USC Post-MortemPosted by AMurawa on April 16th, 2013
Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: USC.
What Went Wrong
The biggest thing that went wrong were lofty expectations for a group of mostly transfers who had failed to have any success as a group in any of their previous stops. Despite the fact that this was a program coming off a six-win season, instead of playing with a chip on their collective shoulders, this team came out not just softly but selfishly. They went to a Maui Invitational with hopes of establishing themselves amid a flawed field, and instead got blown out by 30 in their opening round game against Illinois. They toughened up some after Maui, but then proceeded to blow several chances against good teams in excruciating fashion and took on eight non-conference losses. Senior point guard Jio Fontan looked terrible for the better part of two months after coming off a year lost to a torn ACL, Dewayne Dedmon seemed intent on throwing away his immense talent, J.T. Terrell pouted and fought his way through most of the early part of the year, and then on January 14, USC athletic director Pat Haden had seen enough, pulling the plug on Kevin O’Neill’s time in Los Angeles. The team rebounded somewhat under interim head coach Bob Cantu, winning six of eight games in the middle of the Pac-12 season, but then floundered down the stretch, culminating in an embarrassing brawl in downtown Pullman after the end of the regular season. All told, a mixture of immaturity and oversized egos appears to have done this team in.
What Went Right
Last year when we looked back on the 2011-12 Trojans, we said the best part about the year was that it was ending. This year, despite a net increase of eight wins, it is hard to say much of anything different. Maybe we call Omar Oraby, who quickly became a fan favorite, if not a coach’s favorite after transferring in from Rice, the team’s lone bright spot. Maybe we expand that to include Byron Wesley, who has been a rock for the Trojans in his two seasons there. But the fact is that the best things that have happened to this program have come since their most recent embarrassing season ended.
We gotta pick somebody here, and there is no clear-cut winner, but the nod goes to Eric Wise. In his lone season with the Trojans after starring at UC Irvine for three years, Wise played better than 30 minutes a night, led the team in scoring, was second in rebounding and was a decent play-maker with the ball in his hands out of the forward spot. Sure, he had maturity problems too, but when the Trojans needed a big basket down the stretch, they more often than not looked for Wise.
Wise is gone, along with Fontan and fellow seniors (and former transfers as well) Aaron Fuller, Renaldo Woolridge and James Blasczyk; none of those departures are backbreakers by any means. There remains the question of what will happen to Dedmon. He’s got one year of eligibility remaining, but following his involvement in the Pullman incident (along with Blasczyk) and his continued unpredictability, there is a chance that his desirability as a member of this program has expired. He’s got NBA-level raw talent, so there’s a chance he could opt for a D-League stretch, but if he sticks around and new head coach Andy Enfield can get things to click upstairs for the big man, he could be a major factor in making USC the new Dunk City – West.
Players Coming In
Let’s put the players on hold for a second and talk about the new coaching staff. Aside from the shooting star Enfield, the Trojans welcome in an impressive group, with Tony Bland (formerly of San Diego State) and Jason Hart (who was with Pepperdine last season) highlighting the changes. Their goal is to make playing Trojans basketball cool again and to bring in the type of talent that can regularly compete for a Pac-12 title. USC previously earned commitments from 2013 recruits Julian Jacobs, Kahlil Dukes, Nikola Jovanovic, and Roschon Prince, none of whom are considered any better than three-star prospects. It remains to be seen who out of this group will still wind up matriculating at USC, but the fact is, for the Trojans to reach the heights they hope to attain, they’ll need to find a way to bring in a higher level of recruit.
Reason for Hope
It’s a brand new start. Tear down the old regime and build up a new one. The only thing swirling around the USC program right now is hope. With Enfield, Bland and Hart making a young and energetic core at the top of the program, one can easily imagine much more exciting days ahead in the Galen Center.
Reason For Concern
There is no history of long-term success in the USC basketball program. Only once in its history have the Trojans strung together three-straight 20-win seasons (under Tim Floyd, 2007-09). It has been better than 25 years since USC so much as tied for a conference title (1985) and better than a half-century since it won an outright title (1961). Back-to-back conference titles? Last happened in 1939 and 1940 when Gail Goodrich, Sr., was the team’s captain. And you’re going to expect a guy with two seasons of head coaching experience to come in and change the culture overnight, to bring in the type of recruit that USC has never regularly captured before? Yes, there is reason for hope. But only the most Pollyannaish Trojans fan doesn’t see the potential for failure here as well.
D-. A 14-win season, a coach fired in January, huge swaths of empty Galen Center seats, and a brawl outside a bar to cap the season. All of that on top of expectations of significant improvement and NCAA Tournament contention? Yup, if anything, this grade is a gift.