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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Pac-12 M5: 03.12.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 12th, 2013


  1. The Pac-12 released its awards and “all-conference teams” on Monday, and I put that in quotes since the conference doesn’t care to follow one of the most simple rules of basketball. Regardless, end-of-the-season awards are always fun to review, so here we go. Leading scorer Allen Crabbe was named the Player of the Year in the conference, with Jahii Carson and Shabazz Muhammad named as Co-Freshmen of the Year. Oregon head coach Dana Altman took home the Coach of the Year award after leading his Ducks to a 23-8 record, and received the honor despite losing their final two regular season games to Colorado and Utah. In addition to Crabbe, Carson, and Muhammad, Spencer Dinwiddie, Solomon Hill, and Dwight Powell headlined the All-Pac-12 first team list. Kyle Anderson, Damyean Dotson, and Josh Scott rounded out the All-Freshmen team. To view the Rush the Court Pac-12 honors and all-conference teams from yesterday, click here and here.
  2. Additional news of a Spokane bar fight featuring several USC players broke on Monday afternoon, and not long after, interim head coach Bob Cantu announced that senior center James Blasczyk and junior forward Dewayne Dedmon had been suspended indefinitely for violating a team rule. In a statement released by the school, the program acknowledged the investigation into the alleged incident but refused to comment until more is known. There was an interesting statement from Spokane Police Officer John Gately, which said, “We had a large fight. We have not been able to find any connection to any sports team.” More on the situation will surely be released in the coming days, but the immediate reality is that the Trojans will lose their top rebounder for their opening Pac-12 Tournament game against one of the hottest teams in the league. Uh-oh.
  3. Washington State senior Brock Motum has dropped an average of 16.5 PPG against Washington so far this season, and Huskies head coach Lorenzo Romar knows the big Aussie will be the biggest road block between his team and a quarterfinal match-up with Oregon. Even more concerning are the recent stats that Motum has been putting up — he’s scored 20+ points (including one 31-point outing) in three of Wazzu’s last four games, and has averaged 8.0 RPG in that timeframe.
  4. The Power Rank has an interesting tool for college basketball addicts, featuring an interactive projected NCAA Tournament bracket and breaking down the probabilities for each of the 68 teams to advance through the bracket. Using Jerry Palm’s projected bracket from March 7 and the site’s calculations from their own rankings, you can see the odds for your favorite team advancing through each round. The calculations say Arizona has the best chance of a Pac-12 team to win the national title, coming in at 2.1%. Oregon and UCLA are the next closest at 0.2%, and just as a point of reference, the team with the best chance of winning it all is at 12.8%, Florida.
  5. Colorado head coach Tad Boyle has never been angrier at a loss during his tenure in Boulder than he was after Saturday’s head-scratching, 64-58 loss at home to Oregon State. And for good reason, too, as the loss sent CU back to the bubble, a place they thought they were done with coming into the final week of the regular season. In an interesting twist, the Buffaloes now must face the Beavers again in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday afternoon, a game that could very well be a must-win in order for the Buffaloes to make the field of 68. On the other end of the court will be the Beavers, which even though they come into the tourney with a #12 seed, are riding some momentum for the first time in a month. Craig Robinson knows all about playing spoiler on Championship Week, as last year the Beavs knocked regular season champion Washington off the NCAA bubble with a quarterfinal win. If history repeats itself, Colorado fans will be wise to root against the likes of La Salle, Virginia, and Alabama in their respective conference tournaments this week, as losses by those teams would help its cause. Going off the same thread, an OSU win would likely mean a second straight trip to the CBI for the Beavers, while a loss could mean being left out of the third-rate tournament.

Steve Politi’s Sunday column in the New Jersey Star-Ledger contains some great anecdotal history from the Big East Tournament’s humble inception. To put this week’s highly orchestrated, sold-out event in perspective, consider the following. In 1981, the second year of the tournament, four ticketless Georgetown fans entered the bowels of the Carrier Dome donning various animal costumes, including a penguin suit. Each told oblivious security guards –– who had no clue what a Hoya was supposed to look like –– that he was the official school mascot. And astonishingly, it worked, which merely underscores how many of the league’s most intimate modern rivalries were predated by striking unfamiliarity, and forged only through time and competitiveness.

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USC Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on July 3rd, 2012

The Trojans return six contributors from last season’s team, along with point guard Jio Fontan, who comes back after losing last year to a torn ACL. The returnees range from players whose seasons were cut short, to underclassmen who got big time minutes in the absence of their injured teammates, to role players whose minutes could dwindle in the presence of USC’s newly stocked roster. Below, we’ll take a look at each of these returnees in order of their scoring averages in the last season played.

  • Maurice Jones, Junior, Guard (13.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.8 SPG) – Jones’ season last year was one of the most extreme seasons I can remember from a player. He played 94.7% of the possible minutes, logging 24 games in which he played 37 minutes or more, including a 49-minute epic in a double overtime loss to Nebraska. And those weren’t passive minutes either, as he used 26% of the team’s possessions and took 27% of their shots – only four times all season did he attempt fewer than 10 field goals in a game. Unfortunately, many times those double-digit field goal attempts were accompanied by tiny numbers in the field goals made column – he posted a paltry 39.8% eFG and an offensive efficiency rating of 85.4. We could go on for several more sentences ripping apart Jones’ 2011-12 season, but the fact is, he did more or less what head coach Kevin O’Neill asked of him, taking on a huge offensive role in the absence of other more polished offensive players. And, in some areas, Jones shone, specifically with assists on 23.9% of his teammates hoops (the pessimist could point out that was because he always had the ball in his hands), compared with turnovers on just 15% of his team’s possessions (a number even the pessimists would have to admit is pretty impressive for a guy that handled it as much as Jones). With reinforcements arriving this season, Jones’ role should return to some form of normalcy, and you can expect his efficiency to increase as well. Still, at 5’7”, he’s always going to be something of a liability on defense, so it will be interesting to see just how large of a role he plays this year.
Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Played A Huge Role For USC Last Year, Playing 94.7% Of His Possible Minutes (Brandon Hui/Daily Trojan)

  • Aaron Fuller, Senior, Forward (10.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG) – Fuller was the Trojans’ best offensive player last season, his first year of eligibility after transferring from Iowa. He was the one guy on the team who could get the ball in the post or at the elbow and either make a move or knock down a jumper. And, better still, he excelled on the glass, especially on the offensive end where he could get the Trojans easy buckets. His one major weakness, however, is something that isn’t going to change: He’s a 6’6” power forward. Sure, he can out-hustle and out-scrap a lot of guys, but there is a ceiling to just how good he can be.
  • Jio Fontan, Senior, Point Guard (10.5 PPG, 3.9 APG in 2010-11) – Fontan played 23 games for the Trojans in 2010-11 after transferring over from Fordham, leading the team to a 13-10 record over that span. His USC career got off to a strong start as he scored in double figures in the first four games, but lulled a bit in the meat of conference. At Fordham, he was expected to be the primary offensive force, while the Trojans want him to be more of a pure point, so the last time we saw him play, his game was still a work in progress. But, he’s now had two offseasons to work on his game and he got the blessing-in-a-seriously-good-disguise of being able to watch a season from the sidelines. He’s got the ability to score at a big-time level, but if he can balance his scoring with the ability to create for his teammates, he’ll live up to the high expectations that O’Neill has for him.
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USC’s Offensive Explosion: A Sign Of Things to Come?

Posted by AMurawa on December 21st, 2011

It’s been a wild couple of games for the USC basketball team. After having established themselves as an excellent defensive squad incapable of scoring through the first ten games of the season, they played against type in consecutive games. First, on Saturday against Georgia, one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, they allowed the Bulldogs to shoot a season-high 61.65 eFG in a come-from-ahead loss for the Trojans. Then, Monday night against TCU, they inexplicably busted out with coherent offense, scoring 83 points with four players scoring in double figures and just four turnovers on the night, all while reverting back to their excellent defensive form. While it is still early in the season, each of these games can easily be taken as little more than blips on the radar, but is it possible that the offensive eruption is a sign of improvement for a young team that is just now getting used to playing with each other?

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Has Been Everything All The Time For USC, But Needs His Teammates To Help Out More (photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)

The Trojans lost senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL during their team trip to Brazil in August, and as a result head coach Kevin O’Neill had to rejigger his plans for the year. With only two healthy players returning from a team that wasn’t very deep to begin with last year, he knew that there would be plenty of growing pains in the early part of this season. O’Neill also knew that sophomore guard Maurice Jones, the only player who earned more than 11 minutes per game last year, would need to play nearly every minute for the Trojans this year. And so far, both of those expectations have been met, with Jones playing 39.3 minutes per night (or 96.3% of all possible minutes) and with the USC offense struggling to gain any consistency. However, the mere fact that this team is playing so hard and so well defensively is a credit not only to the players, but to this coaching staff.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.30.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 30th, 2011

  1. The Pac-12 conference has turned over a new leaf this week, actually winning games that they are supposed to win. After Tuesday night’s games, the conference is now 6-0 on the week. There aren’t a whole lot of impressive wins in the mix there, but at this point in the game, any win is a good win. The biggest news on the floor came in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where Arizona did just about everything they could to give away a late ten-point lead, but scraped out a seven-point win in a game that could go down as the game that saw the changing of the guard for the Wildcats – quite literally. Freshman guard Nick Johnson got the first start of his career against the Aggies and also stepped right into the role of the Wildcats’ go-to player on the offensive end, hitting eight of his team-high 14 field goals on his way to a career-high 19 points. Further, this was the first game of the season in which freshman point guard Josiah Turner was clearly the best point guard on the roster. While he still hasn’t regained the starting role from sophomore Jordin Mayes, that day is likely just around the corner. Turner is still a work-in-progress (he had a career-high 12 points, but still turned it over four times, including two times after the last media timeout and just before fouling out), but his ability to create offense for himself and for his teammates is undeniable.
  2. The other Pac-12 game last night saw Oregon hold off a game UTEP team behind Jonathan Loyd‘s career-high six three-pointers. It has been a slow start to the season for Loyd, and with Devoe Joseph becoming eligible in ten days, he’ll see more competition for the Ducks’ precious backcourt minutes. But the 5’7” guard’s quickness combined with his ability from deep means he’ll continue to provide energy for Dana Altman in whatever role he plays. And, we learned after the game that even more backcourt minutes have opened up for the Ducks as it was announced that freshman guard Bruce Barron had left the team too, making him the second backcourt recruit to leave Oregon abruptly in the first month of the season. Jabari Brown left the team ten days ago. While Altman had previously said that the door was open for Brown to return to the team, he offered no such option this time, saying “we’re past that point” and confirming that the team would be comfortable moving forward with the players remaining on the roster.
  3.  Injury problems have plagued Kevin O’Neill and USC all season; they struck again on Tuesday when it was announced that sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon had suffered a stress injury in his right foot and would be out four to six weeks. Not only is this a blow to USC’s chances, it is a blow to the inexperienced Dedmon, who already suffered a broken hand prior to the season but did not miss any games as a result of that injury. USC will shift 7’1” junior James Blasczyk from the bench into Dedmon’s spot, with sophomore Garrett Jackson finding more minutes for himself and 6’5” freshman Byron Wesley possibly getting some time at the four.
  4. Bouncing back across town to UCLA for a moment, Jeff Eisenberg reported on Tuesday that there were exactly 34 UCLA students at the Bruins’ temporary home at the Sports Arena when their game against Pepperdine tipped off Monday night. And in the 14,500 seat facility, the announced crowd was 3,885 – a generous number at that. With UCLA struggling to find any rhythm early in the season, the fact that the team can’t even count on a student section to stir up some momentum seems to cast an even more dire glow over an already disappointing season.
  5. Finally, there’s some interesting news out of Arizona State, as their star wing Trent Lockett is taking 21 credits both this semester and next in the hopes of graduating after three years. Clearly the kid has an amazing work ethic, because in addition to handling such a huge class load, he has improved his basketball game every season he has been in Tempe. But – and this is just pure speculation – one has to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the reason he is so intent on finishing up his degree in three years is so he can take advantage of the rule that allows graduates to transfer between academic institutions without having to sit out a year. And really, who could blame a guy as good as Lockett who is mired in a pretty miserable situation with the Sun Devils.
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RTC Conference Primers: #6 – Pac-12

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 1st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences as well as a Pac-12 microsite staffer. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I

With only two of the ten players named to last year’s All-Pac-10 team returning, the race for the conference player of the year is wide open.


Top Storylines

  • Twelve Is The New Ten: After 33 seasons, college basketball fans on the west coast are getting used to calling their conference the Pac-12. With Colorado and Utah along for the ride (and currently taking their lumps in football), gone are the days of the home-and-away round-robin schedule on the basketball side of things. But lest the traditionalists complain too much, it could have been much different, as schools from Oklahoma and Texas (obviously the very definition of “Pacific” states) flirted with changing their allegiance for the second consecutive year before heading back to the Big 12.
  • Fresh Blood: As mentioned above in our poll question, the conference loses eight of the ten players on last year’s all-Pac-10 team, with just Jorge Gutierrez of Cal and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson returning. In other words, it is time for a new set of players to step up and take the reins of the league. The most likely candidates are a talented group of freshman guards – names like Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson at Arizona, Tony Wroten, Jr. at Washington, Jabari Brown at Oregon, Norman Powell at UCLA and Chasson Randle at Stanford.

Jorge Gutierrez Is A Lightning Rod Of A Guard For Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, And Big Things Are Expected.

  • The Carson Show On Hold. A seventh highly-touted freshman guard, however, is stuck in limbo. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson has yet to be cleared for practice while an investigation continues into an online course the 5’10” point guard took this summer at Adams State in Colorado. That school has yet to release his course transcript, and until that happens, Carson is unable to practice with the Sun Devils, making an already difficult situation (being regarded as a savior for a team coming off a 12-19 campaign) even worse.
  • Hard Times for Kevin Parrom: Sometimes, just when everything is going well, life conspires to deal you a set of circumstances that just suck. It’s not bad enough that Parrom took a couple of bullets on September 24 during a home invasion, while in the Bronx visiting his sick mother. But on October 16, Parrom’s mom then passed away after a long battle with cancer. While both incidents will have lasting effects on Parrom, the bullet wounds are the biggest obstacle to him getting back on the court, with bullet fragments lodged in his right leg, a boot on his right foot, nerve damage and his left hand currently wrapped up to protect lacerations sustained in the attack. Parrom is rehabilitating his injuries and as of this writing, no hard timetable is set for his return. But if anybody is due for a good break or two, Parrom’s the guy. Get well soon, Kevin.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Pac-12 Team Previews: USC

Posted by AMurawa on October 28th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

USC Trojans

Strengths.  Defense. In Kevin O’Neill’s first two years at USC, his teams have ranked 2nd and 28th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. While the Trojans will not look like what O’Neill expected them to look like even a few months ago, you can expect them to be similarly stingy on the defensive end. With 7’0” sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon an intimidating shot-blocking presence inside, O’Neill could play 7’1” James Blasczyk alongside him and Iowa transfer Aaron Fuller, an athletic combo forward who is capable of guarding multiple positions, at the three. And freshman wing Byron Wesley could be the Trojans’ defensive specialist for years to come. And while 5’7” point Maurice Jones is capable of being taken advantage of in the halfcourt, he’ll cause his share of problems for opposing ballhandlers in the open floor.

Weaknesses. If defense is the strength, is it too broad to say that offense will be this team’s weakness? Well, it will be. With senior point guard Jio Fontan out for the season with a torn ACL, the Trojans are left with no one who is an obvious choice as a go-to scorer. Jones is lightning quick and a streaky shooter, but no one expects him to carry this offense. Freshman guard Alexis Moore will play alongside Jones, and while he is a natural scorer, he could stand to work on his jumper and his shot selection. And Fuller, although a versatile forward, gets by more on grit and toughness than a refined offensive game. It seems like every offensive possession could be a struggle for the Trojans.

Maurice Jones

Maurice Jones May Be Small In Stature, But He'll Need To Be Big For The Trojans

Nonconference Tests.  USC plays in the Las Vegas Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend for the first big tests of their season, when they face UNLV in the opening round before playing either South Carolina or preseason #1 North Carolina in the second round. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier from there as they travel to Minnesota early in December before hosting New Mexico, Georgia and Kansas at the Galen Center throughout the month.

Toughest Conference Stretch.  It’s a brutal end to the season for USC. They host California and Stanford early in February, then play three straight road games against UCLA (although that “road” game is literally just down the road from USC’s campus) and the Arizona schools, before wrapping up the season with the Washington schools visiting Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Summer Updates: Pac-12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 25th, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our Pac-12 correspondent, Andrew Murawa.

Reader’s Take #1

Summer Storylines

  • The More, The Merrier: The Pac-10 is dead. Long live the Pac-12. The conference welcomes in Colorado and Utah for their first season in the conference, the first expansion in the West Coast’s premier conference since Arizona and Arizona State were added 33 years ago. Along with the new teams comes a new schedule – gone is the full home-and-away round robin. While there won’t be divisions in basketball like there are in football, each team will play an 18-game schedule with home and away games against its traditional rival, with six other rotating home-and-away series and four additional single games against the remaining teams. For instance, Colorado and Utah will only play the Southern California schools and the Washington schools once each, while they will play the remainder of the conference twice. While neither of the new schools are expected to make a big splash immediately in the conference, their arrival, coupled with other changes around the conference, such as the huge new $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox that begins in the fall of 2012, makes it an exciting time to be a Pac-12 fan.
  • Is There A Draft In Here?: Last summer, a big story around the conference was the dearth of Pac-10 players picked in the NBA Draft, as just two players from the conference were selected by NBA teams in 2010. After the 21 players that were picked in the conference between the 2008 and 2009 drafts, that was a precipitous fall. And, back before the season started, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of future high draft picks on the horizon. However, the conference had six players picked in the NBA draft, including three first-rounders and two lottery picks. Derrick Williams, the 2010-11 conference player of the year, led the way, getting snapped up by Minnesota with the #2 overall pick. Unfortunately for teams around the conference, 12 seasons of eligibility were left on the table between those six picks and the two early entries who went undrafted: Stanford’s Jeremy Green and Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto. And as a result, what had looked like a potential big-time bounce-back season for the conference now sees somewhat diminished expectations. Perhaps no team was hit harder by early defections than UCLA, who had Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee leave a total of three years of eligibility behind to go get second-round NBA draft picks (and the absence of guaranteed contracts that goes with them) at a time when the NBA labor situation is highly in doubt, but Washington State’s loss of Casto and lottery pick Klay Thompson also leaves the Cougars’ situation fuzzy at best.
  • Replacing Production: Between the early entries to the NBA Draft and departed seniors, the Pac-12 loses its top seven scorers from last season, and 11 of its top 20. Likewise, ten of the top 20 rebounders are gone. However, as always, a new batch of youngsters is ready to show up on campuses this fall and begin contributing immediately. While the Pac-10 inked only nine of the ESPNU top 100 recruits, seven of those players are exciting young guards, all ranked in the top 60 on that list. Arizona leads the way, signing point guard Josiah Turner (#14 overall, according to ESPNU) and Nick Johnson (#21), to go with a couple solid frontcourt signees (Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson, #60 and #91, respectively). But Washington (Tony Wroten, Jr., #16), Oregon (Jabari Brown, #25), Arizona State (Jahii Carson, #49), UCLA (Norman Powell, #51) and Stanford (Chasson Randle, #59) all have their own big backcourt recruits ready to provide a burst of energy.

Derrick Williams' performances were one of the highlights of the 2010-11 season.

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