Now with the loss to UCLA, Cal is facing must-win mode against a USC team coming off a devastating loss to the Cardinal. Both teams need a victory badly so you can expect plenty of energy at Haas that just wasn't there on Wednesday. We sat down with Conquest Chronicles to discuss the state of USC hoops and how they'll matchup against the Bears (you can read our answers to their questions over at CC).
1. Tell us how USC fans are dealing with the self-imposed sanctions.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise that most USC fans are still fuming over last Sunday’s announcement regarding the self-imposed sanctions. Despite the fact that so many individuals are responsible for this whole mess, most have been very quick to point the finger at the Mike Garrett, the athletic director. If you were to browse the comments section of a USC blog or message board, it would be rather common to see comments titled "Fire Mike Garrett." In their eyes, it is Garrett, who is entirely responsible for overseeing all athletic programs at the university, and the fact that he allowed Rodney Guillory, the handler for O.J. Mayo, access to the basketball offices and gave Tim Floyd a long leash, has made him culpable – at least with the fanbase.
2. What does new point guard Mike Gerrity bring to this USC squad that it lacked before?
It’s no coincidence that the return of Mike Gerrity enabled to Trojans to win six straight games with the Charlotte transfer starting at point guard. A senior, Gerrity provides tremendous leadership for this inexperienced Trojan team. But most importantly, he is a true point guard that can create shots for his teammates. He has the ability to beat his man off the dribble, penetrate, and kick out to the shooters – a skill former starter Donte Smith lacked. That alone has made a huge difference on this ‘SC team.
3. Basketball-wise, who do you want to punch in the face the most and why? I'm guessing it has to be a Bruin.
Actually, considering everything that has happened this week, I wouldn’t mind taking a swing at O.J. Mayo. Hey, he elbowed Daniel Hackett in the jaw, which broke it, so it would make things even anyway. But in all seriousness, Mayo is clearly responsible for placing USC into the position they are in terms of being ineligible for postseason. By receiving cash and extra benefits from Guillory, he has ruined this season for the current players – they cannot play in the Pac-10 or NCAA tournaments – and has jeopardized the future of the program. But what makes Mayo’s actions even more frustrating is the fact that he doesn’t seemed too bothered by them in the first place. In an interview with ESPN’s humorist Kenny Mayne, Mayo jokingly declared, that he had some "USC money left over." Even if it was a joke, the fact that he takes this situation lightly is rather irritating to Trojan fans and even harder on the current group of players, who are the ones impacted by Mayo.
4. The strength of this team appears to be your defense, but how good is your offense? How do you usually end up picking up your points?
The offense has been rather inconsistent thus far. At times, they are able to score quite effectively as evident by their 77-point scoring barrage against Tennessee. However, they also struggle to score points on other occasions. Against ASU, they posted just 47 points so they have the capability of becoming virtually inept offensively. When the Trojans get their two big men, Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic, involved early and their perimeter scorers, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson, are able to shoot well in the second half, success typically ensues for this club.
5. What is your prediction for the game?
Despite their loss to UCLA on Wednesday, I anticipate Cal to come out ready to play and focused, while I’m not sure what the mental state of USC, especially after Sunday’s announcement and Wednesday’s heartbreaking loss to Stanford. So, I’ll beat safe and take the favorite, Cal, 68-57.