#124 USC Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

USC Trojans

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #124
Conference Rank: #10 Pac-12

USC Team Page#124 USC Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy USC Basketball Tickets

Two years ago, back in the summer of 2013, there was only one word being used to describe the state of USC basketball: optimistic. A good but never great program in the early 2000’s, the ushering in of young, potential stud head coach Andy Enfield was supposed to make a huge difference for this program. Instead, after just two seasons at USC, all the optimism is just about gone. Enfield’s won only five Pac-12 regular season games in two seasons (and 23 games overall). However, 2015-16 could be a (sort of) different season for the Trojans. They don’t have enough talent yet to truly compete in the stacked Pac-12, but more than three wins seem likely.

2014-15 Record: 12-20, 3-15
2014-15 Postseason: None
Coach: Andy Enfield
Coach Record: 23-41 at USC, 64-69 overall

Who’s Out:
Now this is why the optimism, while still low, is starting to grow once again around Southern California. Out of the nine players that played double digit minutes last season, zero of them are leaving. That’s right, not a single player that played significant minutes from last season is leaving. The only player that did anything even remotely meaningful for this team that is departing is junior Kahlil Dukes, who decided to transfer to Niagara for his final two seasons. Dukes, although he didn’t play a lot of minutes last season (7.2 per game), was actually pretty good in the short time that he played. He averaged just about 14 points per 40 minutes and hit over 42% of his downtown tries. Still, Dukes was a below average defender and very one-dimensional offensive player last season. He should be able to find a little more success at the mid-major level for his next two seasons. Other than that, the Trojans are returning just about every other player from last year’s roster.

Who’s In:
Hats off to Andy Enfield in the recruiting regard this offseason. He snagged only two recruits, but they are both four star, top 100 guys that could become elite college basketball players. The first of the two newcomers is Bennie Boatwright from Mission Hills, California. To put it simply, there is a lot to like about Boatwright’s game (and not a whole lot not to like). At 6-9 and 210 pounds, Boatwright is listed as a power forward, but can easily play the small forward position as well because of his elite shooting. He’s a deadly perimeter threat, consistently knocking down open threes, step backs, and fadeaway’s throughout his high school career. He’s not an elite athlete, but showed nice poise and patience in the open floor; last year especially. Basically, the thing that makes so many USC fans excited about Boatwright is his versatility. He’s big enough (and strong enough) to hold his own against the majority of power forwards, but crafty and talented enough to play the small forward position (and play it well). Whichever position he ends up playing, all of the arrows are pointing towards Boatwright having a long, productive and effective college career.

The other incoming recruit is four star power forward Chimezie Metu from Lawndale, California. Although both he and Boatwright are listed as power forwards, Metu is much more of a conventional four. He’s the same height as his freshman counterpart, but is ten pounds stronger and usually keeps his game within the arc. That doesn’t mean he can’t shoot, though. In fact, he’s probably a more dependable and talented shooter then Boatwright from 15-20 feet out. He showed throughout his high school career that he loves to go to work from the midrange, whether that means fading away, stepping back or playing face up. He wasn’t as effective in the low post, but still has the size and body type to be effective down there at some point in his career. The other main selling point of Metu’s game is his incredible athleticism. This helps him on both sides of the floor. Defensively, it made him a better shot blocker last year as well as a tougher guy to beat in the transition. Offensively, it made him more of a force on the offensive glass as well as second chance opportunities. With so much returning talent from last season, it doesn’t seem likely that either one of these guys will get huge minutes next season. However, they’re too talented to not produce at some point in their respective careers, and both have the opportunity to be something really special in the future.

Who to Watch:
With so much returning talent, it should come as no surprise that there will be many things to watch for on next year’s team. Katin Reinhardt, a redshirt junior from Dana Point, California, was very effective in his first season with the Trojans. The leading scorer for the Trojans at 12.5 points per game, Reinhardt put his terrific outside stroke to good use, hitting 38.6% of his 5.1 attempts from downtown. Of course, that wasn’t his only way to get points. His 2.1 free throw attempts per game is a decent stat, but nothing to brag about. Where he did improve greatly throughout the season, however, was his work from the midrange. He still shot 38% from the field, which is a bit disappointing, but he really started to find his confidence in that 15-20 footer by the end of the year and all the signs are pointing towards him having a big year from that range next season. Defensively, he was one of the better perimeter defenders on the team, but that isn’t saying a whole lot considering the Trojans finished 290th in the nation in points allowed per game last season. He doesn’t have the physical frame or skill to score 20 for the Trojans next year, but 15+ certainly isn’t out of the question if he can stay healthy and continue to work on that improving midrange game.

Another big returner is junior Nikola Jovanovic. Jovanovic, a power forward, didn’t score as much as Reinhardt last season (12.3 ppg), but he was definitely the most consistent player on the floor for USC. He hit a high percentage of his shots (51.5% FGP), grabbed boards (7 per game), was a decent defender inside and played a lot of minutes (28 per game). Offensively, Jovanovic did a great job of muscling his way inside using his large frame (6-11, 230 pounds) and getting easy baskets down low. His midrange game, although solid, still needs a bit of work before he can really be regarded as a two-way offensive player. If he can stay healthy and continue to improve his shot blocking (0.8 blocks per game last season), Jovanovic is a guy that is talented enough offensively to really demand attention down low; even at a level as high as the Pac-12. The last returner to spotlight is sophomore point guard Jordan McLaughlin. Although McLaughlin was rather inconsistent in his first season of college ball, the potential is certainly there. Before a shoulder injury forced him to miss the last nine games of the season, McLaughlin was third on the team in points (12.1 ppg), first in assists (4.5 per game) and first in steals (1.5 per game). Of course, he still had problems of his own. He shot a dismal 35.2% from the field and an even worse 27.2% from downtown last year. To make matters even worse, he continued to shoot from outside (4.7 per game) while keeping his midrange attempts to a minimum. He was effective driving to the basket (4.2 free throws per game), but will need to work on his free throw shooting next season (65.2%) to give the Trojans more stability down the stretch. Again, the potential is there for McLaughlin, but he’ll need to clean up his game a little before he can truly be considered as a great point guard. Four other notable returners are junior guard Julian Jacobs (8.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg), sophomore guard Elijah Stewart (6.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg), junior forward Darion Clark (5.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and sophomore forward Malik Martin (5.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg).

Final Projection:
No more excuses this season for Enfield; it’s time to get some wins. Returning an immense amount of talent from last year’s team and sporting two high level recruits, the Trojans finally look ready to at least compete in the devastating Pac-12. A returning trio of double digit scorers (McLaughlin, Jovanovic, Reinhardt) will lead the way, while role playing guys such as Julian Jacobs, Elijah Stewart and Darion Clark will fill in around them. The two young guys (Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Mutu) will get playing time based on potential alone, but will need to fight against some tough competition if they hope to really get some meaningful minutes in their debut seasons. Anything below a .500 record in Pac-12 play and Enfield could be gone; there’s just too much talent here for another 2 to 5 win season in conference play.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Jordan McLaughlin, Sophomore, Guard, 12.1 points per game
Julian Jacobs, Junior, Guard, 8.4 points per game
Katin Reinhardt, Junior, Guard, 12.5 points per game
Darion Clark, Junior, Forward, 5.7 points per game
Nikola Jovanovic, Junior, Forward, 12.3 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 67.0 (189th in nation, 10th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 71.0 (286, 11)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.2 (233, 11)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.2 (126, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.3 (271, 9)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.9 (231, 11)
Free-Throw Percentage: 63.4 (329, 12)
Rebound Margin: -1.8 (261, 10)
Assists Per Game: 12.4 (182, 9)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.0 (291, 12)

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#36 Chimezie Metu
#65 Bennie Boatwright


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