Granted, football is pretty much the only sport occupying the hearts and minds of Trojans fans at the present time, but regardless of our obvious and completely justified obsession with the latest happenings on the gridiron, it's important to note that USC basketball has finally released its schedule for the upcoming 2010-2011 season. While most schools released their hoops schedules earlier this summer, 'SC just put the finishing touches on its upcoming season slate, which goes as follows (courtesy of ESPNLA's Pedro Moura)
Here are a some initial thoughts regarding next year's schedule.
- The early part of the schedule is more challenging than you'd think. It's easy to look at those first six games, and immediately start marking six wins. Honestly, that was my first inclination. However, with the inexperience of this team, I think it'll be an interesting and a rather tough test. For one, just three of those six games are actually at Galen Center, and secondly, Rider, Bradley, and Cal State Fullerton have all beaten top-notch teams before. Bradley secured some NCAA Tournament bids this past decade, and CSFU actually beat UCLA on the road a year ago in Pauley Pavillion. Not saying, they're necessarily going to beat 'SC, but it won't be a cake-walk.
- The latter part of non-conference play could even be more difficult than the early part. After a roadtrip to Lincoln to face Nebraska in late November, 'SC will face Texas in a December 1st home contest before traveling to Kansas and Tennessee later in the month . These all coincide with the Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts, which will replace the Diamond Head Classic as the team's regular season tournament.
- I like the fact that they begin Pac-10 play at home. It's nice to open up the conference slate at home, but nonetheless, it's still feasible they start out with a 1-2 or even 0-3 mark in the Pac-10. Washington will the clear juggernaut of the league, UCLA is bound to improve upon last year's sub-500 mark (Ben Howland hasn't forgot how to coach), and Washington State still has Clay Thompson. In turn, it's easy to see why a young, inexperienced bunch like 'SC could struggle in the early-goings. Luckily, a trip north to face Oregon and Oregon State will follow and both of those games are certainly winnable.
- But in general regarding the Pac-10 slate, it's tough to imagine the conference being a whole lot better than it was in 2010, where only two teams (Cal and Washington) secured NCAA Tournament bids. I think some improvement will be noticeable (UCLA is bound to finish above the .500 mark and Arizona has some very talented young guys), but this isn't 2008, where the Sports Illustrated was raving about the competitive balance of west coast basketball. It's a manageable slate, but Kevin O'Neill is going to need the young freshman such as Bryce Jones and Maurice Jones to play significant roles. There are a lot of questions, but there a few reasons to remain cautiously optimistic.