The Trojans are above and below the radar. For once USC was known for more than Pete Carroll and the football team. OJ Mayo brought singlehandedly put the basketball program in the national light. Every game was overanalyzed and Mayo’s stat line became as well known as Starbucks.
However, the NCAA bracket committee didn’t quite buy into the hype. A 4th place season finish and responsible for 1 of 2 home losses to top seed UCLA doesn’t mean much to them. It only warrants a 6 seed against Kansas State.
The Trojans have talent despite their lack of depth. As the country knows, the team is led by guard OJ Mayo. While his offensive capabilities have been highlighted since high school, OJ has greatly improved his defensive game under Coach Tim Floyd. He shut down freshman sensations Derrick Rose and James Hardin. Not many players can have that kind of impact against star guards.
While OJ gets the attention, the supporting cast is just as important for the team’s success. Taj Gibson had another explosive year. He rebounds, scores, and blocks well. I would describe him as a growing Marcus Camby, although he isn’t quite at that level yet. Davon Jefferson has been a supportive teammate, especially to Gibson. He forces opposing coaches to broaden their focus. While Jefferson makes the “freshman mistakes,” he also makes the big plays at the end of the stretch and has shown NBA type potential at times.
And now for the guys who do the little things. Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis. They were the offensive replacements for Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt who led the team to the sweet 16 last year. Hackett has consistently been one of the toughest guys on the team. He doesn’t shy away from contact and stays two inches away from his man on defense. Offensively, he drives to the basket like any other running back would get to the line. He’s probably taken a few pointers from Chauncy Washington. However, contact sometimes has pushed his body to the injury list. That is something the Trojans cannot afford. Dwight Lewis is the slasher and outside threat. He is the reason you may want to rethink doubling on OJ, Gibson, or Jefferson. Despite a poor outing at Arizona State, he will hit the open three or slash to the basket to keep you off guard.
The bench may be USC’s downfall but the starting five have played many long games together. Keith Wilkinson and Angelo Johnson don’t always play perfectly but have been known to have their moments.
Defense wins the game. This strategy has worked very well for USC. Coach Floyd and his staff are experienced when it comes to the tourney. Look to see them shut down Mr. Beasley just as they did last year to a certain Mr. Durant to pick up that first W and then take on the rest of the Midwest bracket.