Andy Enfield moves to 6-3 vs Mick Cronin in 9 games against UCLA
When Mick Cronin came to UCLA before the 2019-2020 college basketball season, he hadn’t reached a Final Four, but he had made Cincinnati a nationally relevant program. The Bearcats had been a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They had reached the Sweet 16. Cronin had established himself as a quality coach over several years.
Andy Enfield showed signs of becoming a quality coach. Yet, let’s be honest: When Pat Haden hired him to USC, it was on the basis of that one amazing season at Florida Gulf Coast, the 2013 campaign in which Enfield reached the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed with his FGCU “Dunk City” Eagles, the team which shocked No. 2 seed Georgetown and then beat No. 7 San Diego State to become the first 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to reach the regional semifinals.
Cronin had a much fuller — and longer — body of work when UCLA hired him. Enfield was hired based on potential, not longevity, by Haden and USC.
If you had been told four years ago — when Cronin was hired in Westwood — that Enfield would win six of nine games against Cronin, you probably would have been laughed out of the building.
Yet, that’s the record for Enfield after his 77-64 win against UCLA on Thursday. Enfield had lost three straight to Cronin — twice last March, then on January 5 of this year — but he took back the upper hand when he absolutely had to.
Establishing superiority against Cronin is important because it enables recruits to legitimately consider the idea that USC, not UCLA, is the program of the future in Los Angeles. Enfield has won some high-profile recruiting battles. Each win over UCLA increases the odds he can continue to succeed on the trail and raise USC’s ceiling. Meanwhile, these wins over UCLA carry enormous significance for each Trojan team.
The 2020 Enfield win over Cronin — the Jonah Mathews game — got USC into the 2020 NCAA Tournament before the event was wiped out by the pandemic. This win in 2023 could make the difference between making the NCAAs and going to the NIT. If USC does make the 2023 NCAA Tournament, that will be three straight tournaments on an official level, four straight if we include 2020. Only once before has USC made the NCAA Tournament in three consecutive years: 2007-2009 under Tim Floyd.
USC has not historically been a place where the NCAA Tournament is an annual, regular expectation. That has clearly changed under Andy Enfield, who continues to prove that he can stand up to UCLA and Mick Cronin.
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