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USC’s Season Comes To A Close: A Look Forward
- Updated: March 20, 2017
In a season with many ups as downs, the USC Trojans made a bigger impact than most had expected. The Trojans, a relatively young team, fell out of contention with an 82-78 loss to Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The 11th seeded Trojans have nothing to hang their heads about, finishing at 26-10. This was their best showing since 2007-08 when they lost to the eventual national champions North Carolina. That team featured Nick “Swaggy P” Young, Gabe Pruit, and Taj Gibson, who all spent time in the NBA. The most memorable win was against the Kevin Durant led Texas Longhorns. This years USC team made a run that surely busted a few brackets.
USC only had two seniors who they will be missing next season. The first being Charles Buggs, a 6’9” forward out of Arlington, Texas. Buggs played in 24 games this season and averaged 2.3 points per game in just under 9 minutes per game. The second senior is Samer Dhillon, a 6’8” forward out of Sacramento, California. Dhillon played only 9 minutes in his seven appearances all season, making one out of the three field goals he attempted. Not taking away from anything those players meant to USC, but next year they will not be missing much.
They return their leading assist man in Jordan McLaughlin (5.5 APG). McLaughlin also scored 12.9 points on average while shooting over 40% from the land of three.
Chimezie Metu was huge in their tournament run, the big man can block shots, score, and unlike the majority of big men, knock down his free throws at 74.1%. Metu had 55 blocks during the season as well as averaging 14.8 points per game. Metu’s confidence should have grown immensely in the tournament and expect those numbers to increase next season.
Bennie Boatwright, a score first 6’10” forward, has all the makings of a potential NBA player. Should he decide to stay, as well as the already mentioned players, his next season could be one for the record books. Boatwright has a Michael Beasley like game; he will basically face you up and let you know he’s gonna score, his offensive game is just that good. In 27 minutes a game Boatwright averaged 15.1 points, leading the team. He shoots 42.8% from the field and 36.4% from three. The most impressive stat for the 6’10” forward is his 90% from the free throw line. He has the ability to join the 50/40/90 club next season if he can eliminate one or two bad shots a game. Then again, Boatwright is a tough shot taker and a tough shot maker, either way. the sky is the limit for him.
Elijah Stewart saw his point per game average go up from 9.8 last year to 12.3 this year. He is a solid contributor although he may never be the go to guy on the team.
De’Anthony Melton going into his sophomore season will be a wonder to watch how he improves. Melton is talented beyond most freshman’s capabilities, and has a surprisingly sweet defensive game to go along with his ability to take care of the ball. Melton led USC with 1.9 steals a game, a number which will more than likely increase with an increased role.
Jonah Mathews gained coach Andy Enfield’s trust more and more as the season progressed. He is a solid scorer, but takes care of the ball beautifully. His effort and intensity could bring an extra win or two home next year. Mathews had a near 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio which as a freshman in the Pac-12 is an impressive feat.
Nick Rakocevic, a big man with a lot of heart and a powerful post game may have been the X-factor in the tournament for USC. He played extremely well in their win over SMU and at a point in the second half they were running their offense exclusively through him. He averaged 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds a game, both of which should increase next season.
Recruiting wise, USC has an above average recruiting class coming in; it may not be like the DeMar DeRozan class, but solid nonetheless. The main addition is Charles “Chuck” O’Bannon Jr. a 6’5” shooting guard with scoring abilities out of this world. He is also a willing passer, which will play into USC’s offense nicely. The ball never tends to stick in one place unless it’s in Boatwright’s hands, which is where they need it to be in those situations.
O’Bannon is a 4-star recruit from Bishop Gorman out of the Las Vegas area, in three of the four recruiting sites most notably known for being trustworthy he is ranked top 10 in his position..
USC may not have had the outcome they had wanted in the NCAA Tournament, but one thing is for sure, next year they will be a force to be reckoned with. Boatwright, McLaughlin, Metu, Melton, O’Bannon, and a talented recruiting class will look to make some noise next year.