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  • Team and Conference Thoughts

    Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas.

    Wanted to post a few thoughts on the team from what we've seen to this point. I've been pleasantly surprised with the way they've performed thus far.

    Drew Peterson: I liked his tape a lot from Rice, but he's surpassed my expectations. I thought the jump in competition level would be harder for him. What's really impressive is his ball-handling ability. That's what separates him from a guy like Chuck O'Bannon and even Elijah Stewart. COB and Stew are both great vertical athletes but neither could play make like Peterson. The added weight has helped a lot too. It's early so there's a chance he dips in conference play, but there are a few reasons I'm optimistic he'll keep this up. 1) He's added weight since last year so the growth in his game was easy to bet on. 2) He was a great free throw shooter at Rice which makes his 3 point percentage this year less fluky. 3) Trey Murphy also transferred from Rice (he went to UVA) and has easily been outpacing his performance from last year. There's a good chance Rice has terrible coaching and role players and it's a place for good players to rot.

    There are also a few things that have stood out to me about the team:

    1) We are second in the country in 2pt FG% defense (thank you Evan Mobley). Unlike 3pt FG% defense which tends to even out over time, 2 point percentage defense is driven in large part by rim protection and scheme. The Cal Baptist game was an anomaly with their shooting, but Andy's done a good job relying on Evan more and amping up the ball pressure. When you have a shot blocking talent like him you can afford to pressure the ball and take a few chances. I wish we would actually do this more since we haven't forced many turnovers this year. Part of the reason we haven't though is our perimeter defense is worse. Jonah Mathews was a terrific on ball defender and we don't have anyone close to that, nor do we have an off-ball wizard like De'Anthony Melton. One last comment on Evan, he doesn't chase blocks. You have defenders that do this and it kills their team defense. One example of this is Isaiah Jackson at Kentucky. He has great block numbers but the team is 5 point better per 100 possessions on defense with him off the floor because he chases blocks. This isn't the case with Evan.

    2) Our shooting is better than I thought it would be. Peterson's added weight and good FT indicators from last year suggested his jump in 3 point percentage, so that's not surprising. He won't shoot over 50% but I could see him in the high 30s or low 40s on the season. Baumann is about as expected, but his low 2 point percentage at SJSU seems to have been a fluke. His catch and shoot mid range game off screens has been money. Eaddy's poor 3 point shooting year last year also seems to have been a fluke. His true shooting ability is much closer to his past FT% at Santa Clara. If I had to guess his dip in 3 point percentage is a result of having to initiate offense at Santa Clara and shoot more off the dribble. On this team he's way more catch and shoot since the offense runs more through the Mobleys and Peterson. Max's minutes have been an adventure, but I think you have to continue to play him. He's our best perimeter defender and he has great mechanics. If he could hit and uncontested in rhythm 3 more consistently, it would unlock so much of the offense and he's a much better bet to shoot than Isaiah White (terrible mechanics). This might be the biggest thing keeping us from being a great team right now (Max's inability to make an open 3). If you watch Evan Mobley's passing out of the post too, it's fantastic and he puts it right in the shooting pocket of shooters.

    3) The free throw shooting seems to be an anomaly. Isaiah Mobley, Drew Peterson and Chevez Goodwin are over 10% below their averages last season. These things tend to even out over time. One other pet peeve of mine on this board is seeing Enfield blamed for the free throw shooting because he was a good FT shooter in his time. At the end of the day, the players have to step up and make them. They shoot FTs every practice and I've seen Shaqquan Aaron make 25 FTs in a row. This was the same season he shot under 40% from the line in games. Derryck Thornton was a terrible shooter because of a shoulder injury he sustained as a baby, which impacts his shooting mechanics. He ended up shooting almost 75% from the line in his career and was our best FT shooter his first year eligible at USC. The point is, FT shooting is often a good indicator for how good of a shooter you are, but there's a lot of noise in small sample sizes which can throw off free throw percentages.

    So there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic and believe this team is a favorite to win the conference. The best teams that I've seem are us and Colorado. Colorado has the best guard in the conference and are ridiculously good at defensive rotations. I've watched a bit of them and they just don't miss rotations or make mistakes. They have enough shooting and probably the best perimeter defender in the league in Parquet (him or Bryce Wills). Their one weakness is they seem to feast on bad defensive teams (especially Evan Battey). Tennessee played them and couldn't score but Keon Johnson took McKinley Wright out of the game and beat Colorado. I expect our game with them comes down to whether Schwartz and our guards make their 3s, since Evan Mobley shuts them down.

    UCLA lacks athleticism from the guard spots. Tyger Campbell can't score but has to play the whole game since they have no backup PG. Juzang is a spot shooter who's streaky. Kyman is a better spot shooter but plays less than Juzang since he doesn't guard. Chris Smith has stagnated and looked abysmal on national TV against Ohio State. Their bigs are either bad on O (Hill) or bad on D (Riley) and I don't see either scoring on Evan. Bottom line, they're physical and good defensively, but lack high-end talent and shot creation.

    Losing N'Faly Dante was a big loss for Oregon. Now Chandler Lawson is their only rotation player over 6'6. They'll probably try and go small and play Omoruyi at the 5, but that will only impact teams with slow footed bigs. Given Evan's fluidity, I think we match up well with them. Oh, and they should have lost to an awful Washington team and got bailed out by the refs. Colorado smashed that same Washington team. Colorado>Oregon.

    Stanford is disappointing. Ziaire Williams is a great pure shooter, but his lack of strength has been apparent in the college game. I haven't seen any ability to get to the rim from him at this level. I'd love to have him, but he's had nowhere near the impact of Evan Mobley (which has surprised me). Part of the reason for Ziaire's limitations is his lack of explosiveness since he has a big brace on his knee. Apparently he hurt his knee from falling off his bike at Stanford since he had a hand in his pocket and hit a pot hole. Tough luck! Stanford also has no depth. In that Arizona game, they had to play James Keefe and Lukas Kisunas in the non-Da Silva minutes, and those 2 are a disaster. Having Chevez Goodwin as a third big is such a luxury. We had this problem in prior years when Victor and J'Raan played minutes.

    The Arizona schools are terrible. ASU has a bunch of inefficient volume scorers who don't give a shit about defense. They're erratic, hunt their own shots and have no idea how to play together. I picked them 7th this year but the media got all hyped up about Remy Martin and Josh Christopher. Remy is a career 33% 3 point shooter and Josh has never been able to shoot. And all of these dudes need the ball. Woods, Christopher, Martin and Verge are terrible off-ball players. Romello White was kind of the glue that held them together and now that he left, they have this JUCO guy Chris Osten playing minutes for them, and he might be the worst rotation player in the Pac.

    Arizona is equally bad. James Akinjo is a terrible player (go google what Jim Boeheim said about him) and he's going to be Arizona's leading scorer. Dude is an inefficient volume scorer who will shoot 35-40% from the field and not defend. Jemarl Baker is a great spot up shooter, but can't do anything else. Dalen Terry is a skinny kid with a chance to be a high level defender in a year or 2, but he lacks strength and has no way to impact the game on offense. Jordan Brown is Isaiah Mobley Lite. Azoulas Tubelis is just ok. Their best long-term prospect is Bennedict Mathurin, but he's raw and has put up his numbers against bad competition. I don't see them as a top 4 team in this conference.

    Utah is not a threat, BYU smoked them. Ian Martinez isn't an instant impact player and they have no star power. Would be lucky to finish in the top half of the league and having Caleb Lohner back out of his LOI and go to BYU hurt them.

    It's a bad league but if I had to group the Pac 12 right now it's this:

    Tier 1: USC, Colorado
    Tier 2: UCLA, Oregon
    Tier 3: Stanford
    Tier 4: ASU, Arizona
    Tier 5: Everyone else (awful)

    I'll leave everyone with two finals thoughts:

    1) Reese Waters is the real deal. I'm skeptical he'll make an impact this year because he's coming on so late, but he's a legit 3 level scorer and while athletic, not athletic enough to be an early entry guy as an underclassman. Definitely an all-conference level player in two years and maybe as soon as next year. Reminds me a bit of Elijah Weaver from an athleticism/body standpoint but can actually shoot and score at all 3 levels.

    2) Enjoy Evan Mobley. He's better than I thought, especially on offense. I was skeptical he'd be better than Onyeka but this guy is such a fluid athlete and just kills you in different ways. It's gonna be a long time until we have a talent like this again so enjoy him for the year.

  • #2
    An absolutely amazing post my brother!!
    Just a terrific read through and through.
    Back when Coach Bibby took USC to the Elite Eight, I wrote to the LA Times and proclaimed that we were now a basketball school!!
    It turns out I was a bit overzealous and excited 😁
    Now, as previously mentioned by MeltonNotHelton this program is continuing its rise to prominence. This is without a doubt the Golden Age of USC BB. It's steady, its smooth sailing (sometimes in choppy water), its frustrating, but something special is going on with this program.
    We have kids representing us well in the NBA, we're developing a winning culture and we're trending in the right direction.
    It's been a long time since we finished atop the standings (1985). I'm hoping we're fortunate enough to play and finish 1st in the PAC12. Why not us? We have a potential Top 3 pick in the draft who has surprised all of us with his overall play.
    Yes there will be some hiccups and losses.
    But overall this team has tons of talent and potential.
    Happy New Year my Trojan family!!
    Let's get ready to rumble and FTFO ❤💛✌

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    • #3
      Nice read. I've been jonesing for SC hoops - glad they're hitting the court again on Monday. You didn't have anything to say about EA, and it's looking like he may be an X factor. I'm expecting that he'll be back and healthy on Monday, too.

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      • #4
        The team's adaptation to the long break, which is unprecedented, is a wrinkle that is tough to predict. Hopefully everyone worked on their game over the break.

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        • #5
          Thanks for this 2016. I hadn't thought of us as a real contender for the league title, but I'll take your word for it. I've been a season ticket holder since.....well, a very long time ago, so I'm pretty used to disappointment.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ob4sc View Post
            Nice read. I've been jonesing for SC hoops - glad they're hitting the court again on Monday. You didn't have anything to say about EA, and it's looking like he may be an X factor. I'm expecting that he'll be back and healthy on Monday, too.
            I’m not a huge fan of Anderson. Don’t buy him as a shooter with his mechanics. His shot isn’t as broken as Isaiah White but it has a poor release point and too much arc. I do think he’s tough and a very good on-ball defender because of his functional strength. He did a great job against Payton Pritchard last year because he can absorb contact very well and is quick enough.

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            • Marty46r
              Marty46r commented
              Editing a comment
              Excellent evaluation of Ethan Anderson. With Ethan you have to take the good with the bad. When you have to take your point guard off the floor when the opposition is forced to foul is very telling.

          • #7
            You wanted to post a "few thoughts"?? Damn man. Lol. I'd hate to read a "long" post from you, but after reading this one, I sure would.

            Great stuff. I sure hope you're right about us being top 2 in the conference. And I hope we get a chance to play the conference games.

            Thanks again. Really appreciate the post.

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            • #8
              Arizona beat Colorado 88-74 at Tucson. So would you say USC is Tier 1 by itself or still TBD.

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              • #9
                I guess we'll see when they play Colorado, (hopefully) this week.

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                • #10
                  UofA did a great job defending McKinley Wright IV. & James Akinjo for all criticism he gets, he definitely is one tough player. UofA will continue to improve as the season goes on. Imo our length will be a match up problem for them.

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                  • #11
                    I say we swarm them with this two deep lineup and just wear them out.. This is the year where we can really just overwhelm most Pac 12 opponents with our overall length and depth if utilized correctly.
                    Pt.- Eddy, Anderson
                    W: Peterson- White
                    W: Abonkpolo, Bauman
                    P: I. Mobley, Goodwin, Couballi
                    P : :E. Mobley, Morgan

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                    • #12
                      An embarrassment of riches! Fight on!

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                      • #13
                        Great takes with a lot of inside info. Were you a former student manager or walk on? I'm impressed and would love to see more of your analysis/contributions here.

                        Fight On!

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