The day has finally arrived for USC men's basketball fans as the Trojans take to the road to square off with the Utah State Aggies in one of the more intense atmosphere's in all of college basketball.
USC returns its second and third-leading scorers in guards J.T. Terrell and Byron Wesley, as well as 7-2 center Omar Oraby. With the addition of a strong recruiting class, senior transfers point guard Pe'Shon Howard and 7-0 center D.J. Haley, the Trojans look to play an exciting uptempo brand of basketball.
As the Trojans look to build some confidence with their non-conference schedule and rise above .500 this season for the first time in two years, we take a quick look at their first opponent the Utah State Aggies, thanks in large part to help from our friend Jeremy Mauss over at Mountain West Connection.
1. Senior leadership seems to shine through on Utah State's current roster. What do you think of Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield as offensive scorers that can lead the team down the stretch.
The duo combined for 29 points per game last year with Medlin pouring in just over 16 and Butterfield more than 12 per contest. The two are accurate from all over the court, each hit just around 40 percent from beyond the arc and close to 50 percent from the field. Butterfield underwent offseason hip surgery. He is expected to suit up, but he probably will not be at 100 percent. Look for Medlin to be more of the scorer Friday night.
2. The Aggies play in, arguably, one of the loudest and most intimidating home environments in the nation. With this being the season opener, what do you expect from the student section on Friday night?
They will be super pumped that they get to host a Pac-12 team in USC. The student section is on the floor of the Spectrum and will be up in everyone's face. The home court advantage is just so amazing and Utah State rarely can get good teams to come to town. BYU has made a deal to play less games in Logan by moving the game to be played in Salt Lake City at the home of the Utah Jazz. It will be nuts and it will be noticeable on the TV broadcast.
3. Do you feel this current club is good enough to overcome last year's struggles near the end of the season to propel themselves into the NCAA Tournament, or at least into the top tier of the competitive Mountain West Conference?
Moving from the WAC to the Mountain West is a big jump in competition, but head coach Stew Morrill is used to the moves as he previously took Utah State to the WAC from the Sun Belt and still rolled off four titles in eight years. This Utah State team should not be underestimated as they have won 20 or more games in 14 straight seasons, all under Morrill. An NCAA Tournament appearance would be an over achievement, and the Aggies are most likely a NIT team.
4. This team has mentioned defense as its main staple point so who will be the main cogs on the defensive end of the court to shut down what should be a high-tempo Trojans offense?
The defense was a real concern in the team's exhibition win over Central Methodist, and coach Stew Morrill let them know with this gem. "We don't have any stoppers right now. On our championship teams through the years, we've had several. And we have none. Not one. Not one stopper post defender. Not one stopper in the perimeter."
Utah State has some athletes but probably are going to be a little bit behind on what USC brings to the table. As for players it seems that the Aggies have none, that is if you ask Morrill. With this style of offense that USC brings look for the Aggies to do a lot of help defense to limit transition points.
5. What can the Aggies expect from Jalen Moore in his first game of his collegiate career?
He was a stud in high school. His team won the Utah 4A state title. He was the MVP, and his stat line is pretty good: 21.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is not going to start against USC, but he could make a case later in the year if things fall right. Likely he will be a key player off the bench and be one of the leaders in that second group.
6. What type of offense should the Trojans expect on Friday night and more specifically, can the Aggies continue their success from behind the arc that they displayed in preseason scrimmages?
Continuing the same deep shot from the preseason will be difficult mainly because USC is much better than Utah State's exhibition opponents. The deep shot will be a strength for Utah State this year, however if teams play the outside tight the Aggies can get the ball down into the post to Jarred Shaw. Utah State also likes to push the tempo and run a fast paced game, so this contest could be one of the more exiting games on opening night.