Countdown to College Basketball: #44 USC Trojans

Previews

Coming off a successful season where the Trojans made the Elite Eight, Andy Enfield’s team comes into this season with a solid, but not great roster. Obviously losing Pac-12 Player of the year Evan Mobley is a concern, while Tahj Eaddy was a really dynamic scorer at the guard spot. It will be really tough to replace those two, but the roster is still pretty solid as they return pretty much everyone else. They also add in Boogie Ellis, who could fill in that Tahj Eaddy role as a dynamic playmaker. While this team probably won’t win the league title or advance to an Elite Eight, this should still be an NCAA Tournament team.

Isaiah Mobley presents the Trojans with their best offensive threat. Mobley is a good interior scorer that also shot 43% from three (albeit on limited sample size), but he does most of his damage inside. Mobley played his best basketball late in the season and will look to carry that over to this season as he becomes the primary option offensively while moving out of his brother’s shadow as well. 

Drew Peterson will likely move back to playing at the four as he did at Rice, which does present him an ability to create mismatches. Peterson has traditional guard skills, he’s a good shooter, rebounder, and driver to the basket, while he does possess the skills needed to run some point. While Peterson was good in his role last year, he should improve dramatically this season. Isaiah White presents an ability to step in and be a good role player on the wing, he has shown the ability to have some big games, but probably will just settle down as a good switch defender and floor-spacer. 

While the Trojans went big last season with four starters over 6’7, they probably will look more traditional this season as they move Ethan Anderson and Boogie Ellis into the backcourt. Anderson is a solid guard, he’s a good passer, defender, and shooter, although his carelessness with the ball will get him in trouble. Nonetheless, Anderson will have more of an opportunity to try to develop as a scorer this season and will be the starting point guard. Boogie Ellis presents the Trojans with book or bust potential, he has games where he can look like a Top-10 player in College Basketball and other times where he’s a liability on the court. Ellis is a pure scorer, he’s not a great passer and plays primarily off the ball, if he can remain consistent, he could raise USC’s ceiling dramatically. 

Off the bench, Chevez Goodwin provides some physicality and interior scoring which could be useful in some matchups. Max Agbonkpolo has an interesting skill set and has shown an ability to knock down shots, but hasn’t put it together yet. Malik Thomas will be an interesting player to monitor off the bench. The four-star recruit is well-regarded for his scoring ability and could start at the guard spot if things break right. Freshman Kobe Johnson could also get minutes as a backup guard but is probably a year or two away from being a major contributor. 

For this team, there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered to determine just how good this team can be. First off, how exactly do you replace Evan Mobley, especially defensively, yes offensively having an efficient 7-footer is important but not as important as having someone who blocks and deflects shots at an elite level like Mobley. Mobley’s defense allowed USC to be more aggressive upfront because teams knew many shots going at him would be altered. I don’t think Isaiah Mobley is the great defender that his brother was and I don’t think anyone else will fit that mold either. 

Offensively this team is going to be very boom or bust, while Mobley will probably be a consistent 15 a game scorer, who else can help him. Boogie Ellis, Isaiah White, and Malik Thomas could be the option for some games but that trio is extremely volatile. The team will also need Ethan Anderson to value possessions, he’s a good passer but he can’t turn it over as he has. 

Look for USC to be a team that will have one of the more strong bubble resumés. They will use their collection of talent to beat good teams and they will probably lose 1-2 games they aren’t supposed to either. In the end, I believe USC sneaks into the NCAA Tournament, maybe wins a game or two in the Tournament before exiting stage right for the real contenders. 

Projected Rotation

PG: Ethan Anderson

SG: Boogie Ellis

SF: Isaiah White

PF: Drew Peterson 

C: Isaiah Mobley 

B1: Malik Thomas

B2: Kobe Johnson

B3: Max Agbonkpolo

B4: Chevez Goodwin

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