At the end of last season there was a buzz surrounding the basketball program. SC had just been eliminated by UNC in the Sweet Sixteen but they showed a lot of character in standing toe to toe with the Tar Heels only to have it slip away.
The thought at the time was if Pruitt and Young stayed they would serve as the foundation to build the future with a stellar freshman class that was coming in. It looked like for the first time in many years that SC would actually be competitive on the basketball court and that would hopefully push the program forward in the years to come. As we all know Young and Pruitt left and Stewart graduated taking about 65% of the scoring with them so this was going to be a true rebuilding effort.
Success can measured in different ways and depending where you stand you can rationalize any positive movement as success. There was talk, albeit premature, of starting to close the gap with ucla. Again, understandable because any positive development would be seen as progress while also being premature as there were still a lot of questions as to where this team would go. SC has been a victim of injuries like other team but they have also been affected by transfers for any number of reasons unimportant to discuss here. But from my vantage point there hasn't been any consistency for this team to build on.
When SC takes the court at Pauley on Saturday some of those questions will be answered. SC has shown they can hang with the big boys like Kansas and Memphis but they have also shown they can lay an egg. The obvious question is which team will show up? It's obvious that this team is not where a lot of fans thought they would be but I'm not sure we should be surprised. With no senior leadership and with a ton of freshman and sophomores it's not difficult to understand why this team is struggling.
Two areas affect SC negatively ineffective rebounding and not being able to hit the 3-point shot. Rebounding is all about size and we just don't have a low post presence. 3-point shooting was one of our best weapons last year but this year its nowhere to be found.
"Our roster is different than it was a year ago," Coach Tim Floyd said. "We utilize it from guys that can shoot it and do shoot it, and guys that can't shoot it don't shoot it."
All four Trojans who regularly shoot three-pointers -- O.J. Mayo, Dwight Lewis, Daniel Hackett and Angelo Johnson -- are shooting worse from long range in conference games than they did before Pac-10 play. The discrepancy is most glaring for Hackett, who made 48.1% of his three-pointers in nonconference games but has missed all eight attempts in Pac-10 games.
That has to change. O.J. needs to stop tying to take the world on his shoulders and work the ball in to some of his teammates. The other players on the team need to stop expecting O.J. to do it all by himself. I have seen too much standing around while O.J. tries make something happen, the other players should try to get in better position to take a shot and not let opposing defense collapse around O.J. making it difficult to impossible to pass the ball let alone take the shot.
I understand that this is all part of the growth process but at some point there has to be some progress. I have no idea how SC will do tomorrow night, it's easy to say they will get blown out but because this is a rivalry game anything can happen. SC has the talent no doubt about it but the talent needs to start coming together.
More to come later...