Dodge: With vital week ahead, let’s look back the best wins of the Enfield era

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February 5, 2018 by Sam Dodge

This season could just end with another double-digit seed in the NCAA tournament. This week decides if USC can top that with a conference title.  [Josh Faskowitz/Galen Central]

LOS ANGELES – USC used January to stabilize their NCAA tournament chances.

The Trojans need something big in February to get off the double-digit seed line, as ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm both peg them as an 11-seed.

While they blew their chance in Westwood on Saturday, this upcoming trip in the Arizona desert offers their two best resume-boosters until the conference tournament in Las Vegas.  Andy Enfield has collected some prominent pelts from the last five years, so the precedent is there for happy hunting this week.

Enfield’s teams have shot down the following prey during his tenure.

Dayton, 2014. Year one of USC basketball under Enfield was undeniably brutal on the eyeballs.

The Trojans followed up coach Kevin Oneill’s 14-18 clunker with an 11-21 lemon. As Enfield stated after beating Utah earlier this year: “There was a time we beat no one!”

The Sunday before Christmas in 2013, he dragged his squad to luxurious and lush Dayton, OH for a tilt with the Flyers.

Current Indiana head man Archie Miller made his name with Dayton in 2014, reaching the Elite Eight as an 11-seed.

Behind a 26-point and 10-rebound double-double by current Israeli-league guard Byron Wesley, USC fought to overtime. Pe’Shon Howard bounced off his right leg like a pogo stick, launching a seemingly ill-conceived fade-away three.

Enfield is now 2-0 in the city of Dayton, including the Providence win in last year’s First Four.

Wichita State, 2016. After two year’s of 20-loss basketball, USC needed something to jumpstart the 2016 season.

A trip to Orlando for the AdvoCare Invitational did just that. The opening game was against Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State Shockers.

Side note: How in the hell is Marshall still in Wichita? The man has made seven out of the last eight tournaments, two Sweet 16’s, and the Final Four in 2013. All of this accomplished with the scraps left by Kansas.

This win marked the emergence of current cornerstones of the recent USC basketball surge.

A freshman Bennie Boatwright notched a then career-high 22 points, including five threes. Jordan McLaughlin added 15, alerting the conference of his presence the year after shoulder surgery.

The win fueled an 18-5 start that essentially clinched their first tournament berth of the Enfield era.

44 days later, USC really announced its arrival.

Arizona, 2016. The No. 7 team in the country. Four overtimes. The defending Pac-12 champs.

Sean Miller’s Wildcats came to Galen Center Jan. 9 winning the last two games against USC by a combined 50 points.

The cardinal and gold neophytes put on a show in a conference classic.

The future of Trojans basketball was on full display. Elijah Stewart tallied 27 points off the bench, including five of eight from deep. Chimezie Metu threw down a now-vintage slam.

Dunk City finally found its new home in south Los Angeles, as the Trojans piled up a healthy 1.1 points a possession over 60 minutes of game time.

With Stewart swishing two free throws and the backcourt forcing a Kadeem Allen brick at the buzzer, Enfield secured his biggest win since knocking off two-seed Georgetown while at Florida Gulf Coast.

UCLA, 2017. While Enfield swept UCLA over three games in 2016, the 2017 Bruins were a different beast.

They featured three future NBA draft picks, including two first-rounders in Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf. The AP slapped them into their top-10 for over 10 weeks. Steve Alford concocted the No. 2 efficiency offense in the entire country, buoyed the nation’s top-shooting team.

For all the haranguing about the USC defense at points this year, Enfield showed his defensive prowess in this Jan. 25 game. After all, he was the basketball-equivalent of a defensive coordinator at Florida State, leading two No. 1 scoring defenses while in Tallahassee.

Behind 17 turnovers, the fire-breathing Bruins only mustered a point per possession, a full quarter point below their season average.

De’Anthony Melton contained Ball, ceding only 15 points on several tough jumpers.

Much like Arizona and Wichita State the year prior, this cinched the NCAA tournament for the second-straight season. Moreover, the victory over the cross-town rivals was USC’s fourth-straight at the time.

Despite inane titles such as this gem at Bruins Nation, this stands as the most important triumph of the Enfield era for two reasons. One, it was another win over a top-10 team. More importantly, this win allows for USC to boast a winning record over UCLA in the last three years.

USC finds itself entering this key week only a game behind Arizona in the conference.

With Arizona State reeling and the Wildcats just dropping one in Seattle, not only can Enfield and USC snag two more program-defining wins…

They can immortalize themselves with the program’s first regular-season conference title in 33 years.

 

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