Expert Cappers Picks
Men's College Basketball
Western Kentucky at Southern California
When: 11:30 PM ET, Monday, March 19, 2018
Where: Galen Center, Los Angeles, California

USC avoided a NCAA Tournament snub hangover with a hard-fought 103-98 double overtime victory over UNC Ashville in the first round of the NIT. The No. 1-seeded Trojans now will try to move another step closer to a trip to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals when they host No. 4 seed Western Kentucky on Monday night.

The Trojans won their opener despite the fact 6-11 junior forward Chimezie Metu, a potential first-round NBA Draft pick who leads the team in scoring (15.7 points per game), rebounding (7.4) and blocks (59), decided to sit out the game to avoid the possibility of injury before the draft. He nearly had some company in senior guard Elijah Stewart who admitted he seriously considered joining Metu on the sidelines until he found out senior point guard Jordan McLaughlin would play. "I really didn't want to play in it," Stewart, who ended up scoring 22 points and grabbing six rebounds in 42 minutes, said. "I thought I'd just get a last few games in with (McLaughlin), go out on a good note." Western Kentucky bounced back from a tough 67-66 loss to Marshall in the Conference USA Tournament title game to defeat visiting Boston College 79-62 in the NIT's first round Tuesday night.

TV: 11:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

ABOUT WESTERN KENTUCKY (25-10): All-Conference USA senior forward Justin Johnson had his fifth straight double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Hilltoppers in the win over Boston College and leads the team in scoring (15.4) and rebounding (9.6) while also shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range. Freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth, who ranks third on the team in scoring (13.3), added 18 points, five rebounds and four assists and also passed Courtney Lee (461 points) to become the all-time leading freshman scorer in school history. The Hilltoppers shot 55.4 percent in the win and finished with a 40-26 edge in points in the paint, giving them a 345-point advantage in that category for the season.

ABOUT USC (24-11): McLaughlin finished with 26 points and 13 assists in the first-round win, his fifth double-double of the season and eighth of his career. "It was tough," he said of being passed over for an NCAA tourney at-large berth despite finishing second in the Pac-12 and also making it to the championship game of the conference tournament. "Life moves on. We talked about it in the locker room. We came out and played." With Metu and 6-10 Bennie Boatwright (knee), who is second on the team in scoring (13.6) and rebounding (6.4), both out, 6-11 Nick Rakocevic stepped up to fill a big hole in the middle for the Trojans with career highs in points (24) and rebounds (19) vs. UNC Ashville.


1. McLaughlin leads the Pac-12 with 267 assists this season and has had at least three assists in 72 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation.

2. USC's 103 points against UNC Ashville were the most in a game for the Trojans since a 103-101 four overtime victory over Arizona on on Jan. 9, 2016.

3. Western Kentucky, making its first NIT appearance since 2006, hasn't won more than one game in an NIT since 1948.

PREDICTION: USC 84, Western Kentucky 78
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Neutral Day Night Conf
Western Kentucky 25-10 W1 14-3 7-5 4-2 5-3 20-7 16-5
Southern California 24-11 W1 13-4 6-5 5-2 8-1 16-10 14-7
Last Meeting
Western Kentucky Southern California
Date Away Home Pts Reb FG% Pts Reb FG%
No previous meeting.
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Western Kentucky N/A
Southern California N/A
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Western Kentucky N/A
Southern California N/A
Assists Player  
Western Kentucky N/A
Southern California N/A
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Western Kentucky J. Johnson 540 51.7 63
Southern California C. Metu 533 52.2 111
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Western Kentucky J. Johnson 337 79 258
Southern California C. Metu 253 64 189
Assists Player  
Western Kentucky D. Thompson 170
Southern California J. McLaughlin 267
Quickchart Matchup
blue bar Western Kentucky Off vs  red bar Southern California Defense
blue bar 78.3 Points For
red bar 71.0 Points Against
blue bar 49.7 FG%
red bar 43.8 FG%
blue bar 32.5 Reb
red bar 31.1 Reb
red bar Southern California Off vs  blue bar Western Kentucky Defense
red bar 77.8 Points For
blue bar 70.4 Points Against
red bar 47.0 FG%
blue bar 42.7 FG%
red bar 32.6 Reb
blue bar 31.1 Reb