#21 USC Women's Basketball Preview


Overall rank: #21
Conference rank: Pac-12 #2
USC Women's College Basketball Logo
USC Team Page

It may not have been the NCAA basketball tournament, but the USC women’s basketball team proved it could go far in at least one postseason event. The Trojans rode several hot shooting hands all the way to the finals of the Women’s NIT, where they fell by eight points against a very strong Toledo squad from the Mid-American Conference. If USC can carry some of that hot finish into the 2011-12 season it could be another very long campaign in Los Angeles, but plenty of question marks are on the horizon.

2010-11: 24-13, 10-8
2010-11 Postseason: Women’s NIT (lost in championship game to Toledo, 76-68)
Coach: Michael Cooper, 43-25

Who’s Out:
Two seniors are gone from last year’s roster, but neither will seriously impact USC’s ability to put points on the board. Kari LaPlante, a 6-5 center, averaged 6.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, and 5-10 forward Michelle Franco only played in seven games and averaged 0.7 points a game. In addition, freshman guard Len’Nique Brown transferred to North Carolina State, sophomore guard Jade Smith’s scholarship was not renewed and freshman center Lauren White is off the 2011-12 roster for her sophomore season. White never played a game during the 2010-11 season.

Who’s In:
Four new faces dot the 2011-12 roster, all of whom should be familiar to basketball fans in Southern California. Deanna Calhoun, a 6-3 forward, unfortunately will not play this season due to a knee injury sustained while at Albany (California), and she has redshirted. Ariya Crook, a 5-7 guard from Long Beach Poly, competed at the 2009 Under-18 team trials and is a McDonald’s All-American. Two other players hail from Mater Dei High School, 6-1 forward Alexyz Vaioletama and 6-1 guard Kiki Alofaituli. Vaioletama is a McDonald’s All-American and was invited to take part in the under-19 team trials. Mater Dei won back-to-back state championships.

Who to Watch:
The top four scorers are all back, led by 6-1 senior guard Briana Gilbreath and her 14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. She was second on the team in assists (105) and led the team in steals (91). Ashley Corral, at 12.9 points per game, is USC’s career 3-point shooting leader, and the 5-9 senior guard shot 85-for-228 (37.3 percent) from the perimeter. Jacki Gemelos, a 6-0 guard, averaged 12.4 points per game, and 6-2 forward Cassie Harberts came in at 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. All but Harberts are seniors; Harberts is a sophomore.

Final Projection:
This should be a season where USC tastes NCAA success instead of NIT. The Trojans will have some trouble overcoming powerhouse Stanford for the Pac-12 championship, but having all four top scorers back to the lineup will be a blessing for Cooper and the players. The Trojans only lost close to 10 points per game with the loss of five players, so Cooper won’t have to replace much scoring and he’ll get more with the addition of the talented freshmen.

Non-conference opponents include Nebraska and Georgia at the start of the season, but November 25 brings a big matchup with Notre Dame at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas. USC opens the Pac-12 season on December 29 with Stanford.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Briana Gilbreath, Guard, Senior, 14.4 points per game
Ashley Corral, Guard, Senior, top 3-point shooter
Jacki Gemelos, Guard, Graduate Student, 12.4 points per game
Cassie Harberts, Forward, Sophomore, 10.2 points per game
Christina Marinacci, Forward, Junior, among top five scorers

Madness 2012 WNBA Draft Rankings:
#29 Briana Gilbreath
#39 Ashley Corral

Madness 2011 Women's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#12 Alexyz Vaioletama
#15 Ariya Crook-Williams
#99 Deanna Calhoun