May 15, 2013 by Marshall Kelner
You may remember that a few weeks ago, I announced the winner of our March Madness competition: Micah Scheindlin. He beat everyone with his bracket picks, so he gets a guest post on this blog. I apologize for the delay, but without further adieu, here it is. I think you will find it quite interesting and informative.
Greetings, Galen Central readers! I’m Micah Scheindlin, USC Class of 2011. I’m a committed reader of the blog after racking up the Trojan Fever points in the Galen Center for four years. Those years were full of memories, beginning with O.J. Mayo’s debut in a loss to Mercer and ending with Nikola Vucevic’s farewell to Galen in a romp over Arizona State. In between, I tried and failed to storm the court when we beat the Lopez twins, was up close to see Marcus Johnson posterize Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez, got warned by security for chants about the arrest record of UCLA’s Nikola Dragovic, and got flipped off by his fellow Bruin Josh Smith. An illustrious career, I’m sure you’ll agree.
That said, the other guys here provide excellent coverage of our Trojans from all angles, so I’m going to focus on our opponents. Looking at who’s jumped to the NBA or committed to staying, I’ll give a brief overview of where each Pac-12 team now stands. Based on departures and anticipated arrivals, I’ll project the direction each team is going in and give an explanation on each, including USC. So, without further blather:
Trend: Rising fast
Analysis: You’ll hear some naysayers concerned that Arizona loses their senior core of Solomon Hill, Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom. Don’t listen. Lyons in particular was overhyped and inefficient, and Arizona is loaded with young talent. Aaron Gordon is the highest rated incoming freshman in the conference, sophomore bigs Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarcyzewski should break out, and Duquesne transfer TJ McConnell gives Sean Miller a pass-first PG to pair with Nick Johnson. The inexplicable departure of Grant Jerrett may hurt a little, but they’ll go as far as their coaching can take them.
Trend: Dangerously holding steady
Analysis: Gordon may the best newcomer to the conference, but PG Jahii Carson is the best returnee. He loses his dynamic wing in Carrick Felix, but keeps the massive Jordan Bachynski and sharpshooters Evan Gordon and Jonathan Gilling. But I’m negative on this team for two reasons- lack of depth and lack of faith in Herb Sendek. Sendek’s less talented teams have played great D, but last year they frequently played none. I think Carson’s in real danger of putting up 20 points in frequent conference losses.
Trend: Rising slightly
Analysis: The focus will rightly be on the loss of top scorer Allan Crabbe. But Cal brings back a top PG in Justin Cobbs and all their significant bigs. I genuinely think this team will be better in 2013-2014 if the young guards step up, particularly Tyrone Wallace and freshman Jabari Bird. But given how gradual Crabbe’s development was, we can hope it’ll take them a while. Also, I’m gonna miss Bak Bak. If you haven’t read the Daily Cal’s amazing piece on his background, check it out.
Analysis: They got a nasty surprise when Pac-12 DPOY Andre Roberson declared for the draft on the last possible day. But they bring back everyone else of significance, along with a solid recruiting class. They’ll probably be ranked in the top 20 to start the year. The key for me is Xavier Johnson, the rising sophomore SF who only averaged 9 PPG but shot incredibly high percentages. We know they have good pieces, but he could bring them to the next level by taking a few more good shots every game and crashing the glass on the other end.
Trend: Steering toward the iceberg
Analysis: Oregon was built on balance last year, with nobody averaging over 11.7 PPG. The problem is, all the big men who created that balance are gone, leaving guards Dominic Artis and Damyean Dodson to try their hand at being Aaron Brooks. Dana Altman is desperately importing forwards, but I can’t see any of the recruits replacing what EJ Singler and Arsalan Kazemi brought, unless Mike Moser comes here. Altman deserved the Coach of the Year honors this year, but he’ll deserve it much more if he can repeat their success with a much weaker group.
Trend: Going nowhere fast
Analysis: I feel for Craig Robinson. He’s a great guy, but he’s been at OSU since 2008 and can’t get this program winning. I can’t see next year being different, especially with leading rebounder Eric Moreland entering the draft for no particular reason. Their best assist man last year was senior Joe Burton, who weighs 300 pounds. The return of Angus Brandt will help, but I’d be shocked if they finish near the top half of the conference.
Trend: Rising before the fall
Analysis: The temptation to bet on Stanford is obvious: they return almost every contributor from last year’s decent team. That’s enough to put them in most pundits’ preseason Top 25. The problem is that was true in 2012-2013, when they returned almost every contributor from a team that had made a deep NIT run. USC beat this team twice by disrupting PG Chasson Randle and grinding out points. That strategy may well work again. One bit of color here- Stanford is importing yet another set of twins, following the legacy of the Collins and Lopez brothers. The difference this time is that Marcus and Malcolm Allen are guards, and neither is an elite prospect.
Trend: Maintaining our hatred
Analysis: I don’t really know what Steve Alford will do with this team. He’s now got 9 scholarship players- 6 natural swingmen (including his son Bryce), 2 stretch forwards (the Wear Twins) and undeveloped big Tony Parker. Jordan Adams should keep the team scoring, but finding the guys who can play PG is the key. Unless Parker has a huge year, their post defense will be terrible again. They’ll probably make the tournament, but they shouldn’t be the class of the conference (and since Alford seems to think you can absolve a horrific moral failing by apologizing a decade later, class is clearly an issue).
Trend: SLAM CITY
Analysis: Ok, honestly I have no idea what to make of the roster as it stands, but I hope Coach Enfield does. We have crazy athletic talent with J.T. Terrell, Byron Wesley and Ari Stewart. We also have the scariest PG situation in the conference, and a very thin frontcourt with DeWayne Dedmon gone. At FGCU, Enfield ran several matchup zones along with a base man D. Installing those zones may help, since I could see Stewart and freshman Roschon Prince having to play as undersized 4s the way Nick Young frequently did. There’s some real urgency, since Terrell, Stewart and Omar Oraby are all seniors. Terrell in particular deserves a real chance to shine- who doesn’t want to see him swishing 35-foot shots in the Big Dance? I expect us to bring in an immediately eligible transfer who will start, mostly likely Maryland PG Pe’Shon Howard. There’s plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about next season- but stay tuned, because the guys at this blog will have plenty to cover regardless.
Trend: Peaked at the wrong time
Analysis: Credit Utah, they ended last season with a nice run in the Pac-12 tourney at our expense and Cal’s. Unfortunately, that run was led by Jarred DuBois and Jason Washburn, who are gone. A large cast of no-names will need to find an identity in an increasingly tough conference, and I’m not betting on the talented but inefficient Jordan Loveridge just yet.
Analysis: This is another hard team to peg. 3 starters are gone, but PG Abdul Gaddy was a perennial underacheiver. The Huskies might well be better off having Andrew Andrews and freshman Nigel Williams-Goss running the show and creating CJ Wilcox’s looks. The frontcourt is the bigger question, they’ll need big improvements from Jernard Jarreau and Shawn Kemp Jr. If Moser comes here instead of Oregon they could be a real contender.
Trend: Anti-Spokane Rhetoric
Analysis: There’s been little to see here since Klay Thompson left, and I’m not convinced that’s changing. Royce Woolridge showed he’s a nice piece, but Ken Bone just can’t recruit enough Pac-12 level talent to contend. One X-factor is SF Demarquise Johnson, a 4-star recruit in 2012 who should manage to be academically eligible on his second try. Maybe he’d make a more efficient leader than Brock Motum did.