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 M5: 01.28.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 28th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Oregon broke its five-game losing streak on Sunday night, but given that it came against the worst team in the league, doubts still remain as to whether its win over Washington State was a sign of a turnaround or merely the exploitation of a bad team. The good news is that we’ll get a good read on the answer to that question on Thursday night when the Ducks will host UCLA in Eugene. With the Bruins featuring both the second best offense and defense in conference play (according to KenPom.com) and the Ducks ranking sixth and ninth, respectively, clearly Oregon takes a step up in competition this week.
  2. Likewise, Arizona State turned things around a bit last week, backing up two road losses with a pair of road wins against the Rockies’ schools. One notable change for the Sun Devils came with sophomore forward Eric Jacobsen replacing junior wing Jonathan Gilling in the starting lineup. Gilling still earned more minutes than Jacobsen (55 to 36), but the change came in order to help give the 6’10” sophomore a potential confidence boost. While the numbers for Jacobsen weren’t huge (10 points, seven boards for the weekend), maybe the biggest benefit will come to Gilling who can give the Sun Devils a scoring jolt off the bench. Last week he made all seven of his three-point attempts and is averaging 12.5 points, 4.5 boards and 3.5 assists per game in his new role.
  3. Utah caught the attention of the nation for better than 30 minutes of action on Sunday night as the Utes gave Arizona a run for their money at the McKale Center. But, as has been the case often this year, Utah was unable to finish strong, fading late to the nation’s top-ranked team. While Larry Krystkowiak has turned his squad into a very competitive team (their five losses come by a combined total of 22 points), they’ve still got to learn how to take these strong efforts and turn them into wins. But with more talent on the way next year and almost everybody of note from this team expected to return, the future is bright indeed in Salt Lake City.
  4. USC played its best pair of back-to-back games over the weekend in coming away with a home split against the Bay Area schools. On Sunday afternoon they took Stanford to overtime, but once there, junior guard Chasson Randle carried the Cardinal home, scoring seven strong points in the overtime period. Still, the Trojans are coming along slowly but surely. Byron Wesley continues to be amazing; Strahinja Gavrilovic appears to be a piece worth planning around; and the Trojans’ top recruit – point guard Jordan McLaughlin – took in the game from the stands.
  5. Lastly, Washington freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss had his breakout performance on Saturday when he set a freshman single-game scoring record at the school with a 32-point outburst against Oregon State. With Oregon State focused on slowing C.J. Wilcox, Williams-Goss went wild, helping to bring the Huskies back from a double-figure second half deficit. And not only did he score in droves, but he did so in super-efficient fashion, getting all of his points in just 15 total field goal attempts.
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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 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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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 M5: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 17th, 2012

  1. For those who want to take a look at the NIT Champion Stanford basketball team, the Cardinal will be holding their own version of Midnight Madness this Friday. Titled “Friday Frenzy”, the night will feature a Cardinal-White scrimmage, an open women’s practice, and a dunk contest. The scrimmage will certainly be worth the price of free admission as the 2012-13 Cardinal looks to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. They have a potential all-conference backcourt in the duo of Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright, and expect the post play to be much improved as Johnny Dawkins welcomes in Rosco Allen and Grant Verhoeven. The event should get Cardinal fans revved up for a big weekend of sports, as the football team will be playing in the Big Game a mere 18 hours later. Stanford will open up the exhibition season on November 4 against UNC Pembroke.
  2. After finishing 2011-12 with an awful 6-26 record, USC is a trendy pick for “team to surprise” this year in the Pac-12. Excitement took a bit of a hit last month when it was learned that junior guard Maurice Jones would have to sit out the year due to academics, but the return of Jio Fontan from injury will help out the backcourt. The revamped roster will feature five transfers, all of whom can contribute immediately. J.T. Terrell (Peninsula College) and Ari Stewart (Wake Forest), both of whom played together in Winston-Salem before ending up in Los Angeles, are expected to make the biggest impact. Throw in a pair of incoming freshmen in Strahinja Gavrilovic and Brendyn Taylor, junior center Dewayne Dedmon, and senior forward Aaron Fullerand Kevin O’Neill has a pretty nice 10-man rotation to play around with. And while finding valuable minutes for everyone might be tough early on, it will be a welcome challenge for a team that struggled with depth issues all of last season.
  3. Be sure to check all of your Twitter feeds this morning (or whatever you use to follow the decisions of 18-year-old kids), as the Contra Costa Times reported yesterday that Marcus Lee would be announcing his college choice at some point throughout the day. One of the top forwards in the nation, the Deer Valley High School (CA) prospect has narrowed his choices down to California and Kentucky. Lee was supposed to take a visit to Berkeley this weekend and take in the Big Game experience, but he has apparently come to a decision after taking in “Big Blue Madness” last Friday in Lexington.
  4. The guys over at Bruins Nation have put together an extensive look at both the best and worst case scenarios for the 2012-13 UCLA Bruins. On the best case side of things, “DCBruins” has Ben Howland’s bunch going 10-2 in non-conference action with losses to Georgetown and Missouri. The Bruins then go on to win the Pac-12 with a 15-3 record before making the Final Four. The worst case scenario doesn’t go over any specific games or records, but instead focuses on what the Bruin rotation will look like if Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson aren’t cleared to play.
  5. Speaking of Muhammad and Anderson’s eligibility, the Los Angeles Times covered that exact topic this morning. Bill Plaschke‘s column discusses how the team’s media day was monitored by the school’s vice-chancellor for legal affairs, and that the silence being put forth by the program is putting itself under a dark cloud. But as Plaschke states at the end, most everyone “would rather have UCLA chase those big stars and endure the NCAA microscope than settle for the mediocre acquisitions who never are noticed.” And even if recruiting classes like the one Howland brought in this season may label him as a “cheater,” he had no choice. It’s safe to say Howland’s job is on incredibly thin ice, and without guys like Jordan Adams, Tony Parker, Muhammad, and Anderson, Howland very well might not have survived the duration of the 2012-13 campaign. So even if the program is under a cloud now, it’ll be worth it in the long run that Howland brought these big names in.
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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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USC Week: Reinforcements Arrive Among Seven Newcomers

Posted by AMurawa on July 4th, 2012

Coupled with the three players that the Trojans get back from season-ending injuries last season, Kevin O’Neill welcomes in four newly-eligible Division I transfers, two scholarship freshmen, and a walk-on freshman. This means that the USC team that finished off last season with an opening-round Pac-12 tourney loss to UCLA will bear almost no resemblance to the team that tips off the 2012-13 season in November. Below, we’ll introduce you to each of those seven newcomers, roughly in the order of impact that they’ll have on their new team.

  • J.T. Terrell, Junior, Guard, 6’3” 185 lbs, Wake Forest – Terrell played his freshman season as Wake Forest, scoring 11.1 points per game and finishing second on the team in scoring. But, two months before his sophomore season was to begin, he got busted for a DWI and decided to leave the school. He attended Peninsula College in Washington last season and averaged 24.4 points per game on his way towards earning the rating of the best junior college player in America (according to Swannys Roundball Review). In his single season with the Demon Deacons, Terrell showed a great fondness for shooting the ball, taking nearly 30% of his team’s field goal attempts while he was on the floor, but hitting only 38.8% of those. He showed improvement last season at the JuCo level, making 48% of his attempts from the field, but with this Trojan team featuring plenty of capable scorers, Terrell needs to show that he can be an effective offensive player even when not getting all the looks he wants.
J.T. Terrell, USC

J.T. Terrell Headlines A List of Four Newly Eligible Division I Transfers At USC (Chuck Burton/AP Photo)

  • Ari Stewart, Junior, Small Forward, 6’7” 205 lbs, Wake Forest – Stewart’s freshman season at Wake Forest came a year prior to Terrell’s, but they were remarkably similar. Like Terrell, Stewart took almost 30% of his team’s shots while on the floor (albeit in fewer minutes) and made just 37.5% of those. His sophomore season showed some signs of improvement as he became more judicious with his attempts and as a result shot a higher percentage, but for a guy who shoots a ton of threes, his percentage from behind the arc dipped from a solid 37.1% to a woeful 27.4%. Still, Stewart showed a new side to his game as a sophomore, taking on more of a ball-handling role and actually dishing out some assists; unfortunately, a big bump up in turnovers accompanied that change. At USC, he likely won’t be needed to do a whole lot of handling, but he will be asked to knock down the three from the corner and from the wing. He’ll at least need to bounce back to his freshman year efficiency to live up to expectations. Read the rest of this entry »
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USC: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 13th, 2012

What Went Wrong

Everything. Almost literally. The Trojans lost their senior point guard Jio Fontan to a torn ACL on their summer trip to Brazil, a trip that also saw forward Curtis Washington go down with a shoulder injury from which he would not return. Later injuries ended the seasons for sophomore forward DeWayne Dedmon and junior forward Aaron Fuller, leaving a skeleton crew on the court for head coach Kevin O’Neill. And he, in turn, handed over the keys to the car to sophomore point guard Maurice Jones, who started off the season as a bomber sans conscience (two-for 13 in their season opening win over Cal State Northridge) and went out much the same (two-for-eight in their Pac-12 Tournament loss to UCLA). While you have to give credit to Jones for bringing his lunch pail to work every day (he played in every game, only once played less than 30 minutes and 12 times played 40 or more on his way to playing 94.7% of his team’s minutes), there just came a time when you wished that lunchpail didn’t always include something like a four-for-14 sandwich. But, given the dearth of offensive weapons for the offense and O’Neill’s insistence that Jones keep bombing away, it’s hard to blame him for trying.

Maurice Jones, USC

Maurice Jones Was A Constant For The Trojans, But Was Typically Inefficient (Brendan Hui, Daily Trojan)

What Went Right

Well. The season did end. Eventually. After a school-worst 6-26 record that included one win in the final 20 games.

MVP

As teammates fell by the wayside around him, freshman wing Byron Wesley stepped up his game scoring in double figures in 11 of the final 13 games and averaging 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds over that stretch while establishing himself as one of the best defenders on the team. And, like Jones, he was an ironman for the team, playing in 85.8% of his team’s minutes.

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Pac-12 Final Power Rankings

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 6th, 2012

1. California (23-8, 13-5) Projected NCAA Seed: #10

Here it is, the only team locked into the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens this week in Los Angeles. With only eight losses and wins against Oregon and Washington on the road and Colorado at home, even a loss to or Stanford or Arizona State on Thursday wouldn’t knock them out of the Tournament. However, I could see them moving up to a nine seed (which is exactly like an eight) if they win two games at Staples and have teams in front of them (Long Beach State, Alabama, and Kansas State, to name a few) lose early on in their respective conference tournaments. While we could see any team from Cal to UCLA win the Pac-12 Tournament, the Golden Bears are the definite favorite coming in. They’ve got a near-elite to elite player in Allen Crabbe, and with a supporting cast made up of Jorge Gutierrez, Justin Cobbs, and a sleeper player that I think will come alive this week, Emerson Murray, the Golden Bears have unrivaled depth in this conference.

Allen Crabbe, California

Allen Crabbe and The Cal Bears Appear To Be Headed To The Big Dance (Ben Margot/AP)

2. Oregon (22-8, 13-5), NIT

The Ducks remain on the outside looking in heading into the Tournament, but I’m of the belief that if they win two games and play in the Pac-12 Championship, regardless of what happens there, the Ducks will be included in the field of 68. Oregon has been on the bubble for the better part of conference play, but the real noise in Eugene began when it went down to the desert and took both games from the Arizona schools. Before that trip, Oregon was embarrassed by a 77-60 loss to California at home. Since then it has gone 11-3, with the biggest margin of defeat coming in a 76-71 loss at home against rival Oregon State. Besides Cal, the Ducks have the best chance to make a run in the Pac-12 Tournament; it’s almost like their team was built for it. To win any college basketball tournament, whether it is the Maui Invitational or NIT, you need to be able to shoot lights out, and two, have depth off the bench. As of late, the Ducks have been making everything they put up, and they put up a lot of shots. Watch for Devoe Joseph, E.J. Singler, and Garrett Sim to go off on any given night, considering all three are capable of creating and making their own shot. Look for junior forward Carlos Emory to have a big tournament coming off the bench.

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