Ouch! That sucked! Oh well, let's put that loss to UCLA behind us and look forward. To USC!
USC is an up and down team this year. Being teams like Texas and Tennessee and almost knocking off Kansas is a positive for them. Getting swept by the Oregons is a negative. A stunning negative. An incredulous negative. The sort of negative where Jon Stewart mimes rubbing his eyes while making a squeegee sound.
To learn more about the Trojans from down South, we contacted Trojan Wire. They were happy to accommodate us with some answers. They actually already put this post up. You can read it here. Or join us after the jump.
Hopefully, Cal will take out their frustrations from Thursday's loss in a glorious victory tonight. GOOOOOOO BEARS!
1. What is the most surprising thing about the USC team this year?
Lots of surprises. Beating Texas, Tennessee and almost beating Kansas on the road were pleasant surprises. But probably the biggest surprise is freshman Bryce Jones leaving mid season to transfer and not finishing out the year with the team. After Jio Fontan became eligible Jones playing minutes and stats went down. I guess he didn’t like coming off the bench. There are rumors that he would have played more if he learned the offense. He was one of our top recruits so that is kind of a bummer. But at the same time, seeing that he quit midseason on his team for selfish reasons I am happy to see him go. If the rumors are true that he couldn’t figure out the offense then I am even happier. I have never met Bryce and the team has never said nothing bad about him (but they never would publicly), but lets be real, the guy quit on his team midyear. He is still going to class the rest of the semester, he just decided to walk away from the team. He was probably having some trouble getting on board with what Coach O’Neill expected from him so he decided to take his ball and go home instead of being a man and sticking out a little bit of adversity.
2. Who is the Cal player you are most scared about?
Harper Kamp. He has played solid after missing all of last year with a knee injury. He has good fundamentals, is able to make the easy baskets and he can rebound and defend. And I am obligated to pick him because he is a friend of a mutual friend. I have heard nothing but great things about him. He is always even tempered on the court and competes every game. From everything I have heard he seems like a very impressive guy.
Jorge Gutierrez also scares me because I am worried one of our players is going to throw a chair at him. He is one of those players that just gets under your skin. Maybe it’s the hair.
3. What is the #1 USC player on D, Cal fans should be scared of?
Marcus Simmons is our Darrelle Revis. He usually covers the other teams best scorer. He held Stanford’s Jeremy Green (15.5 ppg) to 5 points on 2 of 9 shooting Thursday night. When we played Tennesse he held Scotty Hopson (16.5 ppg) to 1 of 5 shooting and 8 points. The list goes on and on. He has consistently shut down the others teams best scorer all year.
He also has a superhero nickname, "The Shadow" Spooky right… Don’t mess with the shadow he will limit your scoring and then shade you from light!
We originally wanted to nickname him the "The Suction Cup". But for some reason it did not catch on.
The "Iron Sweater", "Captain Tacopants" and "Muskrat O’Herlihy" failed to catch on as well.
4. What are your expectations for this year's USC and how has the team played against those expectations so far - surpassed? matched? fallen short?
Things were great during the Tim Floyd era were we won the Pac-10 tournament, made three straight NCAA tournament appearances and won some NCAA tourney games along the way. Then came the NCAA OJ Mayo investigation, the firing of Floyd and the self imposed sanctions. We know we are in rebuilding process so expectations weren’t that high.
But year after year the basketball team always ends up being a pleasant surprise. We have had some great wins this year (Texas, Tennessee, FUCLA because it is always fun to beat them) and some really bad losses (Nebraska, TCU and recently Oregon). I am happy with the development of Nikola Vucevic. He has improved every year. Maurice Jones will be fun to watch in the future and hopefully Jio Fontan will develop into the player we all thought he could be.
It has been an up and down season and I think everyone around the team expected these highs and lows so we can’t really answer this question until the season is over. As of now we had no expectations. So things are right were we thought they would be.
5. With only 2 seniors on the squad, what is the outlook for Trojan basketball in the next 3 years? Are your frosh and sophs talented or is it going to be a few years of grinding defensive teams that outwork the opponents?
We will always be a defense first team. That is and always will be coach O’Neill’s philosophy. And I like that approach. Defense in college basketball does win championships.
The overall outlook of the program is good (minus the Bryce Jones fiasco). We play in a fantastic new arena in Los Angeles If a player comes here he will great exposure in one of the media capitals of the world where he can go to school next to beautiful coeds, in warm weather. The Pete Carroll era was great for recruiting and put SC back on the map and academically the school has never been better. I am not too worried about the future of recruiting.
Next season we will bring back an exciting freshman point guard in Maurice Jones who is averaging 36 minutes per game and will improve ever year. We are all hoping Vucevic returns for a senior season. If he does he could be one of the best players in the PAC-12. That will instantly give more exposure to the program. Iowa transfer Aaron Williams will be eligible next year and Jio Fontan will still be around. We already have five verbal commitments for next year. Alexis Moore and Byron Wesly are supposed to be special players. And we have some guys playing very well in the NBA in DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson, Nick Young, that OJ Mayo guy and the ultimate bench warmer Brian Scalabrine and that helps recruiting down the road.
We are excited for USC basketball.
6. Is Jio Fontan as advertised? What impact has he made on your team?
He had an immediate impact in the Kansas game for us and showed some flashes. I think he is still a little rusty from missing so much time. He is definitely talented and we expect some great games from him but right now he is just trying to find his groove. If he can improve his shooting percentage and limit his turnovers he can really help this team.
7. What in the world happened up in Oregon?
Oregon was due for a win I guess…Oregon is not a good team, but in the back of my head I expected a loss. We were on the road in a hostile environment. It was the first game ever played in the Matthew Knight arena so you knew the crowd was going to be pumped. They had some crazy Oregonian opening ceremony. People that go to Oregon are really in love with themselves so you knew the opening ceremony was going to be over the top and it was.
After Oregon’s 3 hour ceremony our players probably felt the same way my girlfriend did after watching Avatar, bored as hell and it showed. USC played very lethargic. Oregon’s zone defense made it harder to run the offense through Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson. Oregon made their 3 pointers. We had to hit our 3’s to stay in it and that is not our game. At one point we were down 19 points. We went on a 17-3 run but that was too little too late.
I also blame the Oregon tree court, Have you seen that thing? No half court line and it makes you cross eyed looking at it. I think if you stare at it long enough an optical illusion pops out of it. Probably something lame like a Nike swoosh. Oregon bugs me. They suck. And there football team still hasn’t won a national championship.
8. Are you satisfied w/ Kevin O'Neil as your coach, or do you feel like he's keeping the seat warm for a bigger name?
He is not a sexy name but he has over 30 years of coaching experience. He knows what he is doing and has coached other big programs before, Marquette, Tennessee, Arizona and Northwestern. He even coached the Toronto Raptors for a season and has been an assistant on many NBA teams.
I like that he stresses defense, is a good recruiter, and a firey guy No one expected SC to be over .500 last year after losing Taj Gibson, DeMar DeRozan and Daniel Hackett and the team finished with a 16-14 record. They had a chance to even win the regular season PAC-10 championship but just ran out of steam the last couple weeks of the season.
More importantly he is 3-0 against FUCLA. I think he will be around for awhile.
9. Who would you like to punch in the face?
- Jesse Eisenberg
- Reggie Bush
- Michael Buble
- The guy in the Nationwide ads who looks like Tilda Swinton
- Matt Lauer for being glib