With USC facing the Arizona Wildcats at Galen Center to open Pac-10 conference play tomorrow, we brought in Matt Schmidt of the Phoenix based sports website Fanster.com to provide some background on the 'Cats' season thus far and to give us his take on the intriguing matchup.
Q: The main story line going into this game, at least from the USC fan's perspective, is the fact that three former Trojan hoops commits, Solomon Hill, Lamont Jones, and Derrick Williams, all backed out of their commitments with 'SC to join Sean Miller and company at Arizona. How have they performed thus far?
A: I wouldn't say we've underperformed as much as I would say that we Cat fans have put our expectations too high. With decades of consecutive tournament appearances, we have turned into spoiled children who call anything less than an invite to the Big Dance a disappointment. We forget that we've had four different coaches in four consecutive years, and for that reason, no opportunity to recruit or develop until now. This is the year we put our dancing shoes away and learn what most college basketball fans have to feel on a consistent basis. This is the year for getting excited about watching young talent develop and create chemistry amongst each other. Nothing more, nothing less.
That said, we got a heck of a deal from USC. For three of their top recruits, USC gets a former coach that UA despised. How have the three recruits performed? Williams is a beast underneath who in time will learn how to not foul as much. MoMo is a good shooter who in time will learn the composure necessary to take it to the next level. Hill is an all around specimen of an athlete who will in time have enough confidence to consistently appear in SportsCenter's top 10. In time, all three will learn how to combine their skills into a deadly chemistry concoction. Key Phrase of the Season: In Time.
Q: What are your early impressions of new head coach Sean Miller
A: Honest. Passionate. Smart. He's the perfect replacement for Lute Olson and will continue the program's reputation for integrity and success--In Time. Like the "Schmidt You Really Need to Know," he tells you how it is, not how you hope it to be. He never made any promises about seeing the Madness of March and for good reason. Ask him and he will tell you straight up that we are not a good team right now but will get better; that he could make some of the rebounds (in his classy coaching attire) that the Cat's are missing, but that they will improve. Brute honesty is the key to my heart and the key to developing a good relationship with players and fans that have been through quite a bit o' drama. This is a man I admire and respect.
Q: What are we to make of UA's 30 point loss to BYU at home?
A: Refer to answers given in 1 and 2. In short, we were outmatched and out-chemistry-ized by a team with more experience (only one Freshmen starter) and a player who went off like Kobe Bryant (Jimmer Fredette, who posted 49 against the Cats, a little less than half of BYU's total). Ask Miller, and he will tell you that BYU is one of the best teams we will see all season.
Q: In terms of Thursday's matchup against the Trojans, which matchup do you anticipate to give the Wildcats the best opportunity for success?
A: The Trojans have a well balanced offense. Mike Gerrity is their leading scorer (15 ppg) and not off to a bad start from downtown (57%). While trying to contain Gerrity at the perimeter, the Cats also have to look out for Nikola Vucevic, a 6-10 forward who posts 13 points and almost 10 rebounds per game. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing our best defenders (Kyle Fogg and Jamelle Horne) contain these two, though Williams and Natyazhko may need to help out against Vucevic with their height.
Q: I have to ask so what's your prediction for the game?
A: USC is an experienced team, at home, coming off of a six game winning streak over quality teams such as Tennessee and UNLV. Meanwhile, we are an inexperienced team who just suffered a 30 point shellacking at home and are still in the process of trying to find our inner selves. The double threat of having a good outside shooter (Gerrity) and a player to clean up down low (Vucevic) will be too much for the Cats, who just aren't there yet defensively. In the long run, UA will have the last laugh against USC, but not this week---In Time.