Pac-10 Preview: USC #5

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by Craig Yamada

 

If the Huskies had any kind of a chip on their shoulders, it would be featured for their two games against USC this year. After losing twice to the hands of the Trojans last year, the Dawgs will have something to prove this year.

The Trojans are playing with a revitalized sense of competitiveness this year. Coming off an NCAA sanctioned year where they went 16-14 (8-10 Conference), they will have something to play for in 2010-11.

However if they are to make a move, they will have to do so with heavy losses due to graduation and dismissals. The Trojans lose roughly 70% of their scoring production from last year and will look to their youth and underclassmen to pick up the slack.

Key Losses:

  1. Dwight Lewis, the heralded senior from last season who averaged 13.8 pts per game.
  2. Marcus Johnson, one of their PF bruisers, graduates from USC with a 9.6 ppg average. Marcus proved to give our bigs problems on the glass with a lot of garbage baskets.
  3. Mike Gerrity, the Steve Nash wannabe, who caused fits for the Husky backcourt last year with 9.3 ppg
  4. Leonard Washington, dismissed from the team in the offseason, leaves with his 6.2 ppg scoring average
  5. Lil’ Romeo (Percy Miller). Ok maybe this isn’t key, but it was too notable not to mention. Their biggest mascot quit the team in the off season. After signing in a highly touted freshman class including Demar Derozan, he was thought to have much potential. However he struggled to find playing time, even in the face of blowouts. Perhaps Master P wanted his son to be a “No Limit” soldier back on stage.

Key Returnees

Returning are two of their big men who caused UW much headache last year in the low block:

  1. Nikola Vucevic, the team’s second leading scorer last year at 10.7 ppg, has proven he can go inside and out on the Dawgs. At 6’10”, he has the length and strength in the block to score. However, he also has the range to harm you from beyond the arc, which we all remember in the last home loss to USC last year. Vucevic killed UW on the boards and hit the dagger 3-pointer to help lift the Trojans over the Dawgs in February. He has been added to the Wooden Award watch list in the pre-season and the Trojans will be expecting big things from their mobile big man.
  2. Alex Stephenson, their talented PF, returns as one of three seniors to help their talented frontline.
  3. Marcus Simmons, senior SG, will be looked upon to expand his scoring role from last year where he averaged 3 ppg

New Additions:

  1. Bryce Jones – SG, 6’5” – Long armed swingman with range who can slash and excels in transition. Decent jumper but a large upside with his frame.
  2. Maurice Jones – PG, 5’7” – Small and will need to add muscle. Great handles and can handle pressure at will. Can be turnover prone due to over penetration.
  3. Garrett Jackson – SF, 6’6” – Great athlete with exceptional lateral quickness. Great defender with lockdown ability.
  4. Curtis Washington – PF, 6’9” – Great size and length. Excels in the post with an average drop step and relies heavily on his jump hook.
  5. DeWayne Dedmon (Juco Transfer) – C, 7”0
  6. Jio Fontan – PG, 6’1”

Likely Starting Line Up:

PG – Maurice Jones, 5’7”

SG – Marcus Simmons, 6’6”

SF – Bryce Jones, 6’5”

PF – Nikola Vucevic, 6’10”

PF/C – Alex Stephenson, 6’10”

Outlook and Prediction:

Given a small handful of returnees from last year, I expect USC to be middle of the pack with the potential to reach top 4. Their size definitely gives them a mismatch for most of the Pac-10 and I expect them to garner some big upsets against Arizona, UCLA and ASU. And don’t kill me for saying this, but I think they will have an outside chance of splitting the series with UW. Given their recent history, it’s hard to believe they don’t stand a shot against us.

I am estimating a record of 10-8 in the Pac-10 for the Trojans this year.

How UW Beats Them:

Some would say we were outsized last year. Easily an understatement. Teams like USC, Georgetown, and West Virginia were able to exploit UW’s size in every position last year. With our tallest player at 6’9” last year, we were bullied in the post against longer teams.

 

  • We match size with size: Hello USC, I would like you to meet Aziz N’Diaye. He is from Senegal. He hates to lose. He has a broken nose. He has been trained to hate you. Enough said. Aziz’s talents will be completely on display against the Trojans. Aziz is likely to be featured in the middle at center. This will allow MBA to be a true PF this game and allow UW to pop the keg on their block party on defense. Holiday will likely start at the 3. IT and Gaddy will almost definitely start at the 2 and 1 spots respectfully.
  • Breaking their zone: With a stronger and taller frontline, we can still challenge USC with our quickness. USC deployed a match up zone as well as a man to man defense on us last year. Gaddy will play a pivotal role in busting up that zone by penetrating to the middle and dishing to our gunners from outside: IT, Suggs, Wilcox, and Ross. USC will look to give our bigs trouble with their size in the post all game with their size. Look for the perimeter to be their achilles heel. And when they are forced to go man against us, look for MBA to start dominating down low one on one.
  • Press: Yes that’s right, it’s my broken record. Right out of the gates. Why? Because we have proven we can succeed with pressure against slower and bigger teams. USC, toward the end of the game, had issues dealing with Venoy/Holiday and their pressure bringing the ball up the floor. Unfortunately, Romar waited for dire circumstances before deploying full court pressure. And by that time, the game had already been decided.                                                                                                                                                             After looking at the glory years when Tre, Conroy, Bobby Jones, and Nate Rob would pressure guards full court, it always made me wonder why Romar backed off his pressure at the outset of a game. Given that Venoy is very foul prone, I can see why. But just having some kind of presence in the backcourt will help create turnovers and generate points in transition for us where we play at our best. Knowing we have 10 legit players that can rotate in and out of the game, fatigue will be less of an issue this year. This is the one sure fire way to get the game at our up and down speed to score in transition.
  • Rebounding: Boards will be a large part of escaping USC with a win. USC murdered us on the boards last year which led to easy put backs and free throws. UW will need their bigs and maybe even Terrence Ross to keep the Trojans off the boards. Box out. Enough said.

Countdown Recap

6. Washington State

7. Oregon State
8. Stanford
9. California
10. Oregon