We interrupt our coverage of USC football’s push to the Pac-12 championship and College Football Playoff for this brief basketball update. Yes, the next 100 hours will be full of USC football coverage. We’ll see if the Trojans can win the Pac-12 title against Utah. Then comes the announcement of the bowl games on Sunday. Caleb Williams’ Heisman Trophy pursuit is a headline-generating story. There’s a ton of football news to monitor in the coming days, including the opening of the transfer portal on Monday, Dec. 5.
Before that avalanche of pigskin news, we have to duck in a basketball report.
Let’s be honest: USC basketball was a really big deal for us at Trojans Wire in November of 2021, because the football program made itself irrelevant … until, of course, Lincoln Riley got hired. USC basketball started last season with one win after another. The Trojans didn’t lose until January 11. They were one of the last three unbeaten teams in the country. It was a relief to be able to dive into coverage of a good team at USC in a revenue sport.
It wasn’t on the gridiron, but we had a team to really focus on.
This year, roles have been reversed and — in line with the larger run of history at USC Athletics — reset to their normal default setting.
While the football program roars, the men’s basketball team is having a rough go of it. The Trojans are 5-3 through eight games and have failed to grab quality wins against Tennessee and Wisconsin. The Trojans did not look good against Cal on Wednesday but used a big late run to pull away for a 66-51 victory. They were up just 46-43 midway through the second half and were briefly in danger of losing to the Pac-12’s worst team. Andy Enfield’s preseason proclamation that this was a good shooting team simply hasn’t held up. USC is struggling to score. The Trojans shot 44 percent from the field, 31 percent from 3-point range, and scored under 67 points for a third consecutive game. USC has scored under 67 points in five of its first eight games. Two of the three games in which it scored over 66 points were cupcake games against dramatically inferior opponents.
What has also put a damper on this USC season is the health of Vince Iwuchukwu, the big man who was going to make this roster much more dynamic and complete. USC has played good defense without Iwuchukwu. Just imagine how good this team would be on defense with the elite recruit on the floor. He hasn’t been medically cleared to play, as one would expect of a man who had an episode of cardiac arrest this past summer. USC just isn’t able to fulfill its potential with a five-star player benched for health reasons.
What is interesting about this season, though, is that the Pac-12 is wild and crazy. Conference openers were played on Wednesday and Thursday. Eye-popping results and insane plot twists emerged:
Utah, which lost at home to Sam Houston State, beat Arizona handily, 81-66.
Arizona State was down 15 to Colorado and came back to win on a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left in Boulder.
Washington was down 18, watched big man Franck Kepnang get hurt, and then rallied to take a late lead at Oregon State before a phantom foul contributed to a winning 3-point (and-1) play for the Beavers in the final 10 seconds. Oregon State 66, Washington 65.
If this is any indication of how crazy things will be in Pac-12 basketball this season, we’re in for a very wild ride.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled weekend of USC football coverage. We’ll devote more coverage to basketball in the days leading up to the big USC-Auburn hoops game on Sunday, Dec. 18.