A year removed from being ineligible for post-season play due to self-imposed restrictions from the university, USC is once again able to dance. More than likely though, the NCAA Tournament will be out of the Trojans’ reach this season.
By: David Kay
USC Trojans (T-5th, 8-10 in Pac-10, 16-14 overall)
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Alex Stephenson (Sr)/Curtis Washington (Fr)
PF: Nikola Vucevic (Jr)/ Evan Smith (So)
F: Marcus Simmons (Sr)/Garrett Jackson (Fr)
SG: Bryce Jones (Fr)/James Dunleavy (So)
G: Donte Smith (Sr)/Jio Fontan (Jr)/Maurice Jones (Fr)
Gone: PG-Mike Gerity, SG-Dwight Lewis, G/F-Marcus Johnson, PF-Kasey Cunningham (Sr)/PF-Leonard Washington (transfer-Wyoming), C-Davis Rozitis (transfer), PG-Percy Miller (transfer)
Methodical is one word to describe Kevin O’Neill’s coaching style. Painfully boring is another. O’Neill’s teams always pride themselves in their hard work on the defensive end but make every offensive possession seem as long as one of the Lord of the Ring movies. Last season, USC finished last in the Pac-10 in points, assists, field goal percentage, and second to last in three-point percentage. I know girls high school basketball teams that were more enjoyable to watch try to score.
That is not the worst of it. The Trojans lose three of their top four leading scorers from last season. There should be a bit of an influx in offensive talent with the addition of freshman Bryce Jones and Fordham transfer Jio Fontan becoming eligible after the first semester. 6-10 Nikola Vucevic made a major jump in his sophomore season averaging nearly a double-double per game and should only improve this season while former UNC transfer Alex Stephenson will have something to prove in his senior year.
If the Trojans can keep their head above water in non-conference play, the capability is there to make a run in the weak Pac-10 especially if Fontan can immediately acclimate himself upon return to the floor. You know the Trojans are going to play hard on defense and if they can get the expected boost in scoring, they could surprise some people.
Player to Watch: Jio Fontan, PG
Fontan made quite the impression in his first season at A-10 bottom feeder Fordham, averaging 15.3 points and 4.7 assists per game during his freshman season. He was on pace with those numbers at the start of last season before deciding to transfer five games into his sophomore campaign. He will not become eligible to play until the second semester and should provide an immediate boost in becoming the team’s floor leader. Fontan is USC’s wild card this season and if he puts up numbers like he did at Fordham, the Trojans could find themselves in the top half of the conference and in the NCAA Tournament picture.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/20 vs. Bradley (Hall of Fame Classic)
11/21 vs. UMass/New Mexico State (Hall of Fame Classic)
11/27 at Nebraska
12/5 vs. Texas
12/18 at Kansas
12/21 at Tennessee
Other 99 in 99’s:
#82 South Carolina
#86 Penn State
#87 South Florida
#89 Boston College
#93 Oregon State
#97. Iowa State