You can look at this past season in a number of different ways. No conversation about this team could ever start out with not wondering "what if" in regards to the death of Ryan Francis. How would this season have played out if he were around? Of course we will never know but it is fun to dream. By no means is this meant to put this season away because we may not have had the results that some wanted but because they exceeded most people's expectations people want to look forward with excitement towards the future. SC finished the season ranked #15 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and while the loss to UNC was huge disappointment but in the end most of us are happy with how things are progressing.
With opening of the Galen Center expectations were going to be high to some, but the question was how would that translate to the fans. SC doesn't have the history, notice I didn't use the word tradition, in college basketball that other programs have so essentially we need to work from the ground up. With all of the success that the football team has had of late would the excitement carry over? I think the answer is obvious; even with the slow start in regards to the fan base catching on Tim Floyd has done a remarkable job with this team and the future couldn't look brighter and people have taken notice.
Shortly after joining USC two years ago, Floyd hit the road. While the former NBA coach went one way, his lone holdover assistant, Bob Cantu, the recruiting coordinator under previous coach Henry Bibby, the other. Each night they'd call and talk.
...For 71 of his first 77 days as USC coach, through April's signing day, Floyd was on the road.
"I know I was in one place an hour-and-a-half north of Toronto in Canada and in New York, Philadelphia, Memphis, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houston, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Florida -- and that was just for starters," Floyd said Tuesday.
As it turned out, Floyd got one of each. Sophomore center RouSean Cromwell, a 6-foot-11 Memphis native playing at the IMG Academy in Florida, was the top 100 guy. And Ryan Francis, the tough little point guard leader out of Baton Rouge, was the "sleeper" with just one scholarship offer who Floyd found could really play -- and right away.
I think Tim Floyd's dedication is a big part of the reason that SC flourished this season. His ability to get these players to play and come together, especially after the death of Ryan Francis, is testament to his dedication to these players. And if you look closely SC did almost with smoke and mirrors essentially having four guards and a forward on the floor pulling out some great wins and almost catching lightning in a bottle on a couple of others.
SC has flown under the radar for the most part this season but with the success that they have achieved this season and with the high profile recruits coming in, people have started to take notice.
...Not bad for a team supposedly waiting a year for a prep superstar to show up.
Of course, it's nice being an unexpected surprise. You've got them where you want them. Asleep.
So with that in mind what is in store for this team?
- Young & Pruitt: Both have made the commitment to explore their professional options as they will attend The NBA's pre-draft camp in late May and early June, if they stay this could be a special team.
- Stewart Penrose and N'diaye: They will graduate.
- Coming in: OJ Mayo, Davon Jefferson, Marcus Simmons, Leonard Washington and Mamadou Diarra.
Tim Floyd has his work cut out for him as he will have a very young team overall and he will need to corral some egos and balance playing time. Chemistry is the key and keeping it all together will make this team a force next year. There were a lot of questions about this team when the season started and next year there will be more but they will be different. SC fans can be a bit impatient especially with the expectations that we have towards the football team so I would expect those expectations to transfer over to the basketball team.
Our lack of depth was exposed in our loss to UNC, we also needed a big man in the low post to grab some of those offensive rebounds in order to convert points. We will improve on those deficiencies but will that be enough. The spotlight on Mayo will brilliant to say the least so it's imperative that he keeps cool and let all the pressure of trying to do too much get in the way of just playing the game. Tim Floyd will also have to be a guiding force in keeping him from showboating too much and remember that he has other players around him who are more than capable.
It is definitely going to be fun to watch as there is a buzz about town and a strong SC hoops program will bring us some great games against ucla. I am confident that SC can give the bruins a run for their money and win some games against the bruins. They have a strong class coming too but they still have some work to do so you never know how it's going to go. Oregon and WSU will also be big challenges for us and we owe the ducks some payback for that beat down that they gave us in the Pac 10 tourney.
I have every confidence that Tim Floyd and his staff will have this team ready to play so the time is now to exceed the expectations that we have for this team and take it to the next level. There is no doubt that it will be fun to watch.