The USC Trojans basketball team has not lost a game in two weeks. Let that sink in a little bit. After starting the season with a record of 2-3, the Trojans have gone 4-0 since and seem like they are making tremendous progress. Andy Enfield has this group rolling right now and it definitely showed in Sunday’s 89-84 win against Utah State.
The offense has been putting up points on the board as the Trojans recorded their highest point total of the season on Tuesday and then beat that record on Sunday. It must have been the day of Serbians on Sunday as Nikola Jovanovic and Luis Gavrilovic both played exceptionally well against the Aggies of Utah State. Jovanovic recorded his highest point total of the season (23) as he shot 9 of 11 from the field. The sophomore shot 100-percent from behind the three point line, which might be even better for the Trojans than his 20+ point performance overall. If Jovanovic can consistently hit from deep, this team could be scary down the road. It opens up the lane for Jordan McLaughlin, Katin Reinhardt and others to drive since Jovanovic’s defender has to come out of the lane and guard against the three.
Jovanovic’s Serbian counterpart, Luis Gavrilovic, scored 13 points on Sunday and although he didn’t contribute with rebounds, he only missed two shots the entire afternoon. Combined, the Serbian’s shot 15 for 19 and scored 36 points. If Enfield gets production like that from the two Serbian’s at anytime this year, he’s going to mightily pleased.
A good stat that Max Meyer of NeonTommy.com pointed out was that over Jordan McLaughlin’s first three games, he had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.2. Over his last six games? Well, McLaughlin’s improved immensely as his ratio over the period of time is 3.3. As McLaughlin grows, so will this team. A lot of reporters have said this since the beginning of the year and know that this team will go as far as McLaughlin takes them. Though Katin Reinhardt may be the veteran leader of the group, McLaughlin leads by example. He’s the best USC freshman Trojan fans have seen in awhile. This group has a bright future that only brightens by the day and one Julian Jacobs alley-oop dunk at a time.
Top 25 Rankings
1. Kentucky (LW: 1)
The Wildcats actually faced a very tough opponent this week in Texas. The Longhorns have the size and strength to compete with Kentucky and are one of the only teams in the nation that had a legit chance of knocking off the Wildcats. Well, Texas fell short and to no surprise, Kentucky continues on with its undefeated season. The Wildcats were just too big, athletic and fast for the Longhorns and it really hurt that Texas was missing arguably its best player in Isaiah Taylor, who can’t get heathy soon enough. Kentucky’s biggest remaining test comes against Louisville on December 27th.
2. Duke (LW: 2)
There’s Kentucky, then Duke, then everybody else. The Blue Devils and Wildcats have clearly separated themselves from the pack and Duke proved that this week with its 10 point win over a very good Wisconsin team. Jahlil Okafor is scary when he palms the ball while backing you down and it was impressive how he was able to bully Kaminsky down low a couple of times. Tyus Jones was excellent as well and when Duke really starts to work that inside-out game with Okafor and Jones and Winslow, watch out. It would have been awesome to have seen Duke and Kentucky play in the Champions Classic this year, but that’s for another time.
3. Arizona (LW: 3)
The McKale Center is a hostile environment to play in and Gonzaga came in and controlled the game from start to finish. However, that still wasn’t enough as Arizona escaped with the victory in overtime and won its third close game this season. Good teams find ways to win close games and Arizona has done that against Kansas State, San Diego State and now Gonzaga. Stanley Johnson did not play up to his potential on Saturday and the Wildcats still won, which is scary. In fact, the team didn’t play very well as a whole against the Zags. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had to find a way to create his own shot more times than once, which kind of put him out of his comfort zone. That’s not really the type of player he is. However, he was stellar on the defensive end as usual and did a good job containing Domantas Sabonis.
4. Louisville (LW: 6)
5. Wisconsin (LW: 4)
6. Villanova (LW: 9)
7. Virginia (LW: 11)
How many times can Tony Bennett be called an underrated coach before he’s not underrated anymore? Most media members out there are still searching for the answer to that question. Bennett gets his team to play hard for him, execute on both sides of the floor and just win. The Cavaliers might be better this year than last and that’s got to be scary for the ACC. VCU was completely shut down and couldn't do what they wanted to on the offensive side of the ball. The shots the Rams did make were very tough and they got more lucky than anything. Virginia did a great job of handling VCU’s pressure and calmly broke the press for the majority of the game. Justin Anderson is a name to remember. Athletic freak and he can stroke it from deep as well.
8. Gonzaga (LW: 5)
The Zags should have left McKale Center with a victory on Saturday night, but should and did are two different things. Good teams pull it out in late game situations and Gonzaga just couldn’t do it. According to Myron Medcalf, the Bulldogs are now 2-4 against ranked teams in the regular season since 2012. When you play in a conference like the WCC with a slew of weak teams, you have to capitalize on your out-of-conference games and although Gonzaga beat St. Johns and SMU this year, the Zags just couldn't pull of that signature victory against Arizona. Maybe the two teams will meet again in the NCAA Tournament…
9. Texas (LW: 8)
10. Kansas (LW: 7)
11. Ohio State (LW: 13)
12. Utah (LW: NR)
What a thriller in Salt Lake City between the Utes and Wichita State. It really could have gone either way at the end, but Utah found a way to pull it out, in big thanks to Delon Wright and the sudden upstart Jakob Poeltl. It was very interesting watching Wright against San Diego State earlier in the year and watching Wright against Wichita State. He obviously had a lot more success against Wichita State and this shows how he’s progressed even within the season. Sure, the Aztecs played stellar defense on Wright, but a guy with his ability should be able to score on any team. He was assertive against the Shockers and that was a big part in why the Utes won. His sidekick in disguise was Poeltl though. The Austrian big man recorded a double-double and played terrific interior defense. He might be the best defensive big man in the Pac-12 along with Robert Upshaw and Kaleb Tarczewski. One thing that was amazing about this win? The Utes didn’t even have Jordan Loveridge, one of their best offensive threats. Utah is looking pretty good for that second spot in the Pac-12 right now.
13. Wichita State (LW: 10)
14. Notre Dame (LW: 25)
What a grind-it-out type win against Michigan State. The Spartans were more athletic, but that, nor the refs at the end of regulation, could stop Jerian Grant and Demetrius Jackson. Grant is one of the best players in the nation and he’ll be fun to watch against Duke, Louisville and Virginia in the ACC, but one of the guys that really impressed was point guard Demetrius Jackson. He had a clutch and-one towards the end of the game and he finished strong towards the hoop on every drive. He’s built very well and should be one of the strongest point guards in the ACC. Watch out for this dynamic duo.
15. Oklahoma (LW: 17)
16. Butler (LW: 20)
17. Georgetown (LW: NR)
18. Maryland (LW: 23)
19. St. Johns (LW: NR)
St. Johns’ mascot fits the team perfectly: The Red Storm. Everyone on the team is athletic as heck and the Johnnies play hard on defense for Steve Lavin. They traveled to the Carrier Dome this week and knocked off a tough Syracuse team fairly easily. D’Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene IV shot lights out from deep and Chris Obekpa made sure Rakeem Christmas didn’t get anything easy inside as the St. Johns big man had 16 rebounds and 4 blocks. Maybe it’s the short shorts, but Obekpa is an old-school type player and can jump out of the gym. He reminds me a little bit of Nerlens Noel, but less polished on the offensive side of the ball. The Big East is all of a sudden very tough and it’ll be fun to watch St. Johns battle Georgetown and Villanova this year.
20. Iowa State (LW: 24)
21. Washington (LW: NR)
Scary team right here. The Huskies destroyed San Diego State on Sunday and held the Aztecs to a measly 20.4-percent shooting. One big reason why (literally and figuratively), is Robert Upshaw. The Fresno State transfer has brought a new confidence on the defensive end to this team and guards like Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews can gamble a little more now that they know a 7-footer is ready to protect the basket behind them. Washington has three elements a team needs to make a run: An elite point guard (Nigel Williams-Goss), good size (Upshaw, Kemp, Jurreau) and an exceptional wing defender (Mike Anderson). The only thing that is concerning about this team is its lack of three point shooting. Nigel Williams-Goss is improving and true freshman Donaven Dorsey has been excellent from behind the arc thus far, but the Dawgs still lack that true knockdown shooter. The Huskies’ defense and size could make up for that, but only time will tell. Oklahoma and Eastern Washington are Washington’s two remaining non-conference tests.
22. San Diego State (LW: 12)
The Aztecs could not buy a bucket on Sunday night against Washington. It was one of the poorest shooting performances the Aztecs have had this year and maybe in the past few seasons. They did not look fired up at all and came out practically dead against the Huskies. Robert Upshaw altered a ton of their shots inside as Skylar Spencer and Angelo Chol could not get anything going. Winston Shepard made two buckets the entire game and no Aztec made it into double figures. The good news is the Aztecs don’t have any tough games remaining. Their remaining out of conference schedule is weak and they should run through the Mountain West fairly easily.
23. Arkansas (LW: 19)
24. Miami (LW: 14)
25. West Virginia (LW: 18)
Added: Utah, Georgetown, St. Johns, Washington