The USC Trojans came into this season with high hopes of making the NCAA Tournament and contending for a Pac-12 championship. With forward Bennie Boatwright returning for his senior season, a talented 2018 recruiting class which featured one of the top guards in the class in Kevin Porter Jr., and key players in Jonah Matthews, Nick Rakocevic, and Saqquan Aaron returning to bolster their roster following impressive performances the following season. Things however didn’t work quite the way they wanted.
Things started to take a turn after the team was hit by the early injury bug that hit key players such as Charles O’Bannon Jr., Elijah Weaver, and Porter Jr. As if the depth issues couldn’t hit the USC any harder, sophomore forward Jordan Usher transferred following his suspension for violation of team conduct rules. The Trojans had their out of conference schedule set up to help their tournament resume after last season’s controversy. It included games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Nevada, and TCU. All are teams that have made the NCAA Tournament. USC was defeated in all of those quality games and the margin of victory wasn’t even close. To make matters worse, the Trojans dropped a game to Santa Clara on the road.
USC ended its season at 16-17 after coming within three points of upsetting the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Trojans will miss the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season and won’t return to the postseason NIT, a tournament the Trojans participated after being left out of the NCAA tournament last season. Right now all eyes are on next season where things could get better for the Trojans, however there are also plenty of questions that need some answers.
The Trojans will lose their leading scorer in forward Boatwright and guard Aaron to graduation. USC will have to find someone to replace the offensive production that Boatwright brought to the team being the go to scorer.
Another question USC faces is the status of freshman guard Porter Jr. The former five-star guard will soon have a decision to make regarding his future. Porter Jr. could opt for the NBA Draft where many project him to be a first round pick. This season was far from ideal for the freshman guard as he missed seven weeks of the season with a severe thigh bruise and sat for a couple of games due to a suspension following the teams road loss to Oregon State back in January. There’s also a possibility that Porter Jr. could stay at USC to work on raising his draft stock and further strengthen it’s roster.
Regardless, the Trojans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic heading into next season. They’ll return most of their roster which includes junior forward Rakocevic and junior guard Jonah Matthews. Derryck Thornton, who stepped up for the Trojans during the Pac-12 Tournament, will have another year under his belt with the team while freshmen Weaver and J’Raan Brooks will also see another year of growth and plenty of playing time next season. Not to mention former McDonalds All-American Charles O’Bannon Jr. will return after missing the season with a hand injury.
Just to make things even better, USC will bring in a highly touted 2019 recruiting class that’s ranked No. 4 in the nation according to the 247 Sports Composite. The class will feature three of the top five players in California in five-star forward Isaiah Mobley (No. 1), five-star center Onyeka Okongwu (No. 2), and four-star forward Max Agbonkpolo. It’ll also feature dual sport athlete Drake London who’s rated as a four-star wide receiver and a three-star shooting guard. It’s possible that London could see playing time in both football and basketball as a freshman. The Trojans also bring another point guard in Georgia four-star Kyle Sturdivant.
Next season USC could contend in the Pac-12 if things goes to plan. It has the talent and a deep roster to work with, however it won’t be easy next season. Expect a schedule with quality opponents which includes a trip to Reno to face the Nevada Wolfpack. USC must also handle business in the Pac-12, which could once again be wide open for the taking.