College Basketball: Kansas at USC Preview, Picks, Odds Print
Written by Anthony Rome   
Sunday, 02 December 2007 02:48
NCAAB Headline News

Not Overlooking Anyone

Bill Self knows how good O.J. Mayo is. The Kansas coach also understands Southern California is more than a one-man team.

The fourth-ranked Jayhawks are well aware of the task at hand in their first road game of the season Sunday against the No. 22 Trojans.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Kansas -2.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 91% of bets for this game have been placed on Kansas -2.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Kansas (6-0) has yet to leave the Lawrence campus en route its best start since opening with 14 straight victories in 2004-05. The Jayhawks have outscored their six opponents by an average margin of 27.8 points, and were only seriously tested in a 76-72 overtime win over Arizona last Sunday.

Though that matchup with the Wildcats proved to be a challenge, the Jayhawks face another one Sunday as they play a ranked team for the first time this season. USC (6-1) is looking for its seventh straight victory since falling from No. 18 and out of the AP poll after a 96-81 home loss to Mercer in its season opener.

The Trojans are led by Mayo, the 6-foot-5 freshman who's averaging 21.3 points and is likely headed to NBA after this season. Mayo, though, has a young and talented supporting cast that includes fellow freshman Davon Jefferson (13.8 ppg) and 6-9 sophomore Taj Gibson (10.3 ppg).

"They are good," Self said of the Trojans, who are looking to avoid a fifth consecutive loss to the Jayhawks. "O.J. is terrific. He will be the best player that we have played so far. Taj Gibson is very good. Davon Jefferson is very good. They are a very talented team.

"It will be a great test for us."

Kansas looks to avoid losing its second straight road opener after falling 64-57 at DePaul on Dec. 2, 2006.

The Jayhawks were hardly tested in an 87-49 win over Florida Atlantic on Wednesday.

Guard Brandon Rush continued his progression after undergoing offseason knee surgery, scoring 17 points in 19 minutes for Kansas, which made 56.9 percent from the field. The Jayhawks are shooting 54.8 percent for the season.

Rush, the 6-6 junior who led Kansas in scoring the last two seasons, is averaging 11.8 points in four games and saw limited time Wednesday after playing a season-high 36 minutes against Arizona.

"I don't know if I want him to be out there for 35 minutes now because I don't think that's best for our team," Self said. "I do think this is going to be a situation where unless something unforeseen happens, his minutes will not be determined by his health."

Rush and Mario Chalmers each had 13 points and five rebounds to help Kansas to a 72-62 home win over USC on Dec. 4. Chalmers, who averages 12.2 points and 5.3 assists, also had six steals and four assists versus the Trojans.

Kansas leads 8-5 in the all-time series, and won 74-69 on Dec. 23, 1997 in its most recent meeting with the Trojans in Los Angeles. USC has not beaten the Jayhawks since an 89-83 home win on Dec. 21, 1978.

The Trojans will face their second straight Big 12 opponent after a 66-55 home win over Oklahoma on Thursday.

Jefferson, from nearby Lynwood, Calif., had a career-high 23 points and nine rebounds against the Sooners after scoring 20 points in USC's 70-45 win over then-No. 19 Southern Illinois last Sunday in the Anaheim Classic final.

Though Jefferson played well, Mayo helped end an Oklahoma rally by scoring 11 straight points midway through the second half after USC's lead had been cut to three points.

"I wasn't hitting any shots in the first half, but it didn't really matter to me because of the lead we had going into the second half," said Mayo, who scored 15 of his 18 points after halftime. "It's all about winning. In the second half, I got the opportunities to get some easy baskets."

USC has played well defensively of late, limiting Oklahoma to 35.6 percent from the field after it held SIU to 32.7 percent.

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