Las Vegas • It will be the first time for Brandon Taylor.
The freshman point guard at Utah wasn’t a factor in January, the last time the Utes played USC. He wasn’t in the rotation, barely eking out 45 seconds of garbage time against the Trojans.
When the two teams meet on Wednesday night in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, things will be decidedly different. Taylor is now a starter, an impact player, someone USC will have to plan and adjust for.
"I can’t wait," Taylor said. "This is one of the teams that I hardly played against. It’s definitely going to be an experience. I just want to get it started and play well."
With Taylor in the lineup, Utah’s offense steadied and got better. Taylor has alternated between scorer and playmaker. But his presence — which was barely needed in the first 10 weeks of the season — is now desired for almost 35 minutes a game.
He has a big challenge against USC in Jio Fontan. Not only is the New York native crafty with the dribble, explosive to the basket and quick on defense, but Fontan can shoot and is one of the better leaders in the Pac-12.
"It’s something I have to be ready for," Taylor said. "We have confidence. Not like we’ve arrived or anything. But we know that we have the capability of playing well, and we want to come out and prove ourselves this week.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said C.J. Wilcox may be physically drained after a long season of carrying the Huskies on offense.
The numbers bear that out. In his last five games, the Pleasant Grove native has gone 3 of 13 from the field, 2 of 9, 7 of 14, 1 of 11 and 5 of 16.
MGM Grand a hit
The eight teams that play on Wednesday all held shootarounds on the MGM Arena floor on Tuesday. Most coaches spoke of the gym as a shooters’ arena, even saying that an NCAA Tournament Regional could be played there someday.
"We love it," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "It’s well-lit, it’s a great floor. It’s a very good venue to have this tournament in."
Odds and ends
The first four games will all be shown on the Pac-12 Network. … Washington State is entering the tournament with a winning streak, having beaten UCLA and USC.
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