to observe what works for them, what does not, and how to assure that the 2020 NCAA Tournament is the last the organization will need to cancel.Gavitt acknowledges the progression (or, hopefully, eventually, regression) of the virus is a variable the NCAA and colleges do not control.“We’ll continue to learn how to do things safely and responsibly,” Gavitt said. “We’ve got a ton of questions. We’ve got more questions than answers. But we’re starting to get answers. I think our staff and the committee are really doing a good job and focused on how we make this thing happen.“I think everyone is still hopeful and planning the season will start on time, on Nov. 10, and we’ll be able to have a relatively full regular season. If things develop differently, I think we’ll be able to adjust, be flexible and be nimble and do what we have to, to try to create a different alternative.”LIST OF ATHLETES OPTING OUT IN 2020MLB | NBAGavitt said he believes there is a strong connection between launching basketball season on schedule and football being able to safely contest its regular season.“The distinction in basketball, of course, is we have a lot of leagues that don’t play football,” Gavitt said. “And so they may be ready to start the regular season on Nov. 10, whereas other leagues might not, or might not want to. It’s an unusual circumstance, for sure. That’s not what’s happening right now. Right now, the overwhelming feeling is we’ll start the season on time.”Asked whether the NCAA would be willing or able to push the NCAA Tournament out of its typical March Madness window into April or May if the circumstances with the virus made that appear prudent, Gavitt said that’s not a consideration at the moment.“But we’re going to continue to evaluate and assess what’s going on in our country and would be prepared with any potential scenario, if necessary,” Gavitt said. “But we’re not there yet. Our contingency planning right now is around social distancing and limited capacity and all the things every sports property is having to plan for.“We’re eight months away, still, from Selection Sunday. So it really is premature to think about dramatic alternations.”last_img read more