Remember when “Dunk City” was a thing?
Andy Enfield captured the nation’s excitement a couple years ago, somehow bringing the 15th seed Florida Gulf Coast all the way to the Sweet 16 powered by a fun offense filled with dunks.
Then, miraculously, Enfield was promptly hired to coach USC just two years into his head coaching career.
Dunk City to USC, they said.
Not quite, at least not yet.
So far, in close to two years, the Trojans have won a combined 21 games. Enfield won 26 his final season with the Eagles.
“Next step our players have to keep getting better,” Enfield said last month, “and improve as individuals, improve as a team. As far as head coach and our coaching staff as a whole, we have just an amazing amount of confidence in these kids as young men and even though we’re the youngest power conference team in the nation, we don’t use that as an excuse.”
Enfield told reporters this week about the Arizona game that “this is a big game for us because our players need to prove to themselves that they can compete at this level.”
This year, the Trojans (10-15, 2-11 Pac-12) are getting close to a lock to finish in last place.
This hasn’t quite become the West Coast’s ‘Dunk City’ that USC fans were hoping for — that might honestly be a moniker worthy of Arizona, who they’re playing Thursday night at 7, particularly last year.
In 13 Pac-12 games, the Trojans only have 14 total dunks, or 1.1 per game, and that includes six dunkless outings. That’s not necessarily why they’ve been bad, though.
More on that in a second, but first..
PREDICTION: Arizona by 26.
WHO TO KNOW: The poor-man’s Nikola Vucevic — and similarly named — sophomore center Nikola Jovanovic (12.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 0.7 bpg, .523 FG%) might be their best player, although he’s struggled badly of late, scoring 5.6 ppg in five games since getting 30 against Colorado; guard Katin Reinhardt (12.4 ppg, 1.9 apg, 1.9 to, 1.9 3-pointers) transferred from UNLV; freshman Jordan McLaughlin (12.1 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1.5 spg) is doubtful with a shoulder injury; sophomore guard Julian Jacobs (8.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.6 apg) scored 18 points against Oregon last week.
Stats and observations
- To be fair, Enfield didn’t inherit much talent from the previous regime. But, to me, I just don’t see things working out for him at USC. I’m curious how much breathing room they’ll give him in terms of this team’s rebuild and his job security, because there hasn’t been much progress, if any.
- The Trojans lost nine straight games after beating Cal on Jan. 7, but of those nine, only two were by 10 or more points, and they won against Oregon State last week.
- USC shoots the 28th most shots at the rim in the nation (second-most in the Pac-12), but at a 56.5 percent clip, the fourth-worst in the Pac-12.
- It gets worse. On two-point jumpers, they shoot 30.8 percent; on threes, 31.4. Both marks are second-worst in the Pac-12.
- Remember how I said USC is supposed to be high-scoring and fast-paced? Well, the Trojans are the third-worst scoring team in the Pac-12, and the fourth-worst shooting team in transition in the conference.
- From Arizona’s perspective, Jovanovic isn’t a great interior defender, so it’d be good to see a big game from Kaleb Tarczewski and/or Brandon Ashley. UCLA was particularly bad in the post against ASU on Wednesday night, so this USC game could be a nice warm-up for Saturday.
That’s all for now. Tomorrow I’ll have some stuff about yesterday’s UCLA game, James Harden’s jersey retirement, and tonight’s Jason Terry jersey retirement.
Specifically, I’m planning a post about how Terry’s best season (his senior year in 1998-99) stacks up with some of the great individual seasons in Wildcats history. Who do you think deserves to be on that list?