by Joel Welser
Last NCAA Appearance: 2007, Sweet Sixteen loss to North Carolina
Coach: Tim Floyd (6-6 in 6 NCAA appearances)
Daniel Hackett, Sophomore, Guard,
O.J. Mayo, Freshman, Guard
Dwight Lewis, Sophomore, Guard
Davon Jefferson, Freshman, Forward
Taj Gibson, Sophomore, Forward
Angelo Johnson, Freshman, Guard
Keith Wilkinson, Junior, Forward,
Why They Can Surprise:
If defense really does win championships, watch out for the Trojans. The opposition only shoots 38.8 % against Southern California. Much of the defensive help comes from 6-9, 225 pound sophomore Taj Gibson. Not only does Gibson provide a presence under the basket and average 2.4 blocks per game, but he adds 10.6 points and 7.8 rebounds. With Davon Jefferson by his side, the Trojans have a couple scoring threats in the paint.
The true strength of the Trojans is on the wings. Freshman O.J. Mayo was a star long before he set foot in Los Angeles and he has not disappointed at the collegiate level. Mayo averages over 20 points per game and has eclipsed the 30 point mark on multiple occasions. The range on his jump shot is simply amazing. Dwight Lewis might not be as explosive as Mayo in any aspect of his game, but that is a tough comparison to live up to at USC. Lewis is the only other player on the team who is a major long range threat, but he will get to the basket as well.
Why They Can Disappoint:
USC is an extremely young team. The top six players in terms of minutes are all underclassmen. Three freshmen average over 20 minutes per game and that youth has translated into the occasional bout of poor team play. By this time of year, freshmen are pretty much sophomores, but when USC gets down late in an NCAA Tournament game, will they find their teammates or try and force a bad shot on their own? That youth has caused some turnover problems, but the biggest concern might be on the glass. USC has a negative rebounding margin and it takes a lot of offense to make up for the opposition getting more opportunities.
Who To Watch:
Although he is only a sophomore, Daniel Hackett has taken over the leadership role. The 6-5 guard is one of the few players on the team that has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. He is not a bad scorer either when the team needs him to put up some points. If Hackett can make the young team look like an experienced team, the Trojans have the talent to win a few games in March. If not, team play can trump talent when the season is on the line.
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