Pac-12 M5: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 16th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. We’re in the midst of a real good streak in the Pac-12. As ESPN’s Roxy Bernstein noted on Sunday night, the conference has now gone 18 straight games without a loss since last Sunday when Washington fell to San Diego State. So as we enter a new week, we’ve got nothing but good things to talk about. We discussed Arizona’s big win over Michigan this weekend, and you heard about Oregon’s offensive fireworks in a win over Illinois, so we’ll skip those high-profile games and jump to the next biggest game of the weekend, in which Utah put the beatdown on in-state rival BYU. By the time all the attendees in the Huntsman Center had shaken the cold out of their bones, the Utes were already up double-figures behind an early explosion from sophomore Jordan Loveridge. He had 15 points before the under-12 media timeout; the Utes had a 21-8 lead; and the Cougars were never within single digits again.
  2. Stanford bounced back from not only the loss of senior guard Aaron Bright to a season-ending injury, but an extended break due to finals to rough up UC Davis by 27 points on Saturday. Four guys scored in double figures; the team handed out 22 assists on 31 field goals; and the Cardinal rolled. With Connecticut and Michigan due up next for Johnny Dawkins’ team, it was a chance to put the start of the year behind it and begin building toward a strong second act.
  3. Across the bay, it was California’s senior Richard Solomon who was guiding the Golden Bears to a solid win over a tough Fresno State team. Solomon’s 17 points and 14 boards only begin to tell the whole story. Solomon was an efficient offensive option, scoring those 17 points on just nine field goal attempts and dominating an undersized Bulldog front line, accounting for three steals, a couple of blocks, and regularly contesting jumpers from the smaller Fresno players.
  4. On Sunday night Washington State got back to business, handling Pepperdine with ease in a 17-point victory. Rather than DaVonte Lacy leading the scoring per usual, though, it was junior wing Royce Woolridge who had his best game of the year by scoring 20 points and handing out four assists. Likewise, Que Johnson dialed things up, scoring 14 points in his best performance as a Coug. While it’s been a slow start this season, there are signs of life around the Wazzu basketball team. For the first time all year, they’re pretty clearly not the worst team in the Pac-12.
  5. So, who is the worst team in the Pac-12 this season? USC put its case on display on Sunday night with an unimpressive four-point win over Cal State Bakersfield in which junior wing Byron Wesley was the only Trojan who was physically superior to the opposition. The other option for worst in the league is a Washington team that showed off its awful defense against a bad Idaho State squad on Saturday. While they had no trouble scoring, they also allowed four Bengals to score in double figures and just looked completely disinterested. Again.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.09.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 9th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. By the time you read this, odds are good that the new AP poll will have been released with Arizona topping the list for the first time in more than a decade. After Michigan State fell at home to North Carolina earlier in the week, all the Wildcats had to do to solidify their position was to take care of business at home against a UNLV team that has yet to congeal. However, as the game on Saturday entered its 40th minute, the outcome was still very much in doubt. But a spectacular Aaron Gordon block was followed up by a driving layup from Brandon Ashley, and the Wildcats escaped. With newly top-rated teams having a habit of dropping games quickly, watch out for Arizona’s tough road trip to Michigan next Saturday morning.
  2. Oregon was one of several Pac-12 teams with tough road games scheduled for this weekend. But, while UCLA and California came up on the short end of the stick in their first true away games of the season, the Ducks took to the road with aplomb, getting a steady performance from Jonathan Loyd and plenty of production from talented transfers Mike Moser, Joseph Young, Jason Calliste and Elgin Cook to withstand the Marshall Henderson show at Mississippi. With the Bruins’ defeat at the hands of Missouri, Oregon and Arizona now stand alone as the two remaining undefeated teams in the conference.
  3. Colorado, meanwhile, got to spend its weekend at home in frigid Boulder, but their test was no less stringent. The Buffaloes welcomed in a talented Kansas team and came away with their first win over the Jayhawks in more than a decade. That 0-for-19 streak is now in the past, as the Buffaloes rode a surprise contribution from little-used senior center Ben Mills, versatile and efficient play from sophomore center Josh Scott, an inspired performance from sophomore forward Xavier Johnson – including a ferocious early dunk – and, of course, a deep buzzer-beating runner from Askia Booker to inspire a good old-fashioned rushing of the court. Not everybody found the court rushing so fun, as Paul Klee of the Colorado Springs Gazette recounts photographers getting trampled, some near-misses and even Booker himself sustaining a shoulder injury in the celebration.
  4. USC scored a solid win for itself on Sunday night, thumping Boston College behind an impressive second half. While the Trojans got balanced scoring with five different players reaching double figures, junior guard Byron Wesley continues to stand out as the team’s leader. Head coach Andy Enfield regularly praises his veteran wing for his fundamental soundness, while teammate Omar Oraby says that just watching Wesley’s work ethic helps his teammates get better.
  5. Lastly, Utah bounced back from its first loss of the season by scoring 50 second-half points to get past Fresno State. Sophomore Jordan Loveridge broke out of something of a slump by scoring all 13 of his points in the second half, while junior point guard Delon Wright continues to fill up stat sheets, setting a new career high with 12 assists and tying his career high with 23 points for his third double-double of the year. Wright came up four rebounds shy of a triple-double, but with his complete game, expect him to register at least one of those by the time the season is done. Oh, and while we’re on the topic, Wright has made 52 of his 70 shots from the field this season. Combined with his solid free throw shooting, that put’s Wright’s true shooting percentage at 76.6 percent, good for fifth in the nation to this point.
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Feast Week Mission Briefing: USC in the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 28th, 2013

With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week. 

What They’ve Done So FarUSC opened its season with one if its toughest non-conference games, a road trip to Logan to face Utah State. Things didn’t go in head coach Andy Enfield‘s debut as the Aggies blitzed the Trojans from the start and got the 78-65 win. Since then, however, USC has won four in a row, including a 14-point victory against regional rival Cal State Fullerton. Junior guard Byron Wesley has shined the brightest in Enfield’s up-tempo offense, averaging 19.8 PPG and grabbing a cool 8.8 RPG.

Enfield And Wesley Are Off To A 4-1 Start In 2013-14 (Los Angeles Times)
Enfield And Wesley Are Off To A 4-1 Start In 2013-14 (Los Angeles Times)

First Round PreviewUSC meets 4-0 Villanova in the first round Thursday morning. The Wildcats have not had an opportunity to get a signature win, but they did dispatch a good Towson squad, 78-44. Five days later, however, they struggled to pull away from a mediocre Delaware team and barely held on for a four-point win. They are led by junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston, who is averaging over 20 PPG. For the Cats to escape the tournament opener, defending the endless list of USC bigs will be key. If they are able to limit their looks inside, Nova should definitely win this one.

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Checking In On Andy Enfield and USC

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 26th, 2013

In all likelihood, the last time you saw USC play, if at all, was on opening night when the Trojans put on a public display of masonry in a 13-point loss at Utah State. Since then the Trojans have taken care of business against four overmatched teams, and were it not for some Lane Kiffin-like quotes from the team’s new head coach Andy Enfield, you could say that the team was flying a bit under the radar. But since Enfield was one of the bigger stories in the preseason Pac-12 chatter, it is high time we check in with USC and see what kind of progress his team is making in the first year of Dunk City West.

Other Than Some Eyebrow-Raising Comments, Andy Enfield's Program Has Been Off The Radar (Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports)

Other Than Some Eyebrow-Raising Comments, Andy Enfield’s Program Has Been Off The Radar (Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports)

The biggest news is that leading returning scorer J.T. Terrell has been declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, meaning he’s got to take care of business between now and final exams in order to have a chance to get back for the spring semester. Given his shaky history off the court, there’s a legitimate possibility that won’t happen. In the short term, this obviously hurts the Trojans’ chances, especially as they head to the Battle 4 Atlantis later this week. An athletic wing with an affinity for jacking up quick shots, Terrell is one of the few guys on the USC roster who seems to fit snugly into Enfield’s system. But as a senior, it wouldn’t kill his long-term plans if Terrell never plays another minute in Troy. The big picture view is that Enfield is spending this year playing a lot of guys and seeing who fits in for the future. And if Terrell isn’t around to join the team, that’s just more minutes to give to younger guys with an opportunity to improve.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 20th, 2013

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  1. Less than a day after Oregon State got one of its biggest non-conference victories in recent memory, current Salt Lake Community College guard Gary Payton II signed with the Beavers. Payton is, of course, the son of former Beavers legend, Gary Payton, and like his dad, “The Glove,” he is nicknamed “The Mitten.” He is a capable rebounder who is averaging 7.4 RPG this season with the Bruins, in addition to scoring at an 11.0 PPG clip. On the other end of the floor, Payton is a harassing defender who will fill all the “hustle” categories on the stat sheet. The Beavers return to the floor after their upset win at Maryland in six days, when they’ll face Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in Corvallis. With the aforementioned win and this notable signing, head coach Craig Robinson is enjoying a spurt of momentum that his program hasn’t seen in a while.
  2. Down the road in Eugene, Oregon remained undefeated on the young season last night with a 69-54 win against Utah Valley. The Ducks were once again led by Houston transfer Joseph Young, who scored 20 points in 31 minutes of action. Oregon improved to 3-0 on the year, but the Wolverines provided a stiff challenge for 30 minutes before the Ducks pulled away.
  3. Arizona head coach Sean Miller recorded his 100th win at Arizona on Monday night with its beatdown of Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off. The creative hashtag commemorating the achievement, #100Pointsfor100Wins, popped up on Twitter after the 100-50 victory, and athletic director Greg Byrne honored the moment by presenting Miller with the game ball afterwards. “Only 489 more wins and a national title to go to catch Lute,” says the Tucson Citizen. Miller notched his 101st win last night when the Wildcats rolled over Rhode Island, 87-59. The Wildcats move on the NIT semifinals in New York City next Wednesday.
  4. In other on-court action, USC dominated and overmatched regional rival Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday, taking an early 24-8 lead and never looking back. The Trojans’ attack was balanced as guard Byron Wesley had 22 points and center Omar Oraby added 15, but once again, coach Andy Enfield saw little production from his bench. That will have to change when the competition improves, starting eight days from now against Villanova.
  5. After an opening three games against the likes of UMBC, Miami (OH) and Idaho State, it was tough to see just how much Arizona State had improved over the offseason. One thing was for sure which was that the shot selection and passing game had definitely gotten better, and that this was definitely a team with more threats than all-everything point guard Jahii Carson. The Sun Devils showed all of that in Tuesday’s six-point road win against UNLV. Their offensive efficiency continued in Vegas, scoring 52 points in the second half and putting away the game at the free throw line. They won’t sneak up on anybody after this win, but Herb Sendek has a fun team to watch, no doubt about it.
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USC Post-Mortem

Posted 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.

The 2012-13 Season Gave Kevin O'Neill Headaches - And A Nice Buyout

The 2012-13 Season Gave Kevin O’Neill Headaches – And A Nice Buyout

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.

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USC’s Hire of Andy Enfield? A Slam Dunk

Posted by AMurawa on April 2nd, 2013

More than two months after USC fired head coach Kevin O’Neill at midseason, the Trojans have hired a replacement. And I can say with absolute certainty that it is not a name that was mentioned by anybody among the list of possible choices in the hours and days following O’Neill’s abrupt end-of-employment. No, former Florida Gulf Coast head coach and new USC hire Andy Enfield’s rise has been fast and sweet. You know Enfield’s story by now. Bounced around the NBA a bit as an assistant coach, spent some time as a minority owner of a successful start-up, married a model, wound up as an assistant coach under Leonard Hamilton at Florida State, then has spent the last two seasons at the head coach of Florida Gulf Coast. And, up until about two weeks ago, 99.9% of the country had never heard of the guy. But, a pair of wild and exciting NCAA Tournament wins out of the 15-hole later, he was the hottest young coach in America and certainly due for a significant step up in pay and in prestige.

A Meteoric Rise for the Florida Gulf Coast Head Coach

A Meteoric Rise for the Florida Gulf Coast Head Coach

Which is where USC comes in; despite canning O’Neill in mid-January ostensibly in an effort to get a head start on their coaching search, it appeared that athletic director Pat Haden had struck out on his first handful of targets, with guys like Jamie Dixon, Josh Pastner and even Steve Alford taking themselves out of the running. In part due to that and in part due to the need to make a big splash with its hire, Enfield winds up as just about the absolute perfect hire for Haden. He’s got the NBA background, he runs a fun style, he’s got the hot wife and he’s a popular name. It’s a slam dunk for a USC program with little history of success.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 16

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 6th, 2013

Congratulations to UCLA, who used a terrific sweep of the Arizona schools last week to climb atop our latest Pac-12 power rankings. Oregon follows closely behind, using the return of point guard Dominic Artis to boost itself in a rivalry win against Oregon State. California comes in as a unanimous pick at the three spot. The Golden Bears won their sixth and seventh straight games last week, dominating Utah and Colorado for nearly identical 18- and 16-point victories. Colorado, Arizona, and USC make up the second tier of our rankings. The Buffaloes earned an at-large clinching split in the Bay Area, while Arizona fell hard in two games in Los Angeles. USC continued to make its case for an NIT berth as the Trojans earned back-to-back upset wins over the Wildcats and Sun Devils. Arizona State, Washington, Stanford, Oregon State, Utah, and Washington State round out the remainder of the rankings.

Rank School Record Last Week Δ CP PB AB Average Up Next
1 UCLA 22-7 N/A - 1 1 2 1.3 @ Wash St
2 Oregon 23-6 N/A - 2 2 1 1.6 @ Colorado
3 California 20-9 N/A - 3 3 3 3.0 Stanford
4 Colorado 19-9 N/A - 5 4 5 4.6 Oregon
5 Arizona 23-6 N/A - 6 5 4 5.0 Arizona St
6 USC 14-15 N/A - 4 6 7 5.6 @ Wash
7 Arizona St 20-10 N/A - 8 7 6 7.0 @ Arizona
8 Washington 16-13 N/A - 7 8 8 7.6 USC
9 Stanford 17-13 N/A - 9 9 9 9.0 @ California
10 Oregon St 13-16 N/A - 10 10 10 10.0 @ Utah
11 Utah 11-17 N/A - 11 11 11 11.0 Oregon State
12 Wash State 11-18 N/A - 12 12 12 12.0 UCLA
  • Free-falling Cats. Arizona is not in a good place as we head into Championship Week and Selection Sunday. Despite its 23 victories, Arizona has dropped its last two games and fallen to fifth in this week’s rankings. They are also on the five seed line in most bracket projections, but if they close out the season with a thud, a six seed would likely be in the Wildcats’ future. That would mean a Third Round matchup with a team like Kansas State or Michigan State, something Sean Miller and company desperately would like to avoid. To do that they’ll need a Territorial Cup sweep of Arizona State and a quarterfinal P-12 Tourney win in Las Vegas.
  • Rising Trojans. Fighting for their coach’s job and a backdoor bid to the NIT, USC has been playing some good hoops as of late. Eric Wise has been a force down low the past couple of weeks and he makes a great half of a one-two punch with guard Byron Wesley coming off the bench. A road sweep of the Washington schools would do the trick, but with that not likely to happen, they’ll need a win in the first round of the Pac-12 Tourney.
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Rushed Reactions: #14 Minnesota 71, USC 57

Posted by AMurawa on December 9th, 2012

Drew Murawa is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from tonight’s Minnesota-USC game in Los Angeles.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. 500 Wins. Tonight’s win was Tubby Smith’s 500th victory in his career and he becomes the 19th active head coach to reach that mark. Despite a national title, a National Coach of the Year award, and numerous other accomplishments under his belt, Smith gets overlooked regularly since he left Kentucky, but despite some offseason distractions, he looks like he has put together his best team at his current stop. After the game, he paused to reflect briefly and typically understated his accomplishment: “I have been in good situations and on programs who have been committed to basketball. Not everyone has that opportunity.”
  2. Golden Gophers For Real. Balanced scoring, superb athleticism up front, talented and savvy guards, depth and great coaching. Yup, that’s a pretty good recipe for a Top 25 team. Eight players saw seven minutes or more for Smith and seven of those guys scored at least six points. In the early moments of the game, it was clear that one of these teams was ready to go from the opening tip and one was not — Minnesota looked crisp, moving the ball around quickly and getting enough open looks to send USC looking for cover in a 2-3 zone. As it is now, Minnesota has a 10-1 record with wins over Memphis, Stanford, Florida State, and USC, and a loss to #1 Duke the only blemish. We knew teams like Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State were going to be a load, but coupled with Illinois’ big win at Gonzaga on Saturday, it looks like we can throw another pair on the Big Ten pile.
  3. Working Things Out. We’re a month into the season and Kevin O’Neill has no idea what he has here. His rotation seems to be little more than subbing guys in and out based on a whim. Eleven guys played in the first half, and while O’Neill tightened up his rotation to great effect in the second half, it just isn’t feasible to generate a brand new rotation every night out. Guys need to know their roles in order to give the coaching staff what they want. Start with the players you absolutely need to have on the floor (e.g., Byron Wesley, Jio Fontan, and Omar Oraby) and build an eight or nine-man rotation from there. There is enough talent here for the Trojans to make some noise in conference play, but O’Neill’s got to cobble together some type of coherent plan for that to happen. He certainly knows that, as he discussed after the game trimming his rotation based on effort.
Tubby Smith, Minnesota

Tubby Smith Earned His 500th Win Saturday Night With What Appears To Be His Best Minnesota Team

Star of the GameOmar Oraby. You hate to name a player on the losing team the star of the game, but in the second half at least, Oraby was the best player on the floor. He scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, the Trojan offense ran smoothly through him in the post, he crashed the boards and challenged many shots at the rim, including a dunk attempt by Trevor Mbakwe on a breakaway that wound up with both players crashing to the floor. The whistle went against Oraby, but he maintained his innocence, even after the game. Oraby got 14 minutes in the second half and O’Neill sang his praises (except for his woeful free throw shooting) after the game, noting, “he’s gonna have to get a ton of time.”

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Pac-12 M5: 11.28.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 28th, 2012

  1. We are two and a half weeks into the 2012-13 season and coach Kevin O’Neill’s USC squad is still searching for an identity. We heard all offseason long about how this Trojan team had more than enough depth, and how this was the year they got back on track and competed for another NCAA Tournament berth. However, as Evan Budrovich points out, the influx of available bodies has actually hurt SC early on, leaving it far short of its true potential. Budrovich lays out a plan that appears to be foolproof at the end of the article, stating that the Trojans should go big and implement little used freshman forward Strahinja Gavrilovic into the starting lineup instead of Byron Wesley. Gavrilovic’s ability to score consistently from any spot in the paint would help SC when it goes into one of its typical shooting slumps. Wesley would come off the bench and play in his most comfortable shooting guard role, and Renaldo Wooldridge would see increased minutes as a defensive stopper. Whatever O’Neill decides on, he needs to figure it out quickly before SC faces Nebraska, New Mexico, and Minnesota the next three times it takes the floor.
  2. Staying in Los Angeles, Bruins Nation delves into some theories as to what is wrong with UCLA. As DCBruins points out, Ben Howland got his dream recruiting class, and team, this season – so the players are definitely not at fault. And even in the day and age where players transfer one game into the season, it’s not likely that the majority of the team has already “stopped playing” for Howland this quick into the year. Or maybe the quoted Bruin Report Online article is referring to fouling unnecessarily in the final 20 seconds (heyoooooo). Whether true or not, perception is reality, and the perception by most is that theory number four, stating that Howland flat-out can’t coach this group, is true right now.
  3. Something will have to give on Friday night in Kansas City, where an Oregon State team struggling with perimeter defense meets a Kansas squad that has been less than spectacular at the one through three spots on the floor so far this season. Head coach Bill Self compared his player’s ball reversal skills to be worse than that of third and fourth graders playing YMCA ball after the Jayhawks defeated San Jose State on Monday. If those struggles continue against the Beavers at the Sprint Center, Oregon State has a chance to get a marquee win Friday evening.
  4. I had been calling for it all throughout the offseason, and finally the media and opposing teams are catching on – California guard Justin Cobbs is legit. Cobbs has found his role with the Golden Bears and has settled into it perfectly, playing inside himself for a tidy average of 20 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 3.7 APG so far this season. Without a doubt, the mixture of Cobbs and junior Allen Crabbe combines to make the league’s top backcourt duo so far in 2012-13. Also included in Doug Haller’s column is his weekly power rankings, which are pretty close to the ones we released yesterday. Haller, however, has Arizona and Colorado flipped at the top, as he does with Oregon and California just after those two.
  5. Washington received more bad news on Tuesday when it learned that senior guard Scott Suggs would miss Wednesday’s game against Saint Louis due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot. The Huskies were without Suggs’ services against Colorado State on Saturday, and as we all know, that didn’t turn out very well. This already offensively challenged Dawg squad will get all it can handle, and then some, against the Billikens tonight. SLU has gotten off to a slow, 3-2 start, but anyone that tuned in to see them dominate Texas A&M last week for a 21-point victory knows that they are for real.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: USC Trojans

Posted by AMurawa on October 24th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the USC Trojans.

Strengths: Fresh blood. You know the old legend about Keith Richards getting a complete change of blood in order to beat a heroin addiction prior to the Rolling Stones 1973 European tour? Well, if you’ll indulge a tortured analogy for a second: If Keith Richards is the USC basketball team, and his heroin addiction is SC’s 1-17 finish in a historically bad Pac-12, that blood transfusion is USC’s almost completely remade roster. With transfers, freshmen and players returning from seasons lost to injury, head coach Kevin O’Neill will likely only run a player or two out there who was around and active at the end of 2011-12. Instead Jio Fontan, J.T. Terrell, Eric Wise, DeWayne Dedmon, Aaron Fuller, Ari Stewart, Renaldo Woolridge and others will give the Trojans a chance to start anew, and with certainly a larger collection of offensive talent than has ever been assembled in the O’Neill era in Los Angeles. To reference the apocryphal story even further, it should be noted that even if Richards did undergo such a transfusion, it wasn’t his last run-in with addiction. But, nevertheless, that ’73 Stones tour was an undeniable success. And this Trojan team is capable of going from one with no expectations a year ago to one who could get some serious satisfaction this season, so long as that relapse can be withheld until after the tour.

Jio Fontan, USC

Jumpin’ Jio Fontan Is Back For The New Look Trojans, Who Hope A Complete Change Of Blood Will Reverse Their Fortunes

Weaknesses: While the Trojans have been strong defensively in each of O’Neill’s three years as head coach, they’ve been a plodding mess on offense, ranking no better than #93 in the nation in offensive efficiency (as always, per KenPom.com) before dipping to a putrid #326 last year. While he’s got tons of new pieces that could fit perfectly into his team’s jigsaw puzzle, KO’s got to prove that he can get it done with plenty of guys on this squad who have a history of bombing their way to unacceptably low field goal percentages (Fontan’s never even approached a 50% eFG rate, while Terrell, Stewart, Wise and Woolridge all had similar struggles at their previous stops). A newer concern for O’Neill is that, with the departure of last year’s point guard Maurice Jones, there is no margin for error at the point guard position for Fontan. If, god forbid, his surgically repaired knee causes him to miss any time again, the Trojans could be playing with fire.

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USC Week: One-On-One With Kevin O’Neill

Posted by AMurawa on July 5th, 2012

Kevin O’Neill took over the USC program in the wake of Tim Floyd’s abrupt resignation in June 2009.The instability within the program caused USC to lose much of its 2009 recruiting class, but O’Neill helped that team – playing without the hope of a postseason berth due to fallout from the Floyd era – keep it’s head above water, finishing with a 16-14 record. The following season, the Trojans were able to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, claiming a spot in the initial First Four, but last season the team was torn apart by injuries and recorded a program-worst 6-26 record. This year reinforcements arrive and folks around the USC program think they could be due for a big bounce-back season. As part of our week-long look at the Trojan basketball program, we had a chance last week to talk to O’Neill as he looks forward to 2012-13.

Kevin O'Neill, USC

In Three Seasons At USC, Kevin O’Neill Has Established A Tough Defensive Personality For His Trojan Team

Andrew Murawa: Obviously last year was one of those Murphy’s Law kind of years. Despite all of the bad luck and losses, are you able to find any silver lining in an otherwise bad year?

Kevin O’Neill: You know, once Jio (Fontan) got hurt in Brazil it all sort of fell apart. You kind of have to go back a couple of years. When we took over the program, there were no freshmen or sophomores – we lost two classes completely and we were able to piece it together with six guys per year for the first two years. And we knew we had to avoid injury for the third year. And then everyone got hurt. And once everybody got hurt, we didn’t have enough talent or enough players or enough depth. We had played without depth for two years and had been fortunate to avoid injuries, but it just caught up with up with us last year. But, it will make us appreciate this year a whole lot more.

AM: You did get some guys plenty of experience last year. Maurice Jones, for one, was forced into a pretty extreme role last year, playing a ton of minutes, having the ball in his hands a lot and probably taking more shots than he ever expected to take in his college career. With all the firepower you are getting back this year, is he looking forward to getting back to more of a normal role?

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