The USC Trojans are on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble on January 15. They are not one of the first four teams out of the field. They might be part of the “next four out” at best. Most likely, they’re in the 9-15 range. If they are on the bubble, it’s at the very low end. They have two months to do something about that, beginning with this next crucial series of games against the Arizona schools and UCLA.
Maybe it won’t work out for USC this season, but the Trojans haven’t been playing with a full allotment of resources. Not having big man Vince Iwuchukwu — who finally joined the lineup this week after his cardiac arrest episode in July, but played very sparingly and will be brought along slowly — has limited what this team can do. That is frustrating … but it also opens the door to what’s possible next season if Iwuchukwu returns.
Imagine a full-speed Iwuchukwu, playing anything more than 25 minutes per game, performing alongside elite point guard Isaiah Collier and Collier’s Wheeler High School teammate, forward Arrinten Page. Collier is the playmaking guard USC has lacked since Jordan McLaughlin. He would bring instant chemistry with Page. Iwuchukwu could be the roving defender-rebounder Evan Mobley was, and he can clean the glass while Collier draws defenders and demands attention. One can see how the USC roster could come together beautifully.
USC might not make the NCAA Tournament this season, but the Trojans are still a top-five Pac-12 team. If they can bring all their big guns into next season and land a high-impact transfer in the portal, they could be set up to do something really special.