One of the few advantages of college basketball is the plethora of games on the schedule in comparison to that of football. In other words, instead of playing another round of NCAA Football 11 on Monday night, students such as myself are afforded the opportunity to meander over to Jefferson and Figueroa, to watch USC basketball attempt to begin a season 2-0 for just the second time in the past 10 years; futility be damned.
But regardless of seasons prior, there aren't many reasons as to why Kevin O'Neill's young, but talented team shouldn't be able to upend WCC foe Santa Clara and begin 2010 with consecutive victories. For one, the Trojans hold a 21-8 all-time mark against the Broncos and are also coming off a rewarding double-digit victory in Saturday's season opener against UC Irvine. Furthermore, SCU appears more than vulnerable after narrowly defeating in-state opponent Cal St. Bakersfield 82-77 in their opener.
Talent-wise, 'SC is certainly better, but as a young team starting two freshmen in the backcourt, they'll be tested to bounce back from Saturday's success and "do it all over again." In the meanwhile, here are a few things to keep an eye on.
- Field goal percentage: Against UCI, the Trojans collectively shot 34.5% from the field, and if they have any intention on defeating a team of note, that number will need to rise higher. In particular, players such as Donte Smith (2-of-10) and Alex Stepheson (2-of-9), must display some form of competency on the offensive end of the floor, or just get the ball to Nikola Vucevic, who also seems to attempt fewer shots than he should.
- The freshmen: First-year guards Bryce Jones (14 points) and Maurice Jones (13 points) had relatively solid debuts on Saturday, and while they may be young, the team is unquestionably counting upon them for double-digit scoring outbursts on a nightly basis. Both appeared assertive offensively, which based on their talent, shouldn't come as a major surprise.
- Scoring against a zone: Last season revealed one major flaw in a Kevin O'Neill-coached offense, it couldn't score against a zone defense. Was it the strategy, or the lack of adequate shooters? Probably a mix of both, but from the vantage point of Saturday's opener, it still seems as if that problem from a year ago hasn't gone away.
Unfortunately, the game will not be televised, and the only way, at least that I know of, to watch all 40 minutes is on USCTrojans.com. At the very least, though, you can tune into 710 ESPN Radio in Los Angeles and listen to team's new play-by-play man Chris Fischer.
I'll be at the game, though, without internet access, but I'll be tweeting off my primiative LG Verizon phone if you're interested in following along. Here's to a good win.