USC can’t keep up with Michigan State in first-round NCAA tournament loss
Ryan Kartje (LA Times) — COLUMBUS, Ohio — A season spent climbing back from the brink, scratching and clawing its way from one week to the next, had given USC every reason to believe it could survive whatever setback or obstacle might present itself. But months of perfecting that approach would only carry it so far into March, as USC fell in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
This time, there would be no answer for Michigan State’s balanced attack and no bouncing back for USC’s uneven one. This time, as Kobe Johnson fired off one late three-pointer after another, while Boogie Ellis tried to find his footing and Drew Peterson tried desperately to keep USC together, it was no use. This time, USC never emerged from the hole it dug for itself, falling to the Spartans 72-62. Ellis and Peterson combined to shoot 7 for 22 from the floor.
It was hardly the tournament experience the Trojans had hoped for in their third trip in as many years. USC only advanced past the first game in 2021.
This trip would also be done in, rather unexpectedly, by USC’s defense.
USC made no effort this week to hide its game plan. It prepared all week to run Michigan State off the three-point line, where the Spartans ranked among the most prolific offenses in college basketball, capable of burying any offense, let alone one prone to extended lulls.
What USC hadn’t counted on was Michigan State attacking from the inside while the Trojans crowded the arc. The Spartans would make only five of 14 shots from long range, but they added 32 points in the paint, among the most scored against USC inside all season.
The disappearance of its leading scorer certainly didn’t help USC, either. In an eerily similar performance to last year’s early tournament loss, Ellis was ineffective. After averaging 22 points over his last dozen games, Ellis scored just six points on Friday on three-of-12 shooting.
Joshua Morgan led the way unexpectedly on offense, at one point scoring eight straight points. He finished with 14.
Like it has so often this season, USC opened Friday’s first-round matchup by digging a hole it would spend the rest of the half climbing out of. Shots refused to fall early, as the Trojans missed nine of their first 12 attempts from the field.
At the center of that stagnant start was the point guard who’d spent the past two months carrying USC’s offense on his shoulders, pushing the Trojans to the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble in the process.
Ellis struggled Friday to find the bottom of the net. Thirteen minutes passed before Ellis finally made his first shot. By the end of the first half, USC’s leading scorer was a meager one for six from the field.
His early struggles were eerily reminiscent of last season’s first-round tournament loss, when Ellis also opened one-of-six shooting and proceeded to unravel from there, playing a season-low 14 minutes before Enfield benched him.
This time, however, Ellis quickly found his footing. So would USC’s offense. A slow start gave way to a sudden torrent in the final minutes of the first half, as USC finished on a 10-for-14 shooting tear.
It wouldn’t last. The second half would slip away in a haze of turnovers and missed shots, leaving USC once again to return home wondering how it’d come unraveled so quickly in March.
It’s amazing how powerful Nick Saban is Nick Saban gives a stinging rebuke to spinelessness shown by Nate Oats and ALA Nancy Armour (USA Today) — Saban’s suspension of a notable freshman football player (Tony Mitchell) following an arrest on drug charges is, by itself, a sharp contrast to Oats’ continuous enabling of Brandon Miller (who allegedly transported the gun used in the shooting of 23-yr old Birmingham female Jamea Harris). But it was his reasoning for why, and the specific words he used to explain it, that were a stinging rebuke of Oats and Alabama administrators’ cold-hearted calculation that winning… Read more »
March Madness: Record ratings prove NCAA scare tactics about NIL were all a show The NCAA predicted doom and gloom if college athletes were ever paid. Well, they’re getting paid, and the NCAA tournament is putting up record numbers. Dan Wetzel (Yahoo.com) — “Former NCAA president Mark Emmert testified in the landmark O’Bannon v. NCAA case that NIL would be “be tantamount to converting [college sports] into minor league sports and we know that in the U.S. minor league sports aren’t very successful either for fan support or for the fan experience. “Well, an average of 9.2 million people… Read more »
And they said the rich would only get richer. Well 25% of the games so far were upsets. There are only 2 each of #1, #2, and #3 seeds and 3 #4 seeds left. Looks like more parity when the pay offs are transparent.
The coaching carousel always intrigues me, just like when USC suddenly swooped in and stole Lincoln Riley from OU, and Andy Enfield from Florida Gulf Coast. Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson won’t be back for another run at the NCAA tournament with the Knights. Anderson is set to replace Rick Pitino at IONA, according to multiple reports. Pitino is leaving Iona to become the new coach at ST JOHN’S. Anderson, 51, became a coveted coach after FDU became just the second school in NCAA men’s tournament history to upset a No. 1 seed in 152 attempts. IONA has qualified for the… Read more »
Not sure I would put Lincoln Riley and Andy Enfield quite in the same conversation yet. Although, I would say they are closer than they were a year ago. This is due to Riley laying an egg for the last two games of his first SC season and Enfield has getting consecutive teams to the March Madness…. So, Riley dropped a bit (closed poorly) and Enfield rose a bit (due to consistency). IMHO.
It’s too bad both looked bad at the end of their seasons. Otherwise, there’s nothing really similar about them as LR has had a vastly more successful coaching career despite being much younger.
My only point is that once USC came calling, they both immediately split for L.A. ✌🏼
Andrew Vorhees performs like a champ, even though injured. “I’m looking forward to attacking the rehab process. Life’s all about how you respond to events…”
I couldn’t agree more with Tom Izzo’s emphasis on heart over talent, as told here to Colin Cowherd Izzo (who has literally taken his team to March Madness for 25 straight years) — “You can win a lot of games with skill, but championships are usually won with the toughest guys who do the dirty work and persevere through the ups and downs. I think it gets underlooked. “The analytics are always about size, jumping ability, skill level, whether he can shoot it. They never measure the ticker. They never measure the heart of a lion. They never measure those… Read more »
The kid has to have a certain talent level, obviously. For example, I doubt Tom would recruit a 5″11” forward. But, once the threshold is met, I agree with him. Andy’s largest issue as a coach has been his ability to teach his teams mental toughness. In his first 5 years, the teams would fold in February, when the championships were on the line. Last 3 years, his teams did not fold. But, as the game with Izzo showed, Andy has a long way to go to be in Izzo’s class as far as producing mentally tough and disciplined teams.… Read more »
USC football’s Pro Day to be held Tuesday, 15 Trojans will attend Six USC players are expected to be selected in April’s NFL Draft WR Jordan Addison, DB Mekhi Blackmon, WR Terrell Bynum, DB Micah Croom, RB Travis Dye, TE Josh Falo, QB Mo Hasan, OL Bobby Haskins, TE Erik Krommenhoek (’21), RB Vavae Malepeai (’21), OL Brett Neilon, RB Brandon Outlaw, DL Brandon Pili, DL Tuli Tuipulotu and OL Andrew Vorhees will all be in attendance, according to USC Athletics. Addison, Blackmon, Dye, Neilon, Tuipulotu and Vorhees are all likely to be selected during April’s NFL Draft. Vorhees is recovering… Read more »
UCLA wasn’t Big Ten’s first choice to join USC in conference realignment John Buhler (fansided.com) — “It seems as though the Big Ten wanted somebody else initially to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten with USC besides UCLA. “While USC and UCLA are leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024, according to ARIZ president Robert Robbins the Big Ten may have initially preferred ORE over the Bruins in joining the Trojans in their revamped league…” Robbins — “USC started this whole thing. I think UCLA was a reluctant follower in this whole thing. But they needed a… Read more »
Do I root for the Zags Thursday or should I use my jinx power to get on the Bruins? I’m in Vegas this week so I could double whammy them.
UCLA is favored by 2.5. Should be a great game. Let us know if and how you decide to use your “jinx power” or not Rialto. Sure wish I had some jinx power!
Judging by this years participants in the NCAA tournament the top 5 men’s basketball programs in California are, #1 UCLA, #2 SDSU, #3 St Mary’s, #4 USC, #5 UCSB. If the Pac12(-2) wants to have a basketball presence in Southern California, where do they turn?
GT, You have no idea how odd that list is. I went to St. Mary’s from 1965-69. St. Mary’s stunk when I was there. I think the BB team won 10 games over my entire 4 years on campus.
Oh for sure, college basketball is odd. UCSB wins the Big West and gets an automatic bid. St Mary’s was good this year, coming in second on the West Coast League, beating SDSU and played Houston close. I guess my point is, UCLA and USC are leaving the Pac12, that leaves SDSU as the only other premiere men’s basketball program in SoCal. What does the Pac12 do with that?
Sure has been fun watching these opening rounds of Tourney games.
It got me thinking about how both USC football and basketball had good seasons marred by the thud of disappointing double-game endings.
Then I started thinking about how I don’t have much doubt that both Lincoln Riley and Andy Enfield were exposed in areas they must improve to win like we’d like.
Both could you use their latest losses to take big steps forward. Can’t wait to see how each responds in future big games.
Michigan State made the sweet 16. So, SC lost to a very good team. I like your analogy of football to BB – each losing with two duds. The silver lining in the Michigan State loss is it preps Andy & staff for what they are facing. SC will not travel well to away games. School sent 3 cheer leaders only. And it was practically a home game for Mich State. They will play a lot of road games in two years just like that. Need to get ready for it. And, they will play very physical teams. Very interesting… Read more »
Good comparison Allen. I think both teams over achieved with the talent they had. Both coaches certainly got out coached in their last game. Hoping it is growing pains for both with bright futures. It would be nice to see SC dominate again in big games. Should be fun for us fans to enjoy the ride.
SDSU looking good yesterday. They too are a physical team that plays great defense. Crazy that they play 9 guys. Sometimes the 4 off the bench are better than the starters. It’s like a hockey line change when they sub out.
Dan Wolken (USA Today) Lets PUR Have It Wolken — “As of Friday night, Purdue is the choke artist program of the decade. There isn’t even a close second. “The trend this program has built over three straight March disasters cannot stand. It’s not acceptable. “North Texas. Saint Peter’s. And now, Fairleigh Dickinson. “Once is a fluke. Twice is a problem. Three times isn’t just embarrassing, it’s damning. “Purdue losing 63-58 to Fairleigh Dickinson was like watching a cruise ship steer straight into an iceberg in perfect weather. It was like a surgeon dropping the scalpel and clipping an artery.… Read more »
This is just me but I still think Andy Enfield and his kids would have had a REAL shot at beating Purdue (Based on the way Purdue played last night) again this is just me ….Fight On !
The Big10 is going to beat up USC and UCLA if they don’t get stronger and more physical.
I hate to say it but UCLA plays exactly like a Big10 team. They are by far the most physical team in PAC12. We, on the other hand, only win big games when someone goes crazy and shoots the lights out. Not sure Andy is the guy to get us over the hump but he’s done a good job to make us a consistently decent team.
You are right this season’s SC team relied on Boogie and Drew. But SC did find a way to beat the Bruins. The third place team from the BIG 10 gave them a game last night. So SC may not be too far off but they do need to get more physical.
This is just me too, but you lost me there. The Farleigh Dickinson team I watched yesterday was a lot better mentally prepared and much tougher than USC. That giant 7-4 center for PUR would have completely dominated USC, whereas Farleigh Dickinson totally shut him down the last 10 mins. I’ve seen nothing about this USC team that remotely suggests USC could have accomplished what FDU did.
Give a lot of that credit to coaching, which USC does not have a lot of apparently.
Purdue and Arizona (maybe Virginia), the biggest choke jobs of the tournament. Embarrassing!
I posted on Facebook that if Basketball was a real sport, USC would find a real coach. This one and done thing is getting old. Doing the same things over and over, expecting different results is insanity.
You sound like someone that doesn’t follow college basketball, or in particular, SC Basketball. I have been watching SC hoops since the days of Bob Boyd. Yes we have lost two straight years in the first round. But we are a football school in the shadow of ucla BB. This team probably overachieved, and the future looks bright. Our coach, who you don’t feel is legit has landed the #1 Point Guard in the country, and has built the program into a consistent winner, who plays in the tournament most years, including two years ago, when we went to the… Read more »
PN4SC, you are probably right I don’t follow College Basketball much anymore. I grew up in West Covina and went to Covina high when CHS ruled CIF in basketball. I went to all of the home games. I stopped watching basketball for the same reason I stopped watching baseball-players striking for more pay. Also in the early 2000s I worked as a substitute teacher at Kaiser High in Fontana I was eating lunch when the varsity basketball coach came in the room and said to the Athletic Director, “Are you going to congratulate me, our team clinched CIF?” The Athletic… Read more »
I will start with I am not big follower of college basketball till March. You are right this team did overachieve. You are also correct that this is a young team. The 13 man roster has 5 freshmen, 4 sophomores, and one each, jr, r-jr, s, and 5th yr. The 7 footers are both freshmen. They had 2 good players and Izzo’s game plan worked well in shutting them down. Enfied’s plan to cut off the 3s left the inside open and the young guys couldn’t handle it. Izzo is a better coach than Enfield and most if not all… Read more »
If USC isn’t a football school then why have we won dozens of Rose Bowls and 11 NCs, yet never been to a Final Four one single time, and why have we only reached the Elite 8 and lost twice in the last 70 years?
And please don’t bring up the Paul Westphal team of the early ’70’s when I was on campus. UCLA beat USC twice that year, and once was a basic thrashing.
USC is a premiere football school but there is no reason it can’t also be a basketball school was my point. Other schools are good in both. I think Enfield is close. USC needs to continue to let him grow and one day be like that grizzled Izzo.
I thought you said the notion that USC was a football school and UCLA was a basketball school was “BS”.
The truth is, that’s exactly what they both are, and always have been.
They truly have been that way no doubt, but neither has to stay that way. Don’t let the past get in the way of your future. Maybe not having football stars as ADs will help USC be great in both sports.
I never said nor even remotely implied that USC couldn’t be good in basketball. We already are, and have been occasionally in the past. But the L.A. schools’ roles will never become reversed. UCLA will never be known as a football school (they don’t even have an on-campus stadium and they’re cheap to boot, with limited tradition) and USC, which produces Heisman winners like Pop Tarts, will obviously never be known as a basketball school, and that makes a huge difference in the realistic expectations, and potential accomplishments of these teams. In the meantime, UCLA looks like a Final Four… Read more »
GT, I agree that SC can become a solid BB school. And, I also agree that if that is to happen, Enfield must be given time to see if he is capable of taking SC BB to that level( It is clear that SC is NOT there now). And I am convinced Andy will be given the time to see if he has greatness within him. Maybe there, may not.
PN4SC, I think Allen’s posts above and below hit the nail on the head. SC is not a BB school; I do not know if it ever can be. Enfield has improved significantly as a coach and I thought this year was by far his best job. But, remember a mediocre Oregon team routed SC about a month ago and a bad Oregon State team beat them a few days later. And a so-so Michigan State team totally dominated them in the second half. Can Enfield continue to improve? I sure hope so and he will be given the time… Read more »
I think the MICH ST game was a good benchmark to show where USC really is as a program: good enough right now to make the NCAAs, which is great as far as I’m concerned, but not strong enough to advance much, if at all. Injuries also hurt USC. But UCLA is moving along just fine without Jaylen Clark, one of the top 2-3 defensive players in the entire country by most accounts. That’s a highlight diff between where USC actually is, and where it needs to go. I’m an Enfield fan. But I don’t think he’s an elite coach… Read more »
I agree completely. Andy advanced in the NCAA (elite 8) because he had one NBA All Star on the team. This year’s team has some kids who can play NBA bench, but I do not think (as of now) that there are any NBA starters on the team (Ellis is clearly a pro prospect, but probably not a starter; I do not think Peterson is a legit pro prospect – too thin and inconsistent). To advance deep in the NCAA’s, you need a team with really mentally tough kids who are talented enough to compete (ala FD) or you need… Read more »
DUKE got handled big-time by TENN today. The changing of the guard.
Poor Boogie, just an amazing competitor. He put extra pressure on himself yesterday and tried to do too much IMO. So he got flustered some when he ran into another athlete who could legitimately guard him, even shut him down. He’s got big shoulders, and I hope he catches on in the NBA.
It was a good season, especially that really cool win over UCLA.
The Enfield method has been going on for what now, 8 years? It has been the same system year after year. Get a shooter, put four other guys out there to feed him the ball. No need for set offense, just run in circles and get the ball to the shooter, game after game after game. I have seen no change in USC basketball since he arrived.
Watching Enfield vs Izzo was an eye-opener. And I wasn’t very impressed with Enfield’s post-loss comments. They reminded me of Clay Helton in a disheartening kind of way.
But Enfield has some really good kids coming in and hopefully, he’s got plans to avoid the program-ingrained running-in-circles routine you described. Evan Mobley washed over a lot of that stuff for a year.
I think has 3 years to make the next level of coaching. If he gets his fanny handed to him in the B10 for 2 years, he is gone (unless Bohn finds out that no elite level coach is willing to take over the program and he is about as good as we can expect to get). The next coach will get the same type of rope Andy got. Personally, I would love to see what Rick Pitino could do with the program, but he may be over the hill. Bohn hired Cronin at Cincinnati and Cronin is an elite… Read more »
Did you know that after three years at IONA, Pitino, now 70, dragged himself up out of the dirt and he just took a six-year deal at around $20 mil with ST JOHNS?
I just read it. Good for him. He is an elite coach. He is very much a NYC guy. Should be interesting, now that NIL is legal. Bit old. I retired at 68. I am now 75. I would not want to have had a job like that from 70-76.
The scandal-plagued Pitino is looking a little hollowed out at 70 to me. Being 71 now, I can’t imagine humping it every day in one of the most highly competitive, rigorous, demanding, and intensely public athletic arenas you could ever choose. And ST JOHN’s hasn’t even won an NCAA tourney game since 2000. The average age of a first-time D1 HBC is 42.6, with 15.6 years of coaching experience, including 9.8 years of full-time experience at the D1 level. Good luck Rick. I’m thinking you might need it, even though your seven Final Four appearances and two NCs objectively suggests… Read more »
Enfield is probably a better recruiter than coach.
I’m a believer. March Madness is fantastic. FDU won four games last year. They were a 23.5 pt underdog to PUR. What a day in the life for all these kids on both teams.
R.J. Abeytia (247sports.com) — “USC allowed only five Spartan threes but got buried on points in the paint. Izzo’s team enjoyed a 32-20 advantage. Add that to the 8-0 advantage on fast-break points and the Spartans had their margin. Michigan State just played with an intensity USC could not sustain. “USC has one more season of Pac-12 basketball to play. The Trojans’ 72-62 NCAA tournament loss to Michigan State illustrated how poorly a season of Conference of Champions basketball prepared USC for their March Madness moment. Michigan State was the more physical team on both ends of the floor. After… Read more »
Basketball team did good this year given how young they are. Future is very bright and Enfield is doing a hell of a job.
MPA90, It is not a function of youth – SC went to the elite 8 because it had an All Pro NBA caliber center, who was a true frosh. It is a function of talent, mental toughness, and coaching. Enfield and crew are good coaches but they are not yet elite. The kids on this team are still developing, particularly the big men. Morgan is a good defender but he is useless on O (unless dunking or making lay ups). Michigan State gave Morgan a ten foot jumper all game. He took one and air balled it. If Morgan could… Read more »
We will always be a football school.
True. And I easily would rather be a football school than a basketball school. Any day of the week.
But I still like where Enfield has taken the program. USC basketball is now good, and usually worthy of an NCAA bid. 20 plus wins every year isn’t bad at all. An occasional Sweet Sixteen would be nice.