What to Watch:
Enfield Era Begins - Andy Enfield became one of the hottest names in college hoops after one strong weekend in March. The formerly unknown coach rode the "Dunk City" wave all the way across the country to Los Angeles where he becomes the USC Trojans seventh coach in 19 years. In contrast, there are currently nine Division I coaches that have been with their programs for 18+ years. Enfield will try to do what his predecessors have struggled to do (building long-term success at a football school) starting with winning his debut -- something only one of the previous six head coaches have been able to do.
Tempo - How quick can the Trojans play in their first game under Andy Enfield? Everyone has seen the highlights from Florida Gulf Coast's NCAA Tournament run, but the Eagles weren't able to soar at that speed all season. It was a gradual progression leading up to their postseason run as the team got more and more familiar with an offense it was running for only the second year.
USC has more talent and more experienced players than Enfield's Florida Gulf Coast squad, but just how quickly will the Trojans be able to play without turning into a running chaos of turnovers? Senior transfer point guard Pe'Shon Howard had some issues with turnovers during his career at Maryland. J.T. Terrell is known more for his heat check three-pointers from 25 feet rather than his ball-handling skills. How well those two starters, along with Byron Wesley, do pushing the tempo under control may determine how quickly the Trojans pick up Enfield's offense.
Cohesion - Much like last season, when USC struggled to a 4-9 start in the non-conference schedule, there are several new roster pieces this year. Only five scholarship players return from last year's roster. With two transfers eligible immediately and three freshman expected to contribute significantly, how long will it take this group to coagulate?
Oraby Conditioning - Omar Oraby was one of the transfers last year and he didn't get a chance to shine until the very end of the season when center Dewayne Dedmon was suspended after an off-the-court brawl in Washington. During the off-season, Oraby put in significant work conditioning his body to prepare for the uptempo Enfield offense. Gone is the baby fat the 7-2 Egyptian carried last season, replaced by abs and a slimmer, fitter frame. Oraby said he didn't lose much weight, but the results are noticeable.
When in a half-court offense, the Trojans will be running a four-out, one-in motion system focused around Oraby and his large man presence down on the block. Last year, in Kevin O'Neill's downtrodden offense, Oraby often was successful when catching the ball on the low block against single coverage, but when he was double teamed, he struggled mightily. His post moves were too slow and didn't recognize the weak-side defender collapsing quick enough. More motion in this year's offense should help him find open targets when he sees multiple defenders.
Foul Trouble - While Oraby may be in better shape, he won't stay on the court for very long if he gets in foul trouble. Foul trouble is a concern for the Trojans because the NCAA has decided to crack down on the brutish physicality of the college game in an attempt to open things up a little on the offensive end. Enfield wants USC to be aggressive defensively, especially in the passing lanes, but could that end up in more fouls? If so, we'll quickly see how deep the Trojans bench actually is this year.
Know Thy Enemy - Utah State returns four starters and eight letterwinners from last year's squad, including senior Spencer Butterfield and Jarred Shaw, who were both named to the All-WAC second team last season. Last year, the Aggies started 14-1, but lost three starters to season-ending injuries and ended up finishing 21-10. Utah State looked to be an NCAA Tournament squad at the beginning of the season. However, the Aggies had the second-most games missed due to injury (88) last year and the season fizzled in WAC play. They have since moved on to the Mountain West Conference where they will compete with the likes of San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico.
Head coach Stew Morrill always fields competitive teams thanks to his work on the dry erase board where he was ranked the No. 6 X's and O's coach in a survey of fellow coaches by ESPN.com. The Aggies are historically good at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum where they have won 91 percent (224-22) of their games under Morrill. Thanks in part to its strong homecourt strength, Utah State is one of five teams in the country to win 21 games in each of its past 14 season and they are with some pretty good company: Duke, Syracuse, Gonzaga and Kansas.
Where to Watch:
Game Time, TV channel: 6:05 p.m. PST, CBS Sports Network
Odds & More:
Odds and Wagers: Latest Odds from Bovada: Utah State -9/USC +9, Over/Under N/A
Latest Preview: Andy Enfield Era Begins: Utah State Q&A Preview