I'm scared of this game.
USC is a good team, the best time we have seen so far this season. They can go to t heir bench and bring in athlete after athlete after athlete, and they have legitimate stars-in-the-making over there. Namely O.J. Mayo and Daniel Hackett.
Before I get too in-depth with this 'Look Ahead', let me just acknowledge that I have seen the Trojans in person. I live in Orange County, and went and saw a session of the Anaheim Classic, a session USC played in. Most of my views are largely based off of what I saw there, that night, in person. I realize that it is only one night, but I can only do so much. Here are my thoughts on different players, different lineups, etc. Just for fun's sake, I saw them play Miami (OH) who we will also play later on in the year.
- O.J. Mayo is as good as advertised. I went in extremely skeptical, expecting a kid looking out for his shot, and his shot alone, playing the game like he was already in the NBA. Nuh-uh. He dribbled a little too much now and again, and he got caught in the air once or twice, but he was very impressive. He was the leader of the USC offense that night, the clear go-to-guy whenever they needed a big bucket (and they need quite a few). But what was most impressive was his defense. He wasn't assigned to the best opposing player or anything, he will likely be assigned to Russell Robinson against us (maybe Super Mario), but he hustled across the floor following his man around, no lackadaisical attitude or anything. Very impressive performance, I'm interested to see who will guard him on Sunday morning, my money is on Brandon Rush when he plays. Probably Rodrick Stewart, who is becoming a shutdown defender in his own right, while Rush sits on the bench.
- On the other side of things, F Taj Gibson looked like crap. He did play lazy on defense, allowing his man to run all over the court. Granted, his man on D was Tim Pollitz, an incredible basketball player who we will get to more when we play the RedHawks, but still. Gibson has a bunch of talent and is the key to the USC team, they need at least one major scorer in the front court, and it will be interesting to see how he does against better post defenders. He didn't play well at all on offense either, struggling to hit a shot from anywhere and not picking up many offensive rebounds at all. I think we can take advantage of him down low, if he is on Darrell Arthur we should be able to pound it in all morning.
- Even though Mayo is the best player on the team, the clear leader is G Daniel Hackett. He was the one calling the defense, he was the one pounding the floor getting the team (and mostly pro-USC crowd) pumped up, he was the one leading the little fake huddles before free throws. He is only a true sophomore and technically should only be a freshman (he joined USC's basketball team last season a year early after Ryan Francis tragically passed away over the offseason), but his leadership potential is off the charts. He will be a big key on Sunday, we need to keep him bottled up. If he gets going, the entire team seems to get hot.
- Their best post defender, despite Gibson's physical tools, is clearly freshman Kasey Cunningham. Once they put him on Pollitz, he wasn't nearly as prolific, almost being shut out from the offense entirely. If they put Cunningham on Arthur, which I think he should despite the height difference (Cunningham is only 6'7"), it will be interesting to see how DA responds.
- The real wild card on this team is Davon Jefferson, a 6'8" freshman (I think everyone is a freshman on this team, honestly...) who exploded Thursday night against Oklahoma. He has boatloads of physical potential, and is still learning how to use it. Assuming Mayo is a one-and-done player, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jefferson be the leading scorer next season, he has all of the ability in the world and seems to have the right attitude.
- The backup PG is #1 Angelo Johnson. He isn't anything special, reminds me a little of Sherron Collins minus the driving ability. He is a chunky little guard who can create opportunities for others, but struggles to create his own shot. I would be comfortable with letting him take the open shot while out on the court, he obviously could make it but he is the best bet to miss.