Shotgun Spratling | USCfootball.com

Just Sayin' . . . Hoops and Spring Ball

One more week -- for regular season basketball to finish up and spring football to get here. As always, lots to talk about.

And the winner is . . . not in the envelope but right here on USCFootball.com as we finish out our nearly nine-week-long nightmare without football and finish up a 31-game regular season of hoops.

Are they going in different directions? Yeah, we're Just Sayin'.

*** Too bad, you'd really like to see the basketball Trojans get the home court folks fired up for the final two games at Galen in what had a chance to become a take-the-next-step season. But after earlier losses to lesser-talented Utah and Cal teams, the end-game implosion at Tempe takes the wind out of USC's sails for sure here . . . Just Sayin'.

*** That contrasts with a football team led by a second-year guy with a first-year coach that finished strong and fired up fans in an offseason where one group after another from the San Gabriel Valley to Orange County to Vista where we'll be Thursday are reporting record crowds . . . Just Sayin'.  

 *** At least for the basketball guys, the Utah loss was on the road and the Cal team they lost to at home had some talent. But to get blown up on a 12-1 run by the underwater and not-all-that-talented Sun Devils Sunday is both embarrassing, demoralizing and uninspiring to even the most passionate, few as they might be, USC hoops fans . . . Just Sayin'.

*** You are only as good as your last game, or your last ranking and for USC football fans, that No. 3 finish in the polls and 52-49 Rose Bowl win after being down 14 in the final period is all they need . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Win two basketball games against the Washingtons here this week after sweeping them on the road is about as ho-hum a finish as you could ask for this 21-8 team and not exactly likely to impress the NCAA Selection Committee. That would have to come next week in Las Vegas at the Pac-12 tournament. The only problem is that it would have to come after an opening win against teams of near-equal or more talent for USC to reach the semis and USC's record against such competition isn't so hot -- 1-7 against the top five in the Pac-12 -- with only a nonconference win over a ranked SMU to balance that out with the UCLA win . . . Just Sayin'.

*** The football team, of course, has the luxury of not having to play for real for another six months during which USC fans can replay that Penn State finish or that Washington game in their heads all they want . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And yes, if USC basketball wins the next three games against teams it should beat and gets to 11-8 in conference games, it should get into The Dance. But again, if this program keeps producing teams that do not appear to be getting better, tougher -- physically and mentally -- and without the ability to play though adversity with confidence that they can finish games and seasons, so what . . . Just Sayin'.

*** That's how at football school USC, a rising, young program scoring the final 17 points in the Rose Bowl under all sorts of pressure and in the brightest of all possible spotlights to get back to the top does no favors for a struggling basketball program that can't figure out how to finish. A tough challenge just got tougher . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Especially when all a USC basketball team had to do was get the ball in-bounds one time to win a game it had to win after a timeout, well, again, what's the point? . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And yes, football has the advantage here since players can't leave for the NFL until after their third college season even if when it comes to redshirt sophomore Sam Darnold, that's going to seem way too early next January . . . Just Sayin'.

*** The exits just amplify the problems in a USC basketball program that can't keep players. Six left early a year ago -- twice as many as in football despite more than six times as many scholarship football players. And now two more easily could leave this time around with neither ready for the next level. What's the point of improved hoops recruiting in this hotbed of Southern California if it's not going anywhere? . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And here we are anticipating next Tuesday's opening of spring football when a couple of dozen decently talented young Trojans seem ready -- and USC fans are hoping -- able to step in for the guys leaving. Who will they be? Which position groups will it happen in? We can't wait to find out . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So now basketball is left with making the case for Benny Boatwright and Chimezie Metu to stay but with no overarching team goal within grasp and the worry that they're fundamentally no more sound in March than they were back in October? Shouldn't they just take the money and run and hope to get better on an NBA bench -- if, that is, that hope is all they have? . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And while we contemplate that, we do know that now Heisman favorite -- not sure that's a good thing -- Darnold will be back for at least another season. And with the Trojans included among the top four College Football Playoff favorites by most polls and pundits, the team part of this is even more exciting . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Not so for this fundamentals-free Trojan hoops team with its talent -- at least right now. But hey, it was just 20 years ago that a Pac-12 team that finished fifth in the conference with an 11-7 record, the Arizona Widcats, got their act together and went on to win the school's only NCAA championship. Yeah, we know. Lute Olson. But teams do occasionally get it together at tournament time . . . Just Sayin'.

*** When it comes to comparing teams in sports, it's football here that has lots of examples. Last year, we noted how the turnaround Trojans looked a little like the Carson Palmer/Orange Bowl champs of 2002 who ended up fourth after bouncing back from two early losses or maybe the 2011 team that did the much the same even with no bowl opportunity . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So when strength and conditioning boss Ivan Lewis wasn't pleased with the early morning team run the other day and let his Trojans, who finished with their tongues hanging out and dragging more than a little bit, know about it, he wouldn't have to go far back to remind them of how badly this can go. All he had to do was reference a USC football team heading into 2012 on top of the world with their Heisman-candidate quarterback returning from that strong-finishing 10-2 team only to fall from first to worst ending up in that Sun Bowl embarrassment despite feeling really good about themselves to start. Turns out, it wasn't about how you felt about yourself, it was about how you prepared and played . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So we'll use that example for this basketball team. They can't be feeling very good about themselves right now. And there's only one way to flip that around. Play with confidence and toughness. Defend. Rebound. Hustle. Keep your heads up. Play together. Believe in one another and get your coaches to believe in you. Have fun. Don't stand around. Don't wait for someone else to make the play. Don't say it's your turn to take the next shot. Oh and defend. And rebound. And play without fear. And have fun doing so. And hit your free throws down the stretch. And don't turn the ball over. And get the ball in bounds by throwing it to one of your teammates. Seems like pretty basic stuff. Give it a shot. It just might work . . . Just Sayin'.


You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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