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It Ain't All Just K.O.

Fans gripe. It's innate, particularly those who hail from the northeast (see: Red Sox Nation). So yes, as a USC basketball fan, I tend to complain as well. See here:

And part of the blame must lie with coaching. At this point in his tenure, O'Neill's teams have to play better against the zone. Period. Since the beginning of last season, there have been no signs of progress. None.

I stand by those remarks. Under his watch, Kevin O'Neill's teams have struggled against the zone defense. This isn't some striking revelation. For the better part of a year, this has been plainly evident, and through fifteen games this season, not much has changed. Ball rotation is slow. There is an overemphasis on dribbling. In general, there isn't much structure to any of the offensive "schemes."

Yet, while O'Neill deserve some criticism for this, it is equally unfair to throw it all on his shoulders. This collection of players, much like the coaching staff, bears some of the blame. Addicted To Quack made a good general point on a similar topic this week:

We've said over and over again that the system and defense was going to keep Oregon in games, and that they would have a great shot at pulling out some upsets. But the system can only keep them in games. They can't win them if they can't shoot. And they haven't shot at over a 35% clip in any game since the Jacksonville State game five games ago.

More after the jump.

The same holds true for this current USC team. Defensively, they're fantastic, among the nation's best in terms of defensive field goal percentage. That fact alone, along with Nikola Vucevic's presence on the offensive end of the floor, keeps this team in every game. Remember, only twice this season, has USC lost by double digits (57-77 to Rider on Nov. 17 and 69-81 to TCU on Nov. 29).

But often times, we, as basketball fans, get bogged down in schematics, zone offenses, etc. etc. This is a simple game. This isn't football, where Xs and Os can at times trump talent. On the court, the best players, often the more talented ones, win. It comes down to an ability to make shots, and in USC's losses this season, they have failed to do that.

Against Washington, the team converted just five-of-21 3-point field goal attempts - 23.8%. Two days later against Washington State, it was a similar trend, with the team going seven-of-19 from behind the arc. You aren't going to win many games with those offensive statistics.

And at this point, it's time for some of the team's "shooters" to, well, start making shots. In conference play thus far, Maurice Jones has gone 0-for-7 from 3-point range. Fellow freshman Bryce Jones has gone just 0-for-3 as well (note: he's played a combined seven minutes, though). Similarly, starting forward Marcus Simmons has converted just four 3-pointers this entire season.

I'd prefer not to harp on 18-year-old college kids, but I find it equally unfair to blame O'Neill for all of USC's offensive struggles and dismal shooting percentage this season. To a certain degree, responsibility falls on the players' shoulders to make baskets, and judging by recent results, that hasn't exactly happened.