Pac-12 Season Preview: USC Trojans

Posted by AMurawa on October 23rd, 2014

The Pac-12 microsite will preview each of its league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with USC.

USC Trojans

Strengths. Let’s get this out of the way immediately: This USC roster is not one that is going to win the Pac-12 or likely to find its way into the NCAA Tournament. And really, that’s no surprise given that this is a squad that won two conference games last season and lost the team’s top four scorers to boot. But this is a program in the middle of a complete rebuild and change of identity. The strength of this version of the Trojans is the fact that said change in identity is well underway. The last time the Trojans were even remotely relevant on a national scale, they were trudging their way through 63 possessions of terrible offense a night. And last year in his first season at Southern California, head coach Andy Enfield was stuck with a mishmash of players who either weren’t good fits for his style of play or weren’t fit to act as veteran leaders on a team in transition. This year, however, there is some reason for excitement. Enfield’s got his point guard in freshman Jordan McLaughlin, an explosive, attacking player most comfortable in the open floor. He’s got UNLV transfer Katin Reinhardt ready to serve as a secondary ball-handler and a floor stretcher who will likely lead the team in scoring. He’s got a couple of Serbian big guys (Nikola Jovanovic and Strahinja Gavrilovic) with pick-and-pop skills. And he’s got intriguing athletic depth. There’s still a ways to go here, but Enfield is starting to round his roster into shape.

Andy Enfield's Roster At USC is Starting To Take Shape

Andy Enfield’s Roster At USC is Starting To Take Shape

Weaknesses. Of course, coupled with that rebuild is the fact that right now there is an awful lot of inexperience on this team. There are only four players — Reinhardt, Jovanovic, sophomore Julian Jacobs and Charlotte-transfer Darion Clark –who have averaged as much as 15 minutes per game at the Division I level – and each of those players has only done it once. This team is going to have to learn on the fly; but then again, “on the fly” says a lot about how Enfield will want his team to play.

Non-conference Tests. After a couple home warm-up games against Portland State and Tennessee Tech, we’ll get a good glimpse of USC against legitimate competition in the second week of the season, where they’ll open with Akron in the Charleston Classic, then face either Miami or Drexel on day two, and then a beatable opponent in their final game. Honestly, USC has as much of a chance to win that tournament as anybody else invited. Their biggest test during the rest of non-conference play will likely come when the Trojans travel to New Mexico on the final day of November, but even that is a winnable game against a team that lost most of last year’s top contributors. Later on, there’s a trip to Boston College just before Christmas. But, really, USC plays 12 very winnable games prior to conference play. Anything less than a 9-3 record will be disappointing, even for a young team.

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Pac-12 Post-Mortems: USC

Posted 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.

J.T. Terrell Wearing A "C" On His Right Shoulder: Never A Good Sign

J.T. Terrell Wearing A “C” On His Right Shoulder: Never A Good Sign

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.

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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: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 28th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. As we’ve discussed before, at this time of year everybody and their brother has some ranking or another to succinctly represent their predictions about the upcoming college basketball season. We’ve got AP polls and various media polls for different conferences, and all the national sites have some kind of poll. We’ll of course be unveiling our picks in the coming days, but nowadays, one of the most highly anticipated set of preseason prognostications comes from Ken Pomeroy, and he just released his 2014 preseason rankings this weekend. Pac-12 fans might be a little disappointed as they look through the rankings and have to drop all the way down to #23 before the first conference team, Arizona, pops up. There are a total of nine conference teams in the top 75, but seeing an Arizona team regularly talked about as a top 10 team that far down is interesting, to say the least. Pomeroy explains it away as a quirk of his system that doesn’t count freshmen or transfers in very high regard. That quirk also explains why Oregon, despite having arguably the second most talented roster in the conference, is languishing as the eighth-ranked team in the conference and 56th in the nation.
  2. For what it’s worth, even Pomeroy himself points to other ranking systems, like Dan Hanner’s, that probably include those newcomers more fairly. In Hanner’s ranking system, Arizona is 8th, UCLA is the only other Pac-12 team in the top 25 (#20), and there are six other Pac-12 teams ranked between #26 and #50. Oregon is 33rd according to Hanner. Pomeroy also points to Team Rankings as another good example of analytics-based preseason rankings, although, like anything else, even those can be wild guesses at times. Exhibit A, check UCLA at the fifth spot in Team Rankings’ preseason list last year.
  3. We had some fun last week arguing about how many Pac-12 teams will be in the discussion for NCAA Tournament invitations come March and Arizona State is one of those teams of which there is some disagreement. But Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reports that point guard Jahii Carson and head coach Herb Sendek think that this year’s vintage of the Sun Devils will have more depth and weapons for the team to play with. If ASU is indeed improved over last season, they could be in a good mood come Selection Sunday because last year they were one of the first dozen or so teams on the wrong side of the bubble.
  4. USC held a public scrimmage on Sunday that served not only as the unveiling of the new style of Trojans basketball under head coach Andy Enfield, but also of freshman Julian Jacobs, who threw down five dunks in his debut with the program. While senior transfer Pe’Shon Howard is still expected to be the main man at the point for Enfield, you can never have too many capable and explosive ball-handlers in his type of offense. Jacobs’ debut bodes well, as the Trojans will need some of the newcomers to step up and provide offense immediately for a team that has recently struggled to put the ball in the hoop.
  5. Lastly, the Daily Camera has a good piece on Colorado redshirt freshman forward Wesley Gordon, one of a handful of Buffaloes who will chip in to try to replace Andre Roberson’s departed production. Gordon sat out last season in order to get stronger to handle the physical rigors of playing up front in the Pac-12. He added 15 pounds of muscle and, having played against center Josh Scott for a year, he’s more confident in his abilities now, especially on the defensive end. While Gordon certainly can’t do all of the things that Roberson provided to the team, he’ll be counted on mainly to help out on the glass and become a defensive force inside.
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Pac-12 Team Preview: USC Trojans

Posted by AMurawa on October 21st, 2013

Today we begin unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

USC Trojans

Strengths. Energy and experience. New head coach Andy Enfield brings to the program a swagger that has been largely missing from this USC program about as long as guys like Daniel Hackett, Taj Gibson and Demar DeRozan have. He’s trying to carve out an identity for the Trojan basketball program as a fun place to play and a fun team to watch. And while guys like Jio Fontan, Eric Wise, Dewayne Dedmon and Aaron Fuller are now gone from the program, Enfield does have a crew with a decent level of experience. J.T Terrell, the team’s leading returning scorer, newly eligible point guard Pe’Shon Howard, and seven-footers Omar Oraby and D.J. Haley are all seniors – and seniors who have been around the block a time or two. Throw in Byron Wesley in his third season on the USC campus and there’s a quality bunch of players who know their way around major college basketball.

J.T. Terrell Is Just One Of Four USC Seniors With Plenty of Experience

J.T. Terrell Is Just One Of Four USC Seniors With Plenty of Experience

Weaknesses. How well does this roster fit the style? Enfield’s going to have this team running and throwing lobs and shooting threes regardless, but ideally he would have an efficient pass-first point guard who could be the floor general, a role Howard was unable to fill in his previous stop at Maryland. To go alongside that distributing point, Enfield would love to throw in a couple of mobile bigs who love getting up and down the floor, something Haley may be able to do well, but something Oraby certainly is not known for. Running the wings for Enfield’s offense would be a couple of prolific three-point shooters, rather than guys like Terrell and Wesley, a pair who are primarily known, respectively, for their lack of shot selection and defensive intensity. Still, some of the younger guys on this squad, like freshmen wings Roschon Prince and Kahlil Dukes, or European bigs Strahinja Gavrilovic and Nikola Jovanovic, or even young point guard Julian Jacobs or Chass Bryan, could carve out roles that could earn them long-term run under Enfield.

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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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Pac-12 Morning Five: 06.15.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on June 15th, 2012

  1. It may be the slowest of slow times in the college basketball year, but there’s always at least something going on. This week, Utah was fairly busy, adding to its staff and adding its second commitment for the 2013 class. First, on the recruiting front, head coach Larry Krystkowiak got good news when Salt Lake City’s own Parker Van Dyke, a combo guard who averaged 25 points per game as a junior on his way to the Utah Class 4A Most Valuable Player award (as named by The Salt Lake City Tribune), committed to the program on Monday, joining point guard Julian Jacobs in the 2013 class. However, there is something of some bad news mixed in with this signing, as Van Dyke expects to serve an LDS mission following his high school graduation, meaning he won’t actually put on a Ute uniform until 2015. Chalk it up to doing business in the state of Utah.
  2. The other change in the Utah program is with the addition of a couple new staff members. First, former Ute player Phil Cullen is returning to campus to become the new director of player development and camps for Krystkowiak. Cullen played for the Utes between 1998 and 2002 and was most recently an assistant coach at Grand Canyon University. The other hire is Charles Stephenson, who will be the program’s first-ever strength and conditioning coach. In the past, the basketball program shared strength and conditioning coach Greg Argust with the football team, but now Stephenson’s responsibility will be entirely with the men’s basketball program.
  3. Oregon State also scored a commitment this week as 7’1” center Cheikh N’Diaye out of Carlsbad, California, announced his attention to attend the Corvallis campus. He’s now the second 2013 recruit to commit to the Beavers, joining point guard L.J. Westbrook, who committed last summer. The big man is a work in progress offensively, but is a monster blocking shots on the defensive end. A native of Senegal, N’Diaye is no relation to Washington center Aziz N’Diaye.
  4. Washington State sophomore forward Patrick Simon announced his decision to transfer out of the program last week. It was a disappointing stay with the Cougs for the sharpshooter, playing just over 400 total minutes in his career and tallying only 152 points. He got off to a rousing start, scoring 27 points in 39 minutes over his first three games (including 5-of-10 shooting from deep), but by the end of the season as his jumper left him, he was getting spot minutes at best. Simon will be better off sliding down the ladder a bit, perhaps winding up at a Big Sky school, or even dropping down to Division II and becoming eligible next year.
  5. Then there’s Oregon, who learned this week that top-100 recruit Chris Obekpa, who the Ducks had been in hot pursuit of, had chosen St. John’s over them. As a result, barring last minute developments, Oregon will have two open scholarships for next season. Also of some note to Oregon fans, former Duck Matt Humphrey, who transferred out of the program in the Ernie Kent-to-Dana Altman transition and played with Boston College last year, is on the move again, on his way to finish up his college career in West Virginia.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 16th, 2012

  1. With California’s defeat in the First Four on Wednesday night, Colorado is left alone to carry the flag for the Pac-12 conference in the NCAA Tournament. And they made a fine showing on Thursday night, roaring out to a 20-point second half lead over UNLV before letting off the gas, and allowing the Rebels back into the game. But, the Buffaloes were able to cobble things back together, sparked by a great block from Andre Roberson that turned into a Carlon Brown slam on the other end. At the end of the regular season, the Buffs were in a do-or-die scenario, needing to win the Pac-12 Tournament to advance even this far. But, it is clear now, as they ride a five-game winning streak that “do” was the choice the team made.
  2. In the wake of California’s loss to South Florida, there is a feeling of disappointment around the Golden Bear program. Heading into the final two weeks of the season, they were tied for first in the Pac-12 conference and seemed to be on the road to a special season. Instead, they lost four of their last five, capped by a terrible performance against the Bulls. Now seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp move on, while head coach Mike Montgomery is, apparently, left to rebuild around guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. But with every season the 65-year-old head coach wraps up, there is some question as to whether he’s nearing the end. Thus far, there are  no indications that he’s planning a retirement party in the immediate future, but, especially after October’s bladder cancer scare, there is the chance that at any time, Montgomery could be ready to move on.
  3. One of the defenses of Johnny Dawkins’ poor showing in his time at Stanford is that he inherited a bare cupboard when he took the program over from Trent Johnson. But Jon Wilner sees through that claim and shoots it down, noting that Dawkins’ first roster included two all-conference honorable mention selections from the previous year (Anthony Goods and Mitch Johnson), an all-conference first-team member from two years previous (Lawrence Hill) and junior forward Landry Fields who was about to turn into an NBA-caliber player. Now, of course Dawkins should get some credit for Fields’ development, but the fact is there was enough talent on the Cardinal roster to finish higher than the ninth-place slot they wound up in.
  4. Utah’s offseason is off to a pretty good start, as head coach Larry Krystkowiak got his first oral commitment from a 2013 recruit on Thursday, from 6’3” point guard Julian Jacobs. With freshman Kareem Storey having taken over the lead guard role in the wake of Josh Watkins’ dismissal this year, he may have the edge on Jacobs when the newcomer arrives, but as Krystkowiak learned this season, you can never have too many point guards.
  5. Arizona State is another program that needs and influx of talent. And while they’ve got some Division I recruits (Bo Barnes and Evan Gordon) that will be eligible next year and freshman point guard Jahii Carson finally able to kick start his career in Tempe, head coach Herb Sendek is spending his NCAA Tournament time hitting the road in search of additional help.
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