I feel guilty writing a preview of just SC. For I think the more we talk about just SC the more their coach Andy Enfield wins. Enfield is the guy desperate for publicity. Desperate for attention:
If Alford initiates anything it means Enfield has won. USC isn't supposed to challenge UCLA, so Enfield almost has to take shots while he's trying to establish the Trojans. Alford inherited a team with a lot more talent -- not to mention he's at the program that is more accomplished -- so he doesn't have to respond.
To review Enfield has taken a number of cheap shots:
Enfield, in an article published in the December issue of Men's Journal, launched the first salvo when responding to a booster's question about going head-to-head with UCLA and its first-year coach, Steve Alford: "I don't worry about them. I've made it to one Sweet 16 in two years, and he's made it to one Sweet 16 in 18 years."
That was intentionally done for an audience. But Enfield's first verbal jab reportedly happened behind closed doors. He told his team during an October practice attended by a San Jose Mercury-News reporter, "We play up-tempo basketball here; if you want to play slow, go to UCLA."
I am not big on defending Alford but UCLA under Alford scores 85 points a game while Enfield's Trojans only 75. On the second point, Alford and Enfield may be similar at the same points in their careers. In his first Division I job Alford took Southwest Missouri State to the NCAA Sweet 16 and left to Coach in a big boy conference at Iowa. In his first Division I job Enfield took Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 and left to coach in a big boy conference for just SC. Even Alford's fans must admit that he wasn't ready at Iowa. I think it likely that Enfield isn't either. (Don't forget this incident.)
Of course, the just SC game is another reason to get rid of Howland. Howland was horrendous in this series:
UCLA can't feign indifference in this one. USC has won five of the last 11 meetings in Pauley Pavilion (with one Trojans win vacated due to sanctions). Sunday's game is in Pauley.
I really think this is a product of Howland. I fully expect Alford to win this series this year. Not only win it but dominate.
USC has three interchangeable Centers and is good enough on the boards to be ranked number 23 in the nation. Sounds like a bad match up for UCLA right? Well, there is another number that may be much more important. Just SC ranks number 258 in turnovers per game. Turnovers key the UCLA running game (remember the first half versus Missouri) and USC at times this year has been terrible handling the ball. So yep, just SC will win the battle of the boards, but look for Jordan Adams to beat his steal average and Zach and Norman to have some breakaway dunks.
Really, I think this game could be fun. It could be the last part of the Howland cleansing, a dunkfest blowout win over just SC.
PG. Maryland transfer Pe'Shon Howard is a poor shooter for his career and has some big turnover games. He has had some good games on offense this year (he keyed the Dayton upset) but the number to watch will be his turnovers.
SG/F. Byron Welsey. Wesley is listed as a guard but really is a forward. He is averaging an impressive 7.2 rebounds per game but is shooting a dismal 26% from three. He is a good defender and just SC's leading scorer.
SG Julian Jacobs. Jacobs like to dunk and gets a number of assists. He also has missed dunks and leads the teams in turnovers despite not being the point guard.
PF. Nikola Javonovic. Just SC likes to compare him to the other Nikola who is in the NBA. Seems like a stretch right now.
Center by Committee. Starting Center 7'2" Omar Oraby leads the teams in fouls and has been DQed twice this year. 7'0" DJ Haley transferred from VCU. Javonic also slides over at times. Basically all these guys are okay and not great but may be able to take advantage of UCLA inside.
Wildcard: JT Terrell was just SC's leading scorer last year and comes back from academic suspension. (How bad do you have to be to be suspended academically from just SC?) Enfield mentions how Terrell sometimes try to be spectacular and screws up. He has some ability.
One other thing about just SC they start games poorly often:
The biggest thing Enfield is concerned about heading into conference play is USC's tendency to start slowly.
The Trojans led Howard by only 29-26 at halftime and Terrell and Wesley said they had no explanation for the continued first-half blahs.
. . . It might be best to find an answer before the next game. Coming from behind against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion might be more difficult.
I expect UCLA to force a bunch of turnovers and run away with this one. It should be fun to put a beat down on Enfield and end any discussion of just SC - UCLA basketball rivalry. For that reason, I think this could be the most fun game of the year. If not, Alford will be guilty of a crime.