Has USC Hoops Really Arrived as a “Major Power”?

USC spears Kansas badly to showcase the arrival of a major power!?

As the successor to Kevin O’Neill, who had taken the Trojans to the NCAA tournament once and was fired with 15 games left in his fourth season, Enfield inherited a foundering program. He promised that his team would play an up-tempo game. Players would have room to be creative, and they’d enjoy themselves.

Not at first they didn’t. Neither did he.

“In the first two years, we were last place in the Pac-12,” Enfield said. “Year 1 and 2 we were dead last. We were 5-31 in Pac-12 play.”

On Monday, not quite eight years after Enfield arrived to reorganize USC’s men’s program, the Trojans arrived as a major power.

“Yes, there’s a lot of pressure to win, especially in Los Angeles. If you don’t, it’s not fun,” Enfield said. “But our players have done this the right way.”

The Trojans’ 85-51 rout of Kansas on Monday in the second round of the West regional was stunning in its thoroughness. USC’s stifling defense held the Jayhawks to 29% shooting, a remarkably good follow-up after they’d held Drake to 29.4% shooting from the floor in the first round.

Freshman forward Evan Mobley (left), a generational talent, shared the spotlight with his older brother, sophomore Isaiah, who had a game-high 17 points in addition to eight rebounds, four assists and one block. The brothers from Murrieta combined for 21 points in the first half, which matched the Jayhawks’ team total.

“This is what you always dream for,” Isaiah Mobley said after the Trojans clinched their first berth in the Sweet 16 since 2007.

Like so many dreams, this one came true because of hard work — and because of Enfield’s vision in the face of frustration. He persisted through those first two miserable seasons of 11-21 and 12-20 records, turning things around for a 21-13 finish in 2016 and a first-round NCAA tournament exit. The next season, the Trojans were 26-10 overall and made a second-round departure.

The Trojans reached the second round of the NIT in 2018 but took a step back in 2019, with a 16-17 record. Their 2020 postseason hopes were wiped out, as were everyone else’s, by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This season, playing in a conference that was badly underestimated by those who saw it only occasionally if at all, the Trojans were ranked as high as No. 17 nationally. They lost to Colorado in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament but recovered well, taking care of business against Drake in the NCAA tournament, and bringing the same efficient, focused approach against Kansas.

The Trojans steamrolled the Jayhawks from the start Monday at Hinkle Fieldhouse and never stopped, taking a significant step in a progression that seemed unlikely when Enfield was the new kid in town and the basketball world wondered if his success at small-time FGCU had been just a big-time fluke.

“We came out tonight, we were extremely hungry. The coaches were just as hungry as our players,” Enfield said.

That showed against Kansas, which got leading rebounder Jalen Wilson out of COVID-19 protocols only Monday morning and got forward David McCormack back from a bout with the coronavirus before its first-round game against Eastern Washington.

“I think they were obviously more prepared, played better, coached better,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of USC. “We shot it miserably.

“We played from a hole the entire time. That’s about as poor as we could play. I’m sure Andy would say that’s certainly one of their better moments, better games. It was a bad combination all the way around for us.”

USC made it worse for the Jayhawks at both ends of the floor. “Our offense, I felt like we really shared the ball and took good shots. We have had silly turnovers at times,” Enfield said. “But Kansas is such a good defensive team. To score over 80 points, they’re a top-10 defensive team in the country. I thought our players made the right plays, they were patient and they were poised.

“It all starts with defense for us. I’m really, really proud of our defense tonight.”

Enfield credited assistant coaches Jason Hart, Chris Capko (left) and Eric Mobley —the Mobley brothers’ father — for helping bring stability to a program that badly needed it not so long ago. As he noted, the Trojans have won at least 20 games in five of the last six seasons, and they’re 46-16 the past two seasons, third behind Baylor and Kansas.

“And we just beat Kansas today,” he said. “Look, we know we haven’t won a national championship yet, but we’ve really improved our program, and we’re extremely proud of where we are right now at USC basketball.”

Enfield began his postgame remarks by dedicating the win to his late father, Bill, a former high school and ninth-grade basketball coach in Shippensburg, Pa. Bill Enfield died in September, shortly before his 80th birthday.

“He meant a lot to me. I thought about him a lot,” Enfield said. “In fact, I saw a picture right before the game that my mother sent me, at a table with his board out, his note cards from coaching. He was giving me advice.”

Here’s some advice for Oregon on Sunday and for every other team still dancing: Watch out for USC.

latimes.com

__________

TrojanDailyBlog members  —  Always feel free to add information or topics to the TDB which don’t necessarily pertain to any particular moderator post or member comment.

 

 

 

SUBSCRIBE HERE TO RECEIVE NOTICE OF NEW COMMENTS OR REPLIES.
Notify of
36 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Clay
Active Member
Clay (@clay)
March 25, 2021 4:36 pm

I haven’t read Helene Elliot in a while, but then again, I don’t read the Times. Say hi to Dan Weber, Helene, I miss his brilliance.

Golden Trojan
Diamond Member
Golden Trojan (@golden-trojan)
March 25, 2021 11:58 am

Not to be a Debbie Downer but USC played ONE lights out game. Now do it again and again and again, then let’s talk! But come out and lay an egg Sunday night and they are forgotten.

TrojanRJJ
Diamond Member
TrojanRJJ (@trojanrjj)
March 25, 2021 8:20 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Thanks for that info. This is really an unusual year. I think there is a good chance it happens.

Steveg
Mt Rushmore
Steveg (@steveg)
March 24, 2021 4:11 pm

Has USC BB arrived? Not really, not yet. Remember the inconsistency at seasons end when there was nobody except Evan playing decent basketball. We have to consider the fact that this team is gone when they finish the tournament. It would be nice to have the brothers back, but these days that isn’t happening. So what does Andy do to maintain a high level of BB at USC? Recruit another one and done. He has had eight years to get here, but the roster looks weak for next season. Can he do it year after year with the transfer portal?… Read more »

Jamaica
Knighted Member
Jamaica (@jamaica)
March 24, 2021 6:07 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Allen, having a big man in the middle with Mobley’s confidence, it should be expected the team is where it is. What this and hopefully getting into the great eight tells recruits, is HC Enfield can help you get into the big dance. It’s what the football program sorely needs today and hopefully this will put more pressure on AD Bohn to eliminate remaining obstacles on the football side. Andy Enfield needs to keep the team loose and believing in itself now with the higher level competition it now faces. Maybe and it’s a big maybe, Pop Mobley will have… Read more »

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
Terrific Tommy (@terrific-tommy)
March 25, 2021 12:37 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Absolutely Allen — beating Kansas by 34 is like a recruiting brochure for now.

I do think, though, that the Oregon game is a big deal too. Losing to the Ducks after a big win like that would taint that image some.

TrojanRJJ
Diamond Member
TrojanRJJ (@trojanrjj)
March 25, 2021 8:20 am
Reply to  Steveg

Steveg, I totally agree. I now have a lot more respect for Enfield than I did prior to the last two wins. This is the first time in eight years (seven really as we cannot count last year) that Enfield’s team has (1) made the tournament and (2) played outstanding BB in the tournament. We have seen the same thing before in football. Bob Toledo was great with Cade McNown (should have won a NC – thank you Brandon A for torpedoing it!) and a dude without him. Bobby Petrino was great with Lamar Jackson and a bust without him.… Read more »

Jamaica
Knighted Member
Jamaica (@jamaica)
March 24, 2021 6:19 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

All those years Bob Boyd played 2nd fiddle to Wooden is just hindsight as only the conference champion got into the big dance Bach then. But if it was like it is today, Boyd would have gotten his teams into the top 64 numerous times.

danielmcd1
Noble Member
danielmcd1 (@danielmcd1)
March 25, 2021 7:14 am
Reply to  Jamaica

Yes, As a student from 1968 thru to June 1972, with Paul Westphal and company then Gus Williams and Company we had very very good teams that would have been in the DANCE had it been expanded as today. No human being can tell me that in the 1970-71 season there was any team better in the nation other than the Westwooders.

rleeholder1
Noble Member
rleeholder1 (@rleeholder1)
March 25, 2021 7:59 am
Reply to  danielmcd1

I was in High School when Paul Westphal was playing for SC and then a student at SC when Gus Williams was a player. Westphal’s brother Bill, a forward for SC in the mid-1960s, was my 12th Grade PE teacher and our Basketball Coach at Glendale HS (GHS), CA. Paul would come and practice in our gym quite often and I’ve never seen someone up close and personal who could shoot the ball like him with either hand. A natural right hander, he could sink 10-12 in a row from dead corner, baseline with his left hand. Paul was a… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by rleeholder1
LawyerJohn
Knighted Member
LawyerJohn (@lawyerjohn)
March 26, 2021 8:01 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

You have no idea what you’re talking about, Mister AW. You, the proudly self-proclaimed “I never attended an SC basketball game [in my 4-years at SC].’

That was a sensational guard-oriented team, with Westphal displaying some of the greatest skills of all time, no matter which century you are in.

And the team also had a remarkable rebounder in Riley. It was a team for the ages, even in the year 2021, if earth’s citizens are lucky enough to make it that far.

Mister AW will probably delete this honest post, as he has many of mine through the years.

danielmcd1
Noble Member
danielmcd1 (@danielmcd1)
March 27, 2021 5:29 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

LawyerJohn and Allen, we are all Trojans! We are on the same team and support our university. Whether Allen went to USC basketball games or not is not important now. LawyerJohn, I know how you feel about Westphal and Gus Williams and those teams. I feel it too. I supported all of our teams as best I could. I remember watching Debbie Green, the best women’s volleyball player at her position playing in the gym in the old PE building across from the track in the 1970’s. They were the best and these were not even NCAA sanctioned events at… Read more »

rleeholder1
Noble Member
rleeholder1 (@rleeholder1)
March 27, 2021 5:49 am
Reply to  danielmcd1

I remember Debbie Green as well when I was an Undergrad/Grad Student from 1973-1979. We were required to take PE classes when I was a Freshman and I took a Basketball/Volleyball class in the old gym. I remember the shower room pipes were so old and leaky that you barely got any water out of the shower head. Behind one of the baskets up near the ceiling were seats for about 25 people I would guess. Fond memories of some of the best times in my life.

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
Terrific Tommy (@terrific-tommy)
March 24, 2021 3:17 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Is Palaie related to Lorig? Enquiring minds want to know. 😉

Jamaica
Knighted Member
Jamaica (@jamaica)
March 24, 2021 2:03 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The urge to play Pro can cloud your thinking about when you should enter the draft. But look at Sam’s options a few years back. He was playing with an OL that put his health in jeopardy and a HC that wasn’t trying to remedy that situation. We know now CH just wanted to kick back and wait for something good to happen with the players and coaches in the program. The administration was negligent in having an AD who just wanted the title and little else. Sam could have transferred to a better program (he had the extra years… Read more »

Terrific Tommy
Diamond Member
Terrific Tommy (@terrific-tommy)
March 24, 2021 12:17 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I wish him well — but just go away already Larry.

Jamaica
Knighted Member
Jamaica (@jamaica)
March 24, 2021 12:36 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The money you pocketed for doing less than all other Power 5 conference Commissioners should set you up pretty well Larry. You could have demanded more of your bosses to up their football program support but why lift a finger to upset the cash cow you enjoyed. Don’t expect your legacy here to compliment your earning it. But I’m sure you will attempt to sugar-coat it at every opportunity.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jamaica
Jamaica
Knighted Member
Jamaica (@jamaica)
March 24, 2021 12:58 pm
Reply to  Jamaica

On 2nd thought, let’s include the presidents for sheer stupidity in providing Larry with such a cash cow, questionable demands in earning it and very little return for it.