Based upon the program Andy Enfield inherited when it signed on to become the new head coach at USC, the general expectation was that the Trojans would take their lumps as they transition to the fast-paced style that resulted in FGCU reaching the Sweet 16. And that may very well be the case as the season wears on, with the Trojans part of a much-improved Pac-12.
But on Sunday night USC (6-3) outclassed a struggling Boston College (3-6) squad by the final score of 78-62, and the outcome may have provided a glimpse into what’s to come at the Galen Center.
Of the five players to score in double figures three were freshmen who all established new season-highs in points: guard Julian Jacobs (16 points, eight rebounds) and forwards Nikola Jovanovic (15 points, seven rebounds) and Roschon Prince (14 points, five rebounds). As a team USC shot 46.6% from the field while limiting the Eagles to 37.3% shooting. USC controlled the glass (44-27 edge; offensive rebounding percentage of 40.6%) as well, and their 1.16 points per possession is the second-highest figure of the season in that category.
While part of this can be attributed to playing a team in Boston College that’s in serious trouble (they begin ACC play against Maryland on Thursday night), USC certainly deserves credit for this performance. They were assertive for much of the night, showing signs of progress in their quest to play the style that Enfield prefers. Veterans such as Pe’Shon Howard and Byron Wesley will be key figures as well, but their impact on the future of USC basketball won’t be as great as the freshmen and that’s what makes a game like this so important.
Of the three newcomers listed above Jovanovic entered Sunday as the high scorer, averaging 7.8 points per contest with Jacobs (4.9 apg, 4.6 rpg) being the leader in both assists and rebounds. An outing like tonight’s can only help the trio going forward, and next season they’ll be asked to lead the way. Of course additions like Jordan McLaughlin, Jabari Craig, Malik Price-Martin and transfers Darion Clark and Katin Reinhardt will be available, but the presence of players who not only know what Enfield wants but also how to carry over those lessons into game action is important.
Beating a struggling Boston College team may not move the needle much, but the way in which their freshmen played is an important step in the right direction for USC.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.