The Trojans could shock the conference in 2004. In between all the triumphs and inconsistencies in the past season, the USC program did appear to be improving and maturing during a great Pac-10 Tournament run. Or wait a minute - did they? That's what 2004 will answer. Coach Henry Bibby has a starter back at every position, his best six scorers, and a solid guard-oriented recruiting class. Much could have been gained from last year, but the question is, did the Trojans learn?"> The Trojans could shock the conference in 2004. In between all the triumphs and inconsistencies in the past season, the USC program did appear to be improving and maturing during a great Pac-10 Tournament run. Or wait a minute - did they? That's what 2004 will answer. Coach Henry Bibby has a starter back at every position, his best six scorers, and a solid guard-oriented recruiting class. Much could have been gained from last year, but the question is, did the Trojans learn?">

2003 Pac-10 BB Preview: No. 5 USC

<p class="txt">The Trojans could shock the conference in 2004. In between all the triumphs and inconsistencies in the past season, the USC program did appear to be improving and maturing during a great Pac-10 Tournament run. Or wait a minute - did they? That's what 2004 will answer. Coach Henry Bibby has a starter back at every position, his best six scorers, and a solid guard-oriented recruiting class. Much could have been gained from last year, but the question is, did the Trojans learn?

Head Coach: Henry Bibby (Eighth Year)
Assistants: Marvin Menzies, Eric Brown, Mike Johnson
Website: www.usctrojans.com

2002-03 Pac-10 record: 6-12 (finished tied for sixth, seventh seed); 2-1 in the Pac-10 Tournament
2002-03 Overall record: 13-17
2002-03 Highlight: The 2003 season was highlighted by USC's first season sweep of cross-town rival UCLA since 1992, and the Trojans' second consecutive appearance in the Pac-10 Tournament Championship game. The latter came on the heels of a poor late-season finish in conference play that featured many squandered leads.

Best USC quote:

"Bibby dreams of a day when five high school stars from the gyms and playgrounds of Southern California will come together at USC to do amazing things together. He calls them the Miracle Five. That is the blueprint. That is the vision."

- Leigh Montville of Sports Illustrated, in an article talking about the ideal program under Coach Bibby.

Key Losses:
Robert Hutchinson 6'1 185 (5.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 2.3 apg) - departing senior
Jerry Dupree 6'7 220 (5.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg) - dismissed from school for academics
Brandon Brooks 6'1 170 (4.5 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 3.5 apg) - suffered career ending ankle injury after sophomore year
Kostas Charissis 6'11 260 (2.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg) - played in 19 games during injury-riddled senior season

Recruiting Class:
PG - Rodrick Stewart 6'4 200 Fr - Rainier Beach HS, Rainier Beach WA - earned 3A WA State MVP
SG - Lodrick Stewart 6'4 210 Fr - Rainier Beach HS, Rainier Beach WA - 19 ppg, 6 rpg, All-State
PF - Quinton Day 6'0 175 Fr - Paseo Academy, Kansas City MO - 20 ppg, 5 apg, 6 rpg as a Sr

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in Bold):
PG - Rodrick Stewart 6'4 200 Fr - Rainier Beach HS, Rainier Beach WA - earned 3A WA State MVP
SG - Errick Craven 6'2 205 Jr (13.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.5 spg) - Pac-10 Steals leader last yr
SF - Desmon Farmer 6'5 220 Sr (18.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.8 apg) - finished 4th in scoring (Pac-10)
PF - Jeff McMillan 6'8 260 Jr - transfer from Fordham - Did not play last year sitting out transfer yr
C - Rory O'Neill 6'11 240 Jr (10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 37% 3-Ptr's) -scored in double figures 17 times; 25 starts during 2002-03

Key Returning Reserves:
PG - Derrick Craven 6'2 215 Jr (4.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.3 apg) - started 25 games in 2002-03
SG - Roydell Smiley 6'4 195 Sr (8.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.3 apg) - 40 three's in 2002-03; 2nd most on team
PF - Gregg Guenther 6'8 245 Jr (6.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg) - 9 starts after USC football season ended
C - Jonathon Oliver 7'0 230 Sr (2.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg) - played in 17 games in 2002-03
PF - Nick Curtis 6'8 225 Jr (6.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) - started 15 games last year, slowed by foot injury

Last year, USC had a hard time replacing the leadership of Sam Clancy, Brandon Granville, and David Bluthenthal, a trio that played marvelous ball during their Southern Cal careers. Without a true leader, the Trojans were just an up and down team. They started off with a 2-3 record in non-conference play, including a tough loss to Rhode Island in overtime. Then, as Pac-10 play began, Coach Bibby's squad seemed to climb a major hurdle with a thrilling victory against UCLA, but the pendulum swung back just three nights later as Ivy League-power Pennsylvania visited Los Angeles and thumped the Trojans by 38 points. All season long, team chemistry was unbalanced with leading scorer Desmon Farmer and slashing two-guard Errick Craven going in two different directions. The frustration mounted as the Trojans lost 7 consecutive games at the end of the Pac-10 schedule.

Playing with their backs firmly against the wall, Coach Bibby somehow got through to his players. Facing season elimination against Washington State, USC stepped up and put away the Cougars to notch the seventh seed in the Pac-10 Tournament. Stanford became the next victim, and Cal fell the following night to the delight of the home Los Angeles crowd. The win over the Golden Bears thrust the Trojans into the Pac-10 finale. With a win over Oregon, USC could have thrown the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee into a state of chaos. But the ship sank that afternoon, and after the loss to Oregon, the Trojans did nothing more than go out swinging, putting their own chaos on public display.

"I wasn't happy with Desmon's performance," coach Henry Bibby said after the loss to Oregon. "What he was doing wasn't in the framework of our team. He wasn't focusing on team basketball. The game isn't about Desmon Farmer, it's about our team. I have that right not to put him in the game."

Desmon Farmer shot back with a shrug.

"It was really my fault," Farmer said after shooting 0 for 7 in the second half. "I must have done something wrong."

Overall, Henry Bibby has accomplished a real turnaround in the USC program. It started when he joined Charlie Parker's staff in May of 1995, and after a floundering start under Parker that fall, the former UCLA All-American went from assistant coach to interim Head Coach in February. Bibby, who also spent time as an assistant at Arizona State, had the interim title removed in March. Since that changeover in 1996, USC basketball has enjoyed their best stretch ever, including back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2001and 2002 for the first time in 63 years. The Trojans are just 2 1/2 years removed from an NCAA Elite 8 appearance, and in 2002, the Trojans finished second in the Pac-10. There is no doubt, Henry Bibby has been the best coach in the history of USC basketball. Now he hopes to complete another turnaround and convert last year's negatives into a new positive environment.

"I'm encouraged about the attitude of the guys," Bibby said. "The kids coming back are really excited. They're a year older. They feel they have a chance to go some place this year. The team has bonded as well as any we've had here through individual workouts and conditioning. They've come together and are focused and have put forth the effort and that's half the battle right there. The kids last year turned the corner. If we stay injury free this year, we can do some damage."

In an effort to spark that new attitude, Coach Bibby welcomed three new freshmen and two new assistant coaches in 2003. Regarded as one of the strongest personalities in the Pac-10, Bibby's teams usually reflect his tough mindset. When you compete against the Trojans, you can expect a very physical and open-court game. Their success in the NCAA Tournament and the Pac-10 Tournament can be directly attributed to that style of play.

The guys who most reflect that aggressive style are the identical-twin juniors Errick and Derrick Craven, the Trojans starting backcourt. Derrick adjusted well last year to playing point guard and showed excellent quickness on defense, gaining confidence as the season played out. He's not a natural point and will sometimes struggle during half-court sets. In 2004, we might see an improved Derrick Craven, though he will not start. His brother Errick has impressed many the past two years with his fearless driving game and quick hands. Usually good for one highlight a night, Errick takes many of the Trojan's big shots, and this year will be no different. Both Cravens have struggled with shot selection from the perimeter and can fall victim to foul trouble since they are so aggressive. Nonetheless, this tandem can play at a very high pace.

The first guard off the bench will be Roy (or Roydell) Smiley, a senior shooting guard with streaky scoring abilities. Smiley's play has been limited because of Errick Craven's slashing game, but Smiley is one of the top reserves in the Pac-10. He has had no trouble with the transition from his JC and brings a scorer's mentality to the court.

Freshman Quinton Day from Kansas City ranks as a possible future point guard for the team, though with freshman Rodrick Stewart in front of him, that seems a challenge. After verbally committing to Nebraska, Day changed his mind on signing day in order to attend school in Los Angeles. He could steal some minutes early in his career if he has a quality fall practice session. Coach Bibby has been quoted saying Day "is a legitimate option" in 2004.

Behind the Craven tandem is another set of twin brothers, freshmen Rodrick and Lodrick Stewart from Rainier Beach, Washington. This may be the first instance in college basketball history that a team had two pair of identical twins. The Trojan staff was elated when the athletic duo from the northwest both chose to play in Los Angeles after a hard-fought recruiting battle with the Huskies.

During their successful prep careers, the highly touted pair led the Rainier Beach Vikings to back-to-back Washington state titles and three straight state championship appearances, incidentally with some help from UW's Nate Robinson. Rodrick is the more polished and accomplished player of the two, according to most scouts, and was named by College Basketball News as Washington's best high school player last year. Much like Errick Craven, Rodrick can slash to the basket and rebound with the best of them.

"Rodrick might be one of the best point guards I have ever coached," Bibby recently said. "He is one of the first players I have coached who makes a difference on both ends of the floor."

It's clear that Rodrick will bump Derrick Craven from the starting line-up. Lodrick isn't far behind his twin offensively and could be the better overall defender. Both were rated as Top 100 prep players by most national recruiting services.

Recent news reports have the Stewart twins pushing the Craven duo in practice in spite of the freshman learning curve. The Stewarts, along with Quinton Day, are still learning about the heavy hand that the USC program's top dog wields. In fact, just two weeks ago - at midnight - you would have seen the foursome running laps around Cromwell Field Track on the USC Campus.

"They didn't want to go to class, but I'm big on that," Bibby said. "They just have to do something they don't want to do. This is a great institution to go to, and they need to realize it."

Roy Smiley was in that group too, and the foursome lost their practice uniforms for a few days. That's really how it is at Southern Cal, Coach Bibby is a no nonsense throwback-style coach. This has undeniably helped the Trojans during some seasons, but it may have hurt them last year. Given that the Trojans have more athleticism in their backcourt this year than anyone else in the Pac-10, the challenge is going to be all mental for this group.

On the wing, USC has the Conference of Champions #4 scorer back: Desmon Farmer. Only Ike Diogu scored more points per game than Farmer among returning Pac-10 players, and the senior from Flint, Michigan is one tough hombre. A solid outside shooter with a penchant for off-balance jumpers in the lane, Farmer is the Trojans' most experienced player. He's also a volatile personality who publicly plays the critic during losses. Defensively, Desmon is often challenged by taller wings who can shoot over him. Nevertheless, he's a quality scorer and won't see his minutes reduced despite the presence of Smiley and the Stewart twins, all guys who can play the wing effectively. Farmer could be USC's leader.

The post game lands squarely on center Rory O'Neill, a 6'11 junior from California's high desert. After two very productive seasons, O'Neill will again be a factor due to his solid mid-range face-up game. Rory has been to the last two Pete Newell camps to improve his back-to-the-basket game. With some weight and a few more post moves this season or next, O'Neill will be a force. Either junior Nick Curtis or junior transfer Jeff McMillan will join him in the starting line-up, with McMillan more likely to do so despite a foot stress fracture this summer. McMillan transferred to USC from Fordham and sat out the 2002-03 campaign. He possesses some nifty post moves and has the size that Curtis does not have, and some believe that McMillan could become a Sam Clancy type if his jumper clicks. Curtis still could still make some starts this year if McMillan's foot injury persists, but Nick has injury issues of his own. He averaged nearly a double-double when healthy last year.

Also helping out in the post is junior tight-end Greg Guenther, a big spark last year who came off the gridiron to stabilize the inside game. Guenther will not play until the Trojans finish their football season again, but he's the best football-basketball combo in the conference. Senior Jonathon Oliver won't see much court time this year, paralleling last season.

Like their Los Angeles area rivals, the USC Trojans are going to be a team to watch in the upcoming Pac-10 season. The Men of Troy did not make a coaching change like the Bruins, but their story line will nevertheless be loaded with drama. Aside from the thug-passion and competitiveness that Bibby has stamped into the program, the Trojans have talented backcourt athletes who will find ways to score against teams with shaky defenses.

Though the Trojans don't have a Shaquille O'Neal in the middle, Rory is a quality Pac-10 player who could be an All Pac-10 selection as early as this season. Coach Bibby does have a log-jam at the two-guard (it will be interesting to see how he makes this work), but slotting Rodrick Stewart at the point will ease things.

In order to achieve a top-half Pac-10 finish in 2003-04, the Trojans will have to shoot the ball better from the perimeter, as only Farmer and O'Neill worry other Pac-10 teams. If Jeff McMillan becomes a viable option in the post, Henry Bibby's team might make it back to the Big Dance. This is a team loaded with athleticism, but McMillan or Curtis completing O'Neill's high post game will have to happen.

Look for the Trojans to finish right down the middle.

©Copyright September 2003, GoCyberBears.com and The Insiders. All rights reserved.

============

CyberBear Staff Writers regularly visit the CyberBears Insider board, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article or about Cal Athletics.

= GreyBear, Webmaster


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Head Coach: Henry Bibby (Eighth Year)
Assistants: Marvin Menzies, Eric Brown, Mike Johnson
Website: www.usctrojans.com

2002-03 Pac-10 record: 6-12 (finished tied for sixth, seventh seed); 2-1 in the Pac-10 Tournament
2002-03 Overall record: 13-17
2002-03 Highlight: The 2003 season was highlighted by USC's first season sweep of cross-town rival UCLA since 1992, and the Trojans' second consecutive appearance in the Pac-10 Tournament Championship game. The latter came on the heels of a poor late-season finish in conference play that featured many squandered leads.

Best USC quote:

"Bibby dreams of a day when five high school stars from the gyms and playgrounds of Southern California will come together at USC to do amazing things together. He calls them the Miracle Five. That is the blueprint. That is the vision."

- Leigh Montville of Sports Illustrated, in an article talking about the ideal program under Coach Bibby.

Key Losses:
Robert Hutchinson 6'1 185 (5.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 2.3 apg) - departing senior
Jerry Dupree 6'7 220 (5.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg) - dismissed from school for academics
Brandon Brooks 6'1 170 (4.5 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 3.5 apg) - suffered career ending ankle injury after sophomore year
Kostas Charissis 6'11 260 (2.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg) - played in 19 games during injury-riddled senior season

Recruiting Class:
PG - Rodrick Stewart 6'4 200 Fr - Rainier Beach HS, Rainier Beach WA - earned 3A WA State MVP
SG - Lodrick Stewart 6'4 210 Fr - Rainier Beach HS, Rainier Beach WA - 19 ppg, 6 rpg, All-State
PF - Quinton Day 6'0 175 Fr - Paseo Academy, Kansas City MO - 20 ppg, 5 apg, 6 rpg as a Sr

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in Bold):
PG - Rodrick Stewart 6'4 200 Fr - Rainier Beach HS, Rainier Beach WA - earned 3A WA State MVP
SG - Errick Craven 6'2 205 Jr (13.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.5 spg) - Pac-10 Steals leader last yr
SF - Desmon Farmer 6'5 220 Sr (18.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.8 apg) - finished 4th in scoring (Pac-10)
PF - Jeff McMillan 6'8 260 Jr - transfer from Fordham - Did not play last year sitting out transfer yr
C - Rory O'Neill 6'11 240 Jr (10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 37% 3-Ptr's) -scored in double figures 17 times; 25 starts during 2002-03

Key Returning Reserves:
PG - Derrick Craven 6'2 215 Jr (4.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.3 apg) - started 25 games in 2002-03
SG - Roydell Smiley 6'4 195 Sr (8.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.3 apg) - 40 three's in 2002-03; 2nd most on team
PF - Gregg Guenther 6'8 245 Jr (6.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg) - 9 starts after USC football season ended
C - Jonathon Oliver 7'0 230 Sr (2.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg) - played in 17 games in 2002-03
PF - Nick Curtis 6'8 225 Jr (6.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) - started 15 games last year, slowed by foot injury

Last year, USC had a hard time replacing the leadership of Sam Clancy, Brandon Granville, and David Bluthenthal, a trio that played marvelous ball during their Southern Cal careers. Without a true leader, the Trojans were just an up and down team. They started off with a 2-3 record in non-conference play, including a tough loss to Rhode Island in overtime. Then, as Pac-10 play began, Coach Bibby's squad seemed to climb a major hurdle with a thrilling victory against UCLA, but the pendulum swung back just three nights later as Ivy League-power Pennsylvania visited Los Angeles and thumped the Trojans by 38 points. All season long, team chemistry was unbalanced with leading scorer Desmon Farmer and slashing two-guard Errick Craven going in two different directions. The frustration mounted as the Trojans lost 7 consecutive games at the end of the Pac-10 schedule.

Playing with their backs firmly against the wall, Coach Bibby somehow got through to his players. Facing season elimination against Washington State, USC stepped up and put away the Cougars to notch the seventh seed in the Pac-10 Tournament. Stanford became the next victim, and Cal fell the following night to the delight of the home Los Angeles crowd. The win over the Golden Bears thrust the Trojans into the Pac-10 finale. With a win over Oregon, USC could have thrown the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee into a state of chaos. But the ship sank that afternoon, and after the loss to Oregon, the Trojans did nothing more than go out swinging, putting their own chaos on public display.

"I wasn't happy with Desmon's performance," coach Henry Bibby said after the loss to Oregon. "What he was doing wasn't in the framework of our team. He wasn't focusing on team basketball. The game isn't about Desmon Farmer, it's about our team. I have that right not to put him in the game."

Desmon Farmer shot back with a shrug.

"It was really my fault," Farmer said after shooting 0 for 7 in the second half. "I must have done something wrong."

Overall, Henry Bibby has accomplished a real turnaround in the USC program. It started when he joined Charlie Parker's staff in May of 1995, and after a floundering start under Parker that fall, the former UCLA All-American went from assistant coach to interim Head Coach in February. Bibby, who also spent time as an assistant at Arizona State, had the interim title removed in March. Since that changeover in 1996, USC basketball has enjoyed their best stretch ever, including back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2001and 2002 for the first time in 63 years. The Trojans are just 2 1/2 years removed from an NCAA Elite 8 appearance, and in 2002, the Trojans finished second in the Pac-10. There is no doubt, Henry Bibby has been the best coach in the history of USC basketball. Now he hopes to complete another turnaround and convert last year's negatives into a new positive environment.

"I'm encouraged about the attitude of the guys," Bibby said. "The kids coming back are really excited. They're a year older. They feel they have a chance to go some place this year. The team has bonded as well as any we've had here through individual workouts and conditioning. They've come together and are focused and have put forth the effort and that's half the battle right there. The kids last year turned the corner. If we stay injury free this year, we can do some damage."

In an effort to spark that new attitude, Coach Bibby welcomed three new freshmen and two new assistant coaches in 2003. Regarded as one of the strongest personalities in the Pac-10, Bibby's teams usually reflect his tough mindset. When you compete against the Trojans, you can expect a very physical and open-court game. Their success in the NCAA Tournament and the Pac-10 Tournament can be directly attributed to that style of play.

The guys who most reflect that aggressive style are the identical-twin juniors Errick and Derrick Craven, the Trojans starting backcourt. Derrick adjusted well last year to playing point guard and showed excellent quickness on defense, gaining confidence as the season played out. He's not a natural point and will sometimes struggle during half-court sets. In 2004, we might see an improved Derrick Craven, though he will not start. His brother Errick has impressed many the past two years with his fearless driving game and quick hands. Usually good for one highlight a night, Errick takes many of the Trojan's big shots, and this year will be no different. Both Cravens have struggled with shot selection from the perimeter and can fall victim to foul trouble since they are so aggressive. Nonetheless, this tandem can play at a very high pace.

The first guard off the bench will be Roy (or Roydell) Smiley, a senior shooting guard with streaky scoring abilities. Smiley's play has been limited because of Errick Craven's slashing game, but Smiley is one of the top reserves in the Pac-10. He has had no trouble with the transition from his JC and brings a scorer's mentality to the court.

Freshman Quinton Day from Kansas City ranks as a possible future point guard for the team, though with freshman Rodrick Stewart in front of him, that seems a challenge. After verbally committing to Nebraska, Day changed his mind on signing day in order to attend school in Los Angeles. He could steal some minutes early in his career if he has a quality fall practice session. Coach Bibby has been quoted saying Day "is a legitimate option" in 2004.

Behind the Craven tandem is another set of twin brothers, freshmen Rodrick and Lodrick Stewart from Rainier Beach, Washington. This may be the first instance in college basketball history that a team had two pair of identical twins. The Trojan staff was elated when the athletic duo from the northwest both chose to play in Los Angeles after a hard-fought recruiting battle with the Huskies.

During their successful prep careers, the highly touted pair led the Rainier Beach Vikings to back-to-back Washington state titles and three straight state championship appearances, incidentally with some help from UW's Nate Robinson. Rodrick is the more polished and accomplished player of the two, according to most scouts, and was named by College Basketball News as Washington's best high school player last year. Much like Errick Craven, Rodrick can slash to the basket and rebound with the best of them.

"Rodrick might be one of the best point guards I have ever coached," Bibby recently said. "He is one of the first players I have coached who makes a difference on both ends of the floor."

It's clear that Rodrick will bump Derrick Craven from the starting line-up. Lodrick isn't far behind his twin offensively and could be the better overall defender. Both were rated as Top 100 prep players by most national recruiting services.

Recent news reports have the Stewart twins pushing the Craven duo in practice in spite of the freshman learning curve. The Stewarts, along with Quinton Day, are still learning about the heavy hand that the USC program's top dog wields. In fact, just two weeks ago - at midnight - you would have seen the foursome running laps around Cromwell Field Track on the USC Campus.

"They didn't want to go to class, but I'm big on that," Bibby said. "They just have to do something they don't want to do. This is a great institution to go to, and they need to realize it."

Roy Smiley was in that group too, and the foursome lost their practice uniforms for a few days. That's really how it is at Southern Cal, Coach Bibby is a no nonsense throwback-style coach. This has undeniably helped the Trojans during some seasons, but it may have hurt them last year. Given that the Trojans have more athleticism in their backcourt this year than anyone else in the Pac-10, the challenge is going to be all mental for this group.

On the wing, USC has the Conference of Champions #4 scorer back: Desmon Farmer. Only Ike Diogu scored more points per game than Farmer among returning Pac-10 players, and the senior from Flint, Michigan is one tough hombre. A solid outside shooter with a penchant for off-balance jumpers in the lane, Farmer is the Trojans' most experienced player. He's also a volatile personality who publicly plays the critic during losses. Defensively, Desmon is often challenged by taller wings who can shoot over him. Nevertheless, he's a quality scorer and won't see his minutes reduced despite the presence of Smiley and the Stewart twins, all guys who can play the wing effectively. Farmer could be USC's leader.

The post game lands squarely on center Rory O'Neill, a 6'11 junior from California's high desert. After two very productive seasons, O'Neill will again be a factor due to his solid mid-range face-up game. Rory has been to the last two Pete Newell camps to improve his back-to-the-basket game. With some weight and a few more post moves this season or next, O'Neill will be a force. Either junior Nick Curtis or junior transfer Jeff McMillan will join him in the starting line-up, with McMillan more likely to do so despite a foot stress fracture this summer. McMillan transferred to USC from Fordham and sat out the 2002-03 campaign. He possesses some nifty post moves and has the size that Curtis does not have, and some believe that McMillan could become a Sam Clancy type if his jumper clicks. Curtis still could still make some starts this year if McMillan's foot injury persists, but Nick has injury issues of his own. He averaged nearly a double-double when healthy last year.

Also helping out in the post is junior tight-end Greg Guenther, a big spark last year who came off the gridiron to stabilize the inside game. Guenther will not play until the Trojans finish their football season again, but he's the best football-basketball combo in the conference. Senior Jonathon Oliver won't see much court time this year, paralleling last season.

Like their Los Angeles area rivals, the USC Trojans are going to be a team to watch in the upcoming Pac-10 season. The Men of Troy did not make a coaching change like the Bruins, but their story line will nevertheless be loaded with drama. Aside from the thug-passion and competitiveness that Bibby has stamped into the program, the Trojans have talented backcourt athletes who will find ways to score against teams with shaky defenses.

Though the Trojans don't have a Shaquille O'Neal in the middle, Rory is a quality Pac-10 player who could be an All Pac-10 selection as early as this season. Coach Bibby does have a log-jam at the two-guard (it will be interesting to see how he makes this work), but slotting Rodrick Stewart at the point will ease things.

In order to achieve a top-half Pac-10 finish in 2003-04, the Trojans will have to shoot the ball better from the perimeter, as only Farmer and O'Neill worry other Pac-10 teams. If Jeff McMillan becomes a viable option in the post, Henry Bibby's team might make it back to the Big Dance. This is a team loaded with athleticism, but McMillan or Curtis completing O'Neill's high post game will have to happen.

Look for the Trojans to finish right down the middle.

©Copyright September 2003, GoCyberBears.com and The Insiders. All rights reserved.

============

CyberBear Staff Writers regularly visit the CyberBears Insider board, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article or about Cal Athletics.

= GreyBear, Webmaster

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