Kevin O'Neill, Jio Fontan

USC, the transfer capital of the 2012-13 season

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Kevin O’Neill couldn’t fathom the season he had in 2011-12. USC was slammed with an unbelievable amount of injuries, transfers and lack of cohesion among his squad and it ended with a school record 26 losses.

If you compare last season’s team to this year’s, there’s barely a resemblance. Point guard Jio Fontan returns after tearing his ACL prior to last year, along with five Division I transfers getting eligible, including Rice transfer Omar Oraby, who was granted a waiver for immediate eligibility on Thursday.

The pair are just two of a total of 10 transfers on the Trojans squad, and six have just one season of eligibility left. With 10 transfers that makes up over half of their 17-man roster, USC bares resemblance to Missouri and their 11 newcomers this season. They have their own version of Phil Pressey in Fontan, a Fordham transfer who will be one of the best point guards in the Pac-12 Conference this season.

But this a bit of a stretch. USC has eight Division I transfers and two junior college transfers (center Jame Blasczyk and guard J.T. Terrell spent time at both).

It’s a model that’s tough to win with, but we all remember last season’s Iowa State team that took a team of transfers, both new and old, to the NCAA Tournament third round last year, led by Minnesota transfer Royce White (who didn’t even suit up for the Golden Gophers) and others like Chris Babb from Penn State and Marquette defector Scott Christopherson and others. It can be done.

But I think it’s clear that Kevin O’Neill is putting a lot of his career on the line with this season. While it’s obvious there wasn’t a ton that O’Neill could’ve done last season to make things better, a 6-26 record is tough to overcome if the next season isn’t a lot better in big-time college basketball. O’Neill understands that. As Baxter Holmes from the Los Angeles Times writes.

He said most coaches — unless they’re Kentucky’s John Calipari, North Carolina’s Roy Williams or of that stature — are always only two bad seasons from being fired.

“So I’m one [season] into that,” [O’Neill] said.

This could definitely work for the Trojans this season. A number of those transfers, some who have already played a season, are coming from big-time programs such as Wake Forest (Terrell and Ari Stewart), Texas A&M (Blasczyk), Aaron Fuller (Iowa) and Tennessee (Renaldo Woolridge) and contributed. Others come from smaller programs and are looking for tougher competition like Fontan, Oraby and UC-Irvine transfer Eric Wise. They know what it takes.

The one problem is, it’s a one-year fix for O’Neill. What happens in 2013-14? Well, I guess he could watch what Fred Hoiberg does this season with the Cyclones. But USC has taken a calculated risk with this team. It’s only two seasons removed from an NCAA Tournament berth, and this is a move to at least make sure they get back.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.