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USC vs. UCLA Basketball: The Sleeping Giant Prime To Strike

Victor Decolongon

The atmosphere was filled with waves of excitement for what possibly lied ahead for USC Men's Basketball, a program with eight new players on the roster but more importantly a change of direction under first-year head coach Andy Enfield.

"We're just looking forward to it. We think those games will energize the city. And to play in front of packed houses, it will energize our players. But at the same time we understand that that's only two games out of the year," Enfield said, during the Trojans session at Pac-12 Media Day.

"We play up-tempo basketball here," Enfield reportedly barked at his players. "If you want to play slow, go to UCLA."

In typically dramatic fashion, the conversation quickly shifted at Pac-12 Media Day towards a budding rivalry between Steve Alford's UCLA Bruins and the up-and-coming USC Trojans.

You can check out the full video through the Pac-12 feed to hear what Enfield and J.T. Terrell had to say, but the main message was focused on improving his players, and by no means criticizing what Alford is developing over at UCLA.

"I have a very sarcastic personality. I don't use a lot of profanity to motivate my players, but I do use sarcasm," said Enfield, who described his mindset behind the headline-worth comments. "I was very upset with my team that particular moment in a practice. I blew my whistle, yelled a little bit, and that's what came out of my mouth.

Andy Enfield and Steve Alford have been compared back and forth by many in Los Angeles, for what should be equally exciting seasons in Los Angeles.

"I understand the UCLA-USC rivalry is great for college basketball, as well as all the other sports within the city, and we look forward to being part of that."

Each looking to change the culture around the respective programs, Enfield comes as a blessing for Troy while Alford is viewed in relatively neutral light looking to replace long-time head coach and two-time Final Four participant Ben Howland.

Right on cue, Alford was asked to formally respond to many of the discussions surrounding the USC vs. UCLA budding rivalry. "No, I've got great respect for Andy. He had a very good season last year, and respect what he's done. Wish him all the best," Alford says, but undoubtedly that statement will become bulletin board material.

The upstart Trojans are looking to shock the world this season and bring back the Trojans first winning season since 2010 under Tim Floyd, now the head coach at UTEP. Heading into the season, USC was predicted to finish 11th out of 12 teams in the conference, but that has not discouraged Enfield's staff from getting their players ready to play.

"And I've been picked low or down in the conference before, and there's nothing better than to overachieve in the media's eyes or to win some games that you think -- or people think you're not supposed to win," Enfield strong said Thursday.

In the midst of encouraging words from the head coach and one of the star players in senior shooting guard J.T. Terrell, much of the focus surrounding this teams success has shifted towards ousting the Bruins on and off the court. Despite what rumors circulate the national spotlight, Enfield and his staff recognize how significant this rivalry has become.

"We don't sit around and talk about UCLA. We respect them tremendously," Enfield says of the cross-town rival Bruins who USC will face to open up Pac-12 play in January. "And so that being said, we're focused on USC basketball. We're trying to build a program with sustainability. And the first year is part of that."

Last season USC and UCLA split their meetings, each winning in the others home arena. That an effort the Trojans will look to build upon for what figures to be a very testy season between these basketball programs. Whatever the final result may be, these budding rivals will continue to engage in fun battles on the court and plenty of fights up and down the state for top prospects for years to come.