USC Week: What To Expect

Posted by AMurawa on July 6th, 2012

We’re most of the way through our week-long look at the Trojans and have at least enough information to make some educated guesses about what the 2012-13 season has in store. With three players back from season-ending injuries and a whole host of new faces, we can expect to see a vastly different team compared to the walking wounded who wrapped up last season, but who exactly will lead this team and what will the final results be? Here are our guesses.

USC’s Leading ScorerJio Fontan. In Fontan’s three years of play, he’s proven that he is capable of not only creating his own looks, but of also getting good looks for his teammates.  In his one half-season with the Trojans, he played second fiddle to USC’s all-conference big man Nikola Vucevic, but he may be called on to once again be the primary offensive option for his team. He does have plenty of other guys capable of scoring around him (J.T. Terrell, Eric Wise, Maurice Jones, Ari Stewart, Byron Wesley, Aaron Fuller), so we can expect fairly balanced scoring on this Trojan team, but when push comes to shove, we expect Fontan to have the ball in his hands with an eye toward lighting up the scoreboard.

Jio Fontan, USC

After A Season Lost To A Torn ACL, Jio Fontan Will Be Crucial To USC’s 2012-13 Campaign

USC’s MVPAaron Fuller. The Trojans may well live and die with Fontan’s game, but Fuller will not only likely be the team’s most efficient offensive player again, but despite being an undersized four, he is perhaps their best front-line defender and an excellent rebounder. Assuming he returns from his shoulder injury no worse for the wear, Fuller could be the team’s most effective player.

USC’s Most Improved ReturneeDewayne Dedmon. For the most part, Dedmon was awful last year in his first action with the Trojans, seeming out of place and out of sorts at times. But for a seven-footer with extremely limited experience in the game of basketball, he also showed some jaw-dropping athletic ability. And, as bad as he looked at times, a closer look at the numbers sows that he was somehow the team’s second-most efficient offensive player and its best rebounder.  It is only a matter of time for Dedmon; the more experience he gets, the better he’ll be. And, after an offseason where he’s been trying to patch some of the holes in his game that were exposed last season, he should be light years beyond last season.  A scary thought.

USC’s Most Impactful NewcomerEric Wise. There are a lot of choices here, but we’ll go with the senior transfer from UC Irvine. Wise showed a versatile and complete game with the Anteaters, capable of putting the ball in the bucket in a variety of different ways, able to rebound extremely well for his undersized frame and showing a great understanding of the game of basketball. While he’s definitely extremely undersized for the Pac-12, he’s still a very talented player who will play bigger than his 6’5” stature.

USC’s Conference Record/ Finish9-9, 6th Place. While there is absolutely no reason to think that the Trojans are going to be anywhere near as bad as they were last season, there is likewise little chance that they wind up competing for a conference title. They’re going to defend like crazy and likely be one of the better defensive teams in the conference, but despite all the guys capable of putting the ball in the basket on the offensive end, there aren’t a whole lot of highly efficient offensive basketball players on this team. This USC squad is still going to play a relatively ugly brand of basketball, but they’ll be capable of winning their share of those ugly games. And, come March, they’ll at least be in the conversation for one of the final spots in the NCAA Tournament. Our guess, however, is that they come up a bit shy, instead gaining one of the top seeds in the NIT.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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3 responses to “USC Week: What To Expect”

  1. Aaron Burgin says:

    Gotta disagree with your final analysis of the USC team. While I agree that you have to base your opinion on recent history, I think this is a team that will be starkly different than the team we’ve seen the past few years, namely because of the increased depth. The past two years SC has had to play a very slowdown, grind-it-out style of basketball simply because the team didn’t have the personnel to win a shootout against the league’s best teams. With the options that have been laid out over the past week, I find it difficult for the authors of this entry not to believe that the depth won’t mean a substantive change to the Trojans’ approach to the game. Are they going to be a team full of dead-eye snipers from deep? No. But are they going to be a team where one guy has to dominate the ball, as you’ve insinuated above. Hardly. This is a team that has the pieces to get the ball going up and down the court. You’ve got a superbly athletic back court and front court, with a center who, while still very raw, is a ridiculous athlete and can outrun most other team’s guards. The plan before Fontan went down last year was to play more of a transition-style offense. That is what I am expecting from this team. And if they can combine that transition offense with the same trademark hard-nosed defense, this team will not only exceed the 9-9 record you’ve predicted, they have a chance to crack the upper tier of the conference and be solidly in contention for a great seed in the NCAA tournament.

  2. AMurawa says:

    Yeah, I guess I’m just super leery of coaches who, despite a long history of having their teams play one type of style/tempo, claim that “oh, next year’s gonna be different!” O’Neill’s history at every stop in college, be it Marquette, Tennessee, Northwestern, his year at Arizona or here, has been that of a coach most comfortable playing a very slow-tempo (with the rare year where his teams are only slightly below-average in tempo). I have no reason to believe him (or, for instance, Herb Sendek who makes a similar claim), that all of a sudden he’s gonna turn his teams into the 1980s Lakers. I don’t think they’ll be anywhere near as deliberate as they were last year, but when push comes to shove, this will be primarily a half-court offense.

    Likewise, I have a hard time believing that a group of guys who have historically been shoot-first, relatively inefficient offensive players (Fontan, Terrell, Stewart, Jones, even Wise to a way lesser extent) are going to suddenly transform themselves into guys more likely to share the ball.

    If either of those things happens, I’ll be ready to eat my words. But for now, they’ll need to prove it first.

    But thanks for your comments. I’m very much looking forward to seeing this team.

  3. Aaron D. Burgin says:

    I agree that it’s hard for a coach to buck long-standing tendencies, but I think it is easier for players to make those changes.

    As has been brought out in one of the articles, for many of these players, this is their last chance at the D1 level, the last chance to make the NCAAs, to impress scouts and to carve out a future in professional basketball. I get the sense from looking at some of the player’s interaction on Twitter that they realize that they’re going to have to make sacrifices in order to make it work. And while they have several players that you’d call “volume shooters,” they also have several very selfless players who are willing to sacrifice offensive touches and play selfless on the defensive end: Wesley, Dedmon and Fuller. That can only help the team’s chemistry.
    Call me the optimist, but I believe they will put it together. If they do, this could be a special season. If they don’t, this season could go awry in a hurry.

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