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Pac 10 Basketball Preview: USC

Wow, it has been a crazy couple of weeks, and this whole series kind of got pushed on to the backburner. Anyways, let's take a look at USC

Key Returners: Taj Gibson (10.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG), Daniel Hackett (8.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG), Dwight Lewis (10.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG)

Key Losses: OJ Mayo (20.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.3 APG), Davon Jefferson (12.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG)

Key Recruits: Demar Derozan (5/5 Rivals, #1 SG), Leonard Washington

It would be dishonest to say that USC hasn't gotten off to a bit of a disappointing start. After leading by 15 at halftime the Trojans fell to Seton Hall after turning the ball over twice very late in the game in a very tight 63-61 loss. The team then fell to Missouri, after beating hapless Chattanooga, in the final game of the tournament for SC.However, all is not lost and USC is still poised to finish high in the Pac 10.

Luckily many of USC's problems are easily fixable. Simply put, there is no way this team will be successful if they continue to turn the ball over on average 16 times per game. SC is also shooting poorly in free throws, making only 64% on the season. Both of these issues are easy to coach up quickly though, and hopefully will not be as big of an issue by the time conference play rolls around in January.

The real problem, though, is the distinct lack of outside shooting. USC is hitiing on less than 30% of its three point attempts which is unnacceptable if the Trojans want to open up the court to get the most out of players like Dwight Lewis and Demar Derozan. Both Hackett and Lewis have been cold so far this season compared to their shooting in previous years, so we'll have to hope that they tighten up their game and that Donte Smith can step in and hit a 3 when we need it.

But there are a lot of positives. Taj is playing like the player everyone thought he would be last year and is averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds so far. Leonard Washington has also looked very good coming off the bench and may find himself starting more than a few games as the season continues. And although Demar Derozan has looked uncomfortable at times, but has shown flashes of great athleticism and has played solid D so far. Finally, USC has had a double digit lead in every game they have played, and it seems like the team just needs to find a way to close out games. Despite the denial of eligibility for Stepheson and a shaky start the trojans should still develop into a very good team as conference play draws closer.

Prediction: 3rd