Why Andy Enfield, USC should rest Drew Peterson in Pac-12 Tournament
We can’t say enough good things about Drew Peterson. He clearly wasn’t close to 100-percent healthy on Saturday night, but he was not going to sit on Senior Night for his final home game in the Galen Center.
Peterson didn’t score a ton of points, and his stat line was not overwhelming, but Peterson played 31 minutes of hard-nosed defense. Given that Vince Iwuchukwu was out with an injury, and Josh Morgan got into early foul trouble, USC needed a veteran to play big defensive minutes. The Trojans simply don’t have a deep enough bench to handle a game in which Peterson can’t play. The simple fact that Peterson played was a huge reason the USC bench — with a manageable workload — was able to make meaningful contributions against Arizona State. Take Peterson completely out of the game, and the burden for the USC reserves might have been too great.
Peterson has carried USC to the doorstep of the NCAA Tournament. Even if the Trojans lose in the Pac-12 Tournament, they are still very likely to be in the field. Seeding and placement are the main questions.
Drew Peterson has given everything to USC. He is and will be remembered as a great Trojan. Assuming USC does make the NCAA Tournament, Peterson will have contributed to three consecutive NCAA Tournament teams, giving him a USC basketball legacy few can match.
Everyone would agree with this statement: Peterson deserves the best possible chance of being at full strength in the NCAA Tournament, so that he is in the best possible position to maximize his performance on the biggest stage in what will be his last March Madness run at USC.
If we agree on that statement, and if we agree that USC is nearly certain to make the NCAA Tournament, that leads us to the following point about Peterson, who is suffering from back spasms: USC and Andy Enfield should rest him for the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.
Here’s the thing: If USC wins and advances to Friday’s semifinal against Arizona, Peterson wouldn’t be playing under the strain of logging big minutes (or any minutes at all) on back-to-back days. Give him a chance to play against Arizona, but save him from the grueling workload which is part of a conference tournament. If Peterson is feeling great on Thursday morning, fine — play him in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. If there is any question about his health, however, he should sit. Give him a chance to be ready for the really big tournament.
Also, sitting Peterson means that a few bench players can take over those Peterson minutes and get crucial experience one week before the NCAA Tournament. Enfield can throw some guys into the fire and test them so that when he needs something extra in the NCAA Tournament, he might be able to get more than he previously expected. This could be a training ground for younger, less proven players who could become surprising X-factors for the Trojans in the NCAA Tournament.
A compromise position: If USC is playing Oregon State (which might not happen, but let’s play along with the hypothetical here), it might need to win in order to get into the NCAA Tournament. Under that scenario, have Peterson ready to play 10 to 15 minutes if absolutely necessary, but don’t push him out there for 30 to 35 minutes. Trust other guys to step up and play better. That’s how a program develops.
We will see if Peterson gets healthy, and we will see how Andy Enfield handles this situations.
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