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The USC Trojans are coming off a big week. Not only did the program name interim head coach Clay Helton its permanent head coach but it also scored a victory over rival UCLA, knocking off the Bruins in blowout fashion 40-21 as a 3-point favorite Saturday. It snapped a three-year losing skid to its California cousins and punched the Trojans ticket to the Pac-12 title game, facing Stanford as 4.5-point underdogs.
Southern Cal’s big win and improbable path to the conference championship game sets USC up for a possible letdown. The Trojans’ season was marred by the firing of Steve Sarkisian after his problem drinking was brought to the forefront and many counted out Southern Cal, which could give USC a false sense of accomplishment entering Saturday’s game. The Trojans lost 41-31 to Stanford as 9.5-point home favorites in September.
It’s hard to look past a lineup with guys like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at the top, but the Miami Heat find themselves in a tough spot hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday with former star LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers next on the schedule. Miami plays host to the Cavs on Saturday in what will be an intense game between two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
The Heat went 1-3 SU and ATS in their four games before playing Cleveland last season, which was James’ first back with the Cavaliers after opting out with Miami and shunning the franchise in free agency. The Heat lost both matchups with the Thunder SU and ATS last year and have gone 5-1 SU versus the West but just 3-3 ATS so far this season.
Long Beach State knows that if you want to impress the selection committee come March, you have to test your mettle against some big-name programs. The 49ers have already played power conference members like Oklahoma State (twice), Virginia, and Seton Hall as well as mid-major contender BYU in their tune-up slate before Big West play tips off.
But Long Beach State isn’t done there. It plays a hectic schedule this week, starting with a home game against San Diego State Tuesday. Then the 49ers travel to Colorado State Thursday, are back home to play New Mexico State Saturday, then head to UCLA to take on the Bruins Sunday evening. That’s a stretch of four games in six days, including a trip to the thin air of Fort Collins, Colorado.