"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

USC Preview

USC Trojans
November 29, HP Field House, Orlando, FL

Coach: Andy Enfield (151-120 overall, 110-92 at USC)
3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 54.3
3-Year kenpom Average: 62.0
2019-20 T-Rank Projection: 77

Projected Starters: PG Elijah Weaver (6'5" So), SG Jonah Matthews (6'3" Sr), SF Daniel Utomi (6'6" RS Sr), PF Isaiah Mobley (6'9" Fr), C Nick Rakocevic (6'11" Sr)

On paper, the Trojans looked like a team that would compete for a NCAA bid. Instead, injuries and off-court issues led to a losing season that included 6 sub-100 kenpom losses and three losing streaks of 3+ games. This led to massive roster upheaval in the offseason. Leading scorer Bennie Boatwright and starting wing Shaqquan Aaron graduated. Star freshman Kevin Porter left for the NBA Draft. Starting point guard Derryck Thornton led a cascade of transfers that also included bench players Jordan Usher, J'Raan Brooks, and Victor Uyaelunmo.

Matthews and Rakocevic are proven Pac-12 players that will lead the new-look Trojans. Weaver got some run at the point last year and will hope to improve on a dismal offensive efficiency rating. Utomi (Akron) and fellow grad transfer Quentin Adlesh (Columbia) were both double digit scorers for their mid-major programs and will add scoring and three-point shooting options. In addition to the returning starters and grad transfers, USC has an injection of young talent coming in as well. The biggest name is 5-star recruit Isaiah Mobley. He is not only the centerpiece of a top-10 recruiting class that includes another 5-star (6'8" F Onyeka Okongwu) but also the older brother of the top-ranked recruit in 2020, Evan Mobley, who will join the Trojans next season.

Under Andy Enfield, USC runs what they call an attacking man-to-man offense. They want to spread teams out to the arc and attack the interior using their length and athleticism in isolation. Enfield's teams have never been ranked lower than #67 in offensive average possession length, so their intent is to get to the rim before the defense is able to get set. The Trojans don't shoot a ton of threes, but when they do they do so efficiently. Expect lots of drives inside and when they kick it out the shooters to knock down shots. USC doesn't turn it over often (top-50 TO% each of the past 3 years). On the other end, USC will be looking to find a defensive identity. Enfield uses both man and zone defenses and numerous injuries led to a lack of identity last year. They will try to challenge every shot and do so without fouling, but even in his most successful seasons Enfield has never had a defensive efficiency rating better than #80 in the nation. They win games on the offensive end.

USC has a lot of intriguing pieces, but getting them to fit together will be a challenge. There's no proven point guard and while USC has plenty of size, how they play together will be a question mark. Their raw talent will earn them wins but they are projected almost across the board as a middle of the pack Pac-12 team. If it all comes together, they could challenge for an at-large bid, but while they will almost certainly win their first round Advocare matchup with Fairfield, this is a team that Marquette should beat.

Marquette Connection: Marquette has only played USC once in program history, but it was chock full of inter-program coaching ties. The two teams met in 2012 in the final game of the Maui Invitational. What stands out about that game is that USC was also coached at the time by former Marquette coach Kevin O'Neill. O'Neill wasn't the only former Marquette connection on the sidelines that day. Marquette's all-time assists leader, Tony Miller, was one of the O'Neill's assistant coaches. Jamil Wilson led the way for Marquette with 19 points and 6 rebounds as MU claimed a 72-64 win. It was also the last chance Marquette had to see O'Neill, as he would be fired less than 2 months later. Marquette dealt USC their second loss of the season en route to a 7-10 start that saw him fired mid-season. I would love to say that future USC and Marquette wing Katin Reinhardt was on the bench that day, but he didn't arrive at USC until 6 months after this game was played.

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