No. 10 USC hoops opens season with high expectations and some trepidation

The No. 10 ranked USC Trojans open a new season Friday night, Nov. 10 at 7 P.M. PT against Cal State Fullerton as big favorites.  25 1/2 point favorites in fact.

Just another sign that it could be a wonderful winter for Andy Enfield’s basketball program, even as the specter of an FBI investigation and trouble with the NCAA loom overhead.

Zach Helfand of the LA Times previewed the season within the context of the looming investigation.

Enfield couldn’t even guarantee that every Trojan who practiced this week would be available to play against Cal State Fullerton.

“We have everyone practicing right now,” he said earlier this week.

It may be that kind of season for USC fans as well as fans of other programs across the nation as potential allegations and investigations hover over every 3-pointer, every rebound and every big win. On the court, the Trojans are dealing with something strange as well: big-time expectations. The program hasn’t been ranked in the preseason AP top-10 since 1974.

Writes Helfand of the LA Times:

“The Trojans find themselves in an unfamiliar position. They are expected to compete for a Pac-12 championship, battling Arizona and UCLA. In past seasons, USC did not have to contend with expectations. Players used slights from pollsters and pundits as fuel.”

Meanwhile, USC fans may want to keep an eye on Taeshon Cherry, who was the San Diego Section Player of the Year as a junior last season and has committed to USC.

One issue: assistant coach Tony Bland, who was indicted Tuesday, was involved in Cherry’s recruitment and though Cherry’s name has not been mentioned in any NCAA or FBI investigation, his situation remains fluid.  Cherry would be Enfield’s highest-ranked recruit since taking the USC job in 2013.

For the time being, it looks like the Trojans are in position to do some major damage in the Pac-12 and overall.  USA Today picked USC to compete with Arizona for the Pac-12 Championship.  

Writes Lindsay Shall:

What to watch: The Trojans’ continued rise. With its top eight scorers returning, USC has the talent and depth to make a Final Four run. The three best players from last year’s 26-10 team are all back: 6-foot-10 forward Bennie Boatwright, 6-foot-11 forward Chimezie Metu and 6-foot-5 guard Elijah Stewart. The trio gives coach Andy Enfield a great starting foundation. The Trojans will also get a boost from Derryck Thorton, a dynamic 6-foot-2 guard who transferred from Duke after averaging 7.1 points and 2.5 assists during the 2015-16 season in Durham.

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