I cannot believe I am saying this in January 2010, but the USC Trojans are a tournament-caliber team … in basketball. Just months after the program seemingly hit rock bottom and had a landmark home defeat to Loyola Marymount, who had won a whopping 3 games the previous season.
After starting 2-4 out of the gates, USC have won their last 8 games, which includes four over RPI Top 50 and six in the nation’s top third of teams. The difference is Mike Gerrity, the senior transfer who has buoyed the team to six straight wins.
Earlier this week, USC announced self-imposed sanctions for its basketball program because of NCAA rules violations related to OJ Mayo. (READ THIS FOR MORE DETAILS)
Honestly, I could care less what happens to USC. Their two major sports are in for a storm of epic proportions. I agree with the chorus of hatred coming from those who think the wrongdoers should suffer rather than the current crop of players.
At this point, I am more interested in how this team, picked to finish dead last in the Pac 10 by pretty much everyone, will play knowing that there will be no postseason.
Entering play on Wednesday, the Trojans only allow 80.7 points scored per 100 possessions (adjusted efficiency numbers – credit: kenpom.com). That is good enough for 1st nationally. On offense, it’s another story. USC is in the bottom-third nationally, and has trouble with ball security and long-distance shooting (both in the 300s).
With the Pac 10 seemingly wide open, will Kevin O’Neill be effective towards galvanizing the troops and re-adjusting the team to a new goal – winning a regular season conference title? A lot remains to be determined, but whether the Trojans battle with the same tenacity and grit on defense and continue to play with more resolve on offense will decide the direction of the program moving forward.