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USC Basketball: Looking ahead

How the USC Trojans can get their season back on track

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at Southern California Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The USC Trojans (6-6) have had a tough start to the season to say the least. They faced three teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 poll and lost each game by double digits. The road ahead proves far less challenging with only one ranked opponent currently remaining on their schedule (Arizona State Sun Devils). Here are three ways the Trojans can get their season back on track:

1) Improving on the defensive end

The Trojans are ranked No. 256 in points allowed per game at 75.2. Opponents are shooting 41.5 percent on field goals against the Trojans and 33.3 percent on threes, good for No. 82 and 166 in the nation, respectively. At 14.25 turnovers forced per game, the Trojans rank tied for No. 159 in this category. Basically what this shows is that the men in cardinal and gold aren’t doing enough on defense to win ball games. As the Trojans move into Pac-12 play, they are going to be facing teams like the Oregon Ducks, who are led by superstar freshman Bol Bol averaging 22.1 points per game on 56 percent shooting from the field. USC could look to improve on the defense by using more combinations of lineups that contain lanky, quick guards and forwards like Shaqquan Aaron, Jonah Mathews, Jordan Usher, and Elijah Weaver. Playing lineups that contain players who are able to defend multiple positions because of their size and length allows for the defense to force more turnovers and get out to shooters quicker. The return of freshman Kevin Porter Jr., who has been nursing a thing injury the last few games, will also provide a much needed boost for this struggling Trojan defense.

2) Go on a winning streak

USC’s next four games are against the UC Davis Aggies, the California Golden Bears, the Stanford Cardinal and the Oregon State Beavers. The combined record for these four teams is 21-23. None of these teams are even ranked in the top 200 in points scored per game in the country, with the Golden Bears ranked the closest at No. 215 averaging 73.0 points per game. Moreover, three of these games are at the Galen Center. If the Trojans are able to go on a winning streak and win these next four games their record will improve to 10-6, which is a rather acceptable record when you look at how the beginning 12 games went. After all, the Men of Troy are looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament following a disappointing season. If not now than when?

3) Hope that future NBA lottery pick Kevin Porter Jr. gets back on the floor as soon as possible

NCAA Basketball: Hall of Fame Classic-Southern California at Texas Tech Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In the six games that Porter Jr. was in uniform for the Trojans this year he posted these numbers:

Points per game: 11.7

Field goal percentage: 53.8

Three-point percentage: 35.0

Rebounds per game: 3.3

Assists per game: 1.7

Steals per game: 1.0

Blocks per game: 0.8

While these numbers may not jump off the board, everyone needs to keep in mind that these are the cumulative stats from his first six games ever as a college basketball player. Porter Jr. started the season coming off bench and playing very limited minutes. After a few games his minutes picked up, with his high for minutes being at 33 against the number 11 ranked team in the country, the Texas Tech Red Raiders. It’s a shame that he picked up an injury just as he was starting to get into a groove. The Trojans need this superstar freshman playmaker to get back on the floor as soon as possible if they have any hopes of salvaging their season.