Victim Of Their Own Success?: How being better than expected cost USC, Andy Enfield

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LOS ANGELES — No one should have been surprised that Andy Enfield eventually got things rolling at USC.

As far as I know, the man has succeeded everywhere he’s been in life. He was an All-American at Division III Johns Hopkins and is still the NCAA’s record-holder for career free throw shooting percentage. He parlayed that into becoming a shooting coach for NBA players and, just three years removed from college, an assistant on an NBA coaching staff. He left the NBA to join a New York City startup that is now worth “significantly more” than $100 million before returning to the college ranks, eventually landing a gig as FGCU’s coach and, two years after being hired at a school with zero basketball pedigree, became the first man to steer a No. 15 seed to the Sweet 16.

Should I mention that he also found a way to marry a woman that once graced the cover of Maxim magazine’s swimsuit issue despite taking her to Taco Bell on their first date?

Betting against a résumé like that is silly, particularly when the man with that résumé was taking over the second-biggest program in one of the nation’s most fertile, talent-rich recruiting grounds. And that is why, in a vacuum, a 21-13 season, a .500 year in the Pac-12 and a first round NCAA tournament exit in year three of the Enfield Experiment is about on par with what the expectation should have been on Day 1.

But USC’s success last season did catch people by surprise, including me, because of the way his tenure got started. USC won just 23 games in Enfield’s first two years, including a paltry 5-31 mark in Pac-12 play, as he first dealt with a roster of full of cast-offs from different programs and players he didn’t recruit, and then fielded the youngest high-major team in the country, featuring just a single rotation player that wasn’t a freshmen or sophomore.

He entered the year squarely on the hot seat, with Trojan fans questioning whether they needed to make a change, and ended the season as a coach that some thought could ditch SoCal for a better job.

Perhaps the most promising thing about USC was they were thought to be “a year away”.

Everyone on the roster was slated to return, and for the first time at USC, Enfield would have a senior in his rotation that hadn’t transferred into the program.

How, then, could the program end up in the exact same position just a year later?


According to Enfield, the reason for USC’s sudden resurgence during 2015-16 was simple: The work his coaching staff did developing the players in the program paid off.

That’s who he is at this point in his career. He’s not one to try and cover himself in glory, and he’s already been burned by the same virality that made him famous in the first place; just months into his time at USC, Enfield took a shot at former USC head coach Tim Floyd at a luncheon with boosters that a reporter for Men’s Journal attended. Enfield’s quotes, meant to fire up the people that financially support his program, were made public, and less than a week later the two had an altercation at a reception for the Battle 4 Atlantis.

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Jordan McLaughlin (AP Photo)

So he’s not going to tell you, after sweeping three games against UCLA, that the balance of power in LA has shifted from the Bruins to the Trojans the same way that the Lakers have become a lottery stalwart while watching the Clippers turn into a perennial playoff team. And he’s not going to put any weight on a four-overtime win over Arizona beyond saying that the Trojans could have “lost that game ten times” and “would have had no chance of winning that the year before.”

Instead, he credits his coaching staff, which he hired because of the relationships they already have in the local recruiting scene, and he praises the guys currently on his roster. His staff found the talent, they convinced that talent to come to USC and then developed that talent to the point that his team was able to win games at this rate.

Listen to Enfield talk, and you’ll wonder just what it is that he does to earn his salary.

That’s coach-speak at its finest, an art that Enfield is slowly-but-surely mastering, but there is a key point that he makes about this group: They weren’t as bad as their record indicated in 2014-15. They lost nine league games by single digits that year, including a nine-game losing streak early in league play where seven of those losses were by less than ten points. That’s not only a tough hole to dig out of, it’s a tough mental hurdle to clear.

“It is challenging when you feel like you’re improving your program but the wins haven’t come yet,” he said, which is why he credits three tough, early wins — over Monmouth, New Mexico and Wichita State — for setting a tone for the season and why that four-overtime win over Arizona was so important. There’s an added level of mental fortitude required to win close games, a confidence that comes with knowing you are going to execute in the clutch, and it took some time and a little bit of luck for a young Trojan team to get there.

And it also may have cost Enfield a shot at having a Pac-12 title contender.

In 2016-17, for the first time in his USC tenure, Enfield should have had a deep, veteran roster, but those veterans knew that as well. They knew that players like Bennie Boatright and Chimezie Metu, rising sophomore bigs with NBA potential that were targeted by Enfield’s staff the minute he landed in LA, would be getting major minutes and that they, the elder-statesmen, would not. Darion Clark, who was eligible to be a graduate transfer, left for Grand Canyon, where he will feature in their front court. Malik Martin, a rising junior that was the fourth front court player on the depth chart, transferred to South Florida where he can expect to have a much larger role after sitting out a season. Guard Malik Marquetti did the same, heading to Louisiana.

Then the Trojans lost Katin Reinhardt to Marquette. Reinhardt was a part time starter as a junior after leading the team in scoring as a sophomore. As one source close to the program put it, “he wanted to go score 25 a game somewhere.” It’s not that he didn’t want to win, per se, it’s that he wanted to win in a place where he was the star, not playing behind a kid two years his junior.

With four players slated to play a role off the bench gone, USC was suddenly without much depth or experience on their bench.

And things would get only get worse for the Trojans.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 12:  (L-R) Katin Reinhardt #1, Darion Clark #0 and Julian Jacobs #12 of the USC Trojans react on the bench late in their 96-70 loss to the UCLA Bruins in a quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 12, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Katin Reinhardt #1, Darion Clark #0 and Julian Jacobs #12 (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Rising senior Julian Jacobs, an all-Pac 12 lead guard that averaged 11.6 points and a team-high 5.5 assists, announced that he would be leaving the program and declaring for the NBA Draft despite not getting invited to the combine, giving him very little hope of being drafted. Then, on May 25th, the final day that underclassmen could put their name in the draft, rising senior center Nikola Jovanovic, USC’s second-leading scorer and best rebounder, told the staff he would be turning pro.

Like Jacobs, he didn’t have much of a chance to get drafted, but that didn’t stop him from leaving. Jacobs (Lakers) and Jovanovic (Pistons) both landed in NBA training camps, although it would be an upset if either make the cut.

What that means for USC is that they’re, once again, back to being a year away.

That doesn’t mean their isn’t talent on the roster. Jordan McLaughlin, who averaged 13.4 points and 4.9 assists last season, is one of the most underrated point guards in the country. Metu, an athletic five-man that has bulked up to 230 pounds and added a 15-footer, and Boatright, who couldn’t be a more perfect fit as a stretch four in an uptempo, small-ball system, should both take significant steps forward this season. Elijah Stewart shot 42.6 percent from three last season.

That’s not bad for a core, but it’s also a list of two juniors and two sophomores that happen to make up the entirety of USC’s roster that played in a USC uniform last season. Technically speaking, Louisville transfer Shaqquan Aaron is a returner as well, having spent last year as a redshirt practice player.

Beyond that, USC will roster four freshmen and a grad transfer that struggled to get consistent minutes at Minnesota.

Once again, the only senior on USC’s roster will be a player that transferred into the program. And once again, USC’s staff will be tasked with developing talent at warp speed.

“The bulk of our rotation is freshmen and sophomores and two juniors,” Enfield said. “That development part is crucial. We’re not getting LeBron James walking in here, playing for a year and leaving. We’re getting talented players that need to develop.”

Which is why, for the second straight season, USC is still a year away from hitting their peak.

“In this business,” Enfield said, “if you’re too far away, good things usually don’t happen.”

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 09:  Chimezie Metu #4 of the USC Trojans dunks against the UCLA Bruins during a first-round game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 9, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. USC won 95-71.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Chimezie Metu (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Houston reaches No. 1 in AP poll for first time since 1983

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Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men’s college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in the AP Top 25. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

“It’s not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We’ve been working for this,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They get along. They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

“Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

IN AND OUT

Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the only newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which dropped out after a one-week stay following its loss to TCU in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

CONFERENCE WATCH

There are six difference conferences represented in the first seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25 while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of them are in the top 10.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

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South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.

No. 18 Alabama beats No. 1 North Carolina 103-101 in 4 OTs

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Mark Sears had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, and No. 18 Alabama sent top-ranked North Carolina to a second straight loss with a 103-101 victory in a quadruple-overtime thriller on Sunday in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational tournament.

Jahvon Quinerly added 21 points off the bench for the Crimson Tide (6-1), who knocked off the top-ranked team for the first time since upsetting Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

“I was losing track of how many overtimes we were in there at the end,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “A lot of credit to our guys. I thought they showed a lot of character when we could have folded.”

Charles Bediako had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, while Brandon Miller also scored 14 points.

Caleb Love led the Tar Heels (5-2) with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Armando Bacot contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, and R.J. Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds in the second four-overtime game in North Carolina history. The other was a victory over Tulane in 1976.

“At the end of the day, Alabama made one more play than we did,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “I walked in the locker room and a number of the guys had their head down and I told them to pick their head up. I’m just as disappointed (as the players) in terms of the final outcome, but I couldn’t be any more proud about the way they competed.”

Bediako gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good on a layup with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime.

The Tar Heels, who lost to Iowa State in the semifinals, led by as much as eight in the second half before Alabama came back to tie it. The Crimson Tide retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Gurley with 2 minutes remaining, and later tied with another free throw from Sears with 51 seconds remaining in regulation.

Alabama starting forward Noah Clowney took a hard fall on a dunk attempt four minutes into the first half and had to be helped off the court. He did not return.

The Crimson Tide were 16 for 38 (42.1%) from 3-point range, with Sears making seven.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels figure to take a deep drop in the Top 25 poll.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide bounced back nicely following their loss to No. 20 UConn in the semifinals, beating a top-ranked team in the regular season for the first time since a 66-64 victory over eventual national champion Arkansas on Jan. 8, 1994.

UP NEXT:

North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Bloomington to face No. 11 Indiana on Wednesday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide return home to face South Dakota State on Saturday.

Clingan lifts UConn past Iowa State for Phil Knight title

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Donovan Clingan had 15 points and 10 rebounds to power No. 20 UConn to a 71-53 win over Iowa State in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday night.

Tristen Newton scored 13 points for the Huskies (8-0), who went 20 for 25 at the free-throw line. Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson, Jr. each had 10 points.

Osun Osunniyi led Iowa State (5-1) with 14 points. Tamin Lipsey had 12 points and Jaren Holmes finished with 11.

“They were the more aggressive team,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We wanted a physical game. We didn’t want a physical game with them getting the rebounds and then also us putting them on the foul line. Lesson that we’ve got to learn is we need to embrace being the aggressor at both ends of the floor at all times.”

The Huskies had more offensive rebounds (20) than the Cyclones had total rebounds (19), and capitalized on that disparity with 20 second-chance points.

“Those guys are tough,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “T.J.`s an excellent coach. They grind people up. To outrebound them, it just speaks to how tough we were.”

Clingan, who was named tournament MVP, scored eight points to help UConn to a 38-28 lead at the break.

Iowa State closed to 53-48 on Holmes’ 3-pointer midway through the second half. But Karaban made a 3 and a dunk, and Newton’s jumper made it 60-48 with 7:13 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies couldn’t have asked for a better showing in Portland, winning all three of their games.

Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up nice wins over Villanova and top-ranked North Carolina in the earlier rounds but ended with their first loss of the season.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies return home to face Oklahoma State on Thursday.

Iowa State: The Cyclones return home to face North Dakota on Tuesday.