Pac-12 Post-Mortems: USCPosted by Andrew Murawa on May 6th, 2014
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, USC.
What Went Wrong
The problems of USC basketball in 2013-14 can largely – but not entirely – be attributed to previous administrations and the changing of the guard. New head coach Andy Enfield was, for the most part, left with a roster of ne’er-do-wells and misfits thrown together into a system in which few of them fit. Almost nobody on the roster would have been a guy that Enfield would have thought would fit perfectly into his system, and among the handful of guys who did, there wasn’t a ton of buy-in. Let’s put it this way: The team’s two captains were senior J.T. Terrell and junior Byron Wesley, who between the two of them were suspended for a total of 10 games and couldn’t get out of the program fast enough once the season ended.
What Went Right
Well, on Wednesday March 12, the Trojans took a three-point loss against Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament, a game which served as a mercy killing of the USC season. Better days likely await the program under Enfield, but man, this season needs to be put in the past right quick. Beyond that snarky answer, Enfield really did begin to implement the type of basketball he would like this Trojans team to play in the future. They got up and down the court, found transition offense on 30 percent of all possessions, and averaged offensive possessions of just 16 seconds, good for 26th in the nation. Once Enfield can begin to fill roster spots with players who will better fit into his scheme, we’ll get a better idea of how the Enfield era will work at USC.
There weren’t a lot of talented players on this roster, but on a bad, bad team, Byron Wesley was a terrific player. Despite opposing defenses understanding that he was about the only player who could really hurt them, Wesley earned his own shots, scored 17.8 points per game, grabbed 6.4 boards per outing, and was the lone elite defensive player on the squad.
Our MVP section flows neatly into this section, as Wesley announced his decision to wrap up his USC undergraduate degree and head for greener pastures for his final year of collegiate eligibility (Pitt, Gonzaga and Oklahoma State are the finalists for his services). With seniors Pe’Shon Howard, Omar Oraby, D.J. Haley and Terrell also on their way out the door along with freshman transfer Roschon Prince (headed to Long Beach State), Enfield gets a chance for a nearly complete roster makeover, with only sophomores-to-be point Julian Jacobs (point guard) and Nikola Jankovic (stretch-four) as returnees who earned better than 30 percent of USC’s minutes this season.
Players Coming In
While the talent level around the Galen Center is low right now, Enfield continues to remake the squad on the fly. UNLV transfer Katin Reinhardt and freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin (who chose USC over UCLA in a brutal recruiting battle) are the linchpins of the remodel, guys who will give Enfield plenty of offensive punch. Reinhardt is a talented shooter who fancies himself a point guard, but who seemingly has never seen a shot he didn’t like. McLaughlin, likewise, is a guy who is most comfortable creating his own offense, a point guard who is at his best going and getting his own. If the two can coexist in the USC backcourt, they could be spectacular (and certainly, with all the defections, there are more than enough shots to go around); if these parts clash, the meltdown could be just as spectacular. Other newcomers include three-star Malik Marquetti and three-star bigs Malik Price-Martin and Jabari Craig, as well as Charlotte transfer Darion Clark, who should immediately step into a big role up front as an athletic rebounding force.
Reason for Hope
This past season was the nadir for this go-round of the Trojans basketball program. Transitioning from the style of play – and its attendant personnel – that Kevin O’Neill preferred to the preference of Enfield was bound to be rough, so without any doubt, Enfield gets a pass for his first season. But he was able to put in his style; he was able to begin bringing in appropriate personnel; and he even won a major recruiting battle over crosstown rival UCLA. The Trojans basketball program is about where it should be one year into the Enfield experiment.
Reason For Concern
Wesley leaving ain’t a good look. But with McLaughlin and Reinhardt on their way in, he saw the writing on the wall: There weren’t likely to be a ton of shots for a guy who still hopes to have an NBA future. Next year is something of a gamble. Both Reinhardt and McLaughlin seemingly expect to be “the guy” for their team. Can each of them be that? If not, can one of them take a step into the background? There’s some talent here now, but questions still remain about how that fit together. Which leads to another issue: While Enfield gets a pass for the season, his performance was not particularly impressive. There were asides from around the conference about how Enfield’s in-game adjustments and strategies (or lack thereof) underwhelmed. In other words, not only does he need to prove his credentials in terms of creating a quality roster, but he needs to prove his sideline cred as well.
D+. The Trojans were 11-21 this season, and the roster was wracked with malcontents and underwhelming talents. But, the offense and the culture is in place, so at least the year wasn’t a total waste. Believe it or not, the D+ is a charitable grade, but next year at this time, few will feel as charitable about this program. Progress must be made.