Two games, two days in a row? Is this some weird plan to prepare your team for March? Well a day after playing UC Santa Barbara, the Mavs get to play the USC Trojans. The Huskers of the Pac-12. Or the Coyotes of the Summit, maybe?
After being college basketball’s sweetheart in the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, Andy Enfield left Florida Gulf Coast University to take over the Trojans after USC ended a series of mistakes from Tim Floyd to Kevin O’Neill. USC ended Enfield’s first two seasons as the last place team in the Pac-12, but finally saw some success last season ending their season 6th in the Pac-12 and making the NCAA tournament.
If you like offense, this could be a very fun game for you. The Trojans enjoy a fast pace of basketball just like the Mavericks do. USC finished third in the Pac-12 in points per game, and dangerously shot 39% on threes last year, but they will be working several new players new players into their lineup.
The Trojans lost a lot of production from their NCAA Tournament team. The team lost six players that they initially believed were coming back for this season to make for one of the greatest years ever in USC basketball. I don’t know if it would be one of the greatest ever in USC history, that is ignorant of me to say. They have been basically pretty awful to mediocre my entire life, and the one year or two years they were pretty good came from a result of recruiting violations.
After the departures, the Trojans did not even enough players to hold summer practices. Two players, 6’11” forward Nikola Jovanovic and 6’4″ guard Julian Jacobs both left early to sign as undrafted free agents in the NBA. Four players players transferred away from the program, including 6’6″ guard Katin Reinhardt who left for Marquette after starting 18 games for the Trojans last season and averaging 11.5 points per game as a junior.
So who is left? USC will return three players that started at least half of their games. The Mavericks will need to prepare for sophomore forward 6’10” Bennie Boatwright, who averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds, and likes to play a bit on the outside for a forward making nearly 2 threes a game on 36% on threes. There is also 6’5″ guard Elijah Stewart who started in 18 games for the Trojans last season and averaged 9.8 points and 3.6 rebounds.
The Trojans also have Pac-12 Honorable Mention guard Jordan McLaughlin, who has some NBA potential and averaged 13.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.6 steals as a sophomore last season. McLaughlin played this summer on the Pac-12 All Star team, which traveled to Australia, so this could have provided some great experience to the young player. Does the Summit League have an All Star Team? Can they travel around all of Canada and beat up on all of the Canada YMCAs? Hansen is going to make Tra-Deon Hollins stalk McLaughlin, right?
To make up for the losses, USC put together the 32nd rated recruiting class according to 247 Sports. Incoming freshman guard, Jonah Matthews, was rated on ESPN’s top 100 players for the class of 2016. These recruiting rankings and hype things do not appear to threaten the core guys for Omaha like Tre’Shawn Thurman, Tra-Deon Hollins, and Marcus Tyus. Hollins has said he loves the big games, and loves playing on the road to shut up a crowd. I am paraphrasing a series of tweets I have seen him say and combining it with quotes from things I have read in the Omaha World Herald. These thoughts have been consistent with things Thurman has said as well, and Marcus Tyus has shot 52% from the field and 48% on threes against the Power 5 and Big East as a Maverick.
The Trojans are also adding two transfers that are eligible this season. 6’9″ Graduate transfer, Charles Buggs, from Minnesota, averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds as the Gophers finished in Might As Well Be Last in the Big 10. By the way, I do not think the Big 10 should allow 11, 12, 13, and 14 seeds into their conference tournament…makes the regular season more important, but that will never happen. Buggs had 8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and a three against the Mavericks last season. They will also be adding 6’7″ forward, Shaqquan Aaron, who averaged 1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds as a freshman at Louisville in 2014-2015. He had surgery on his hand while he was redshirting last season. These guys do not really seem all that threatening, but who knows how well guys can do in a new system.
Either way, with all the new faces, it appears as if this team really has not had enough time to play together and work out together. The Trojans should still be trying to figure out the roles of most of their team at this point in the season. They will start the season against a solid Montana team, that could wear down the Trojans two nights before this game. Then again, this will be the second game in two days for the Mavericks, so the Omaha bench could be vital to the Mavs in this game.
The post players could be an issue for the Mavericks. In addition to Boatwright and Buggs…Boatwright and Buggs sounds like the world’s worst law firm that specializes Feral Cat Ordinance laws…the Trojans also return 6’11” sophomore center, Chimezie Metu, who averaged 6.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks as a freshman last season. With three guys that are 6’9″ and taller, and two of them being capable of going outside to hit threes, the Trojans advantage may to be to post up on the thinner Mavericks down low. If Tre’Shawn Thurman and Mitchell Hahn get into a little foul trouble in this game, Daniel Meyer, Zach Pirog, and Ben Kositzke could be extremely important for the Mavericks in this USC game.
This game will be on the Pac 12 Network, and hopefully the women’s team will be playing Washington in the Preseason WNIT the same day. Also, this game will be around the same time as the New England Patriots versus the Seattle Seahawks. Someone set up a watch party where the NFL game wont interfere…now…