Five things to watch for this USC men’s basketball season:
1. Blending talent
USC has its most talented and deepest team under Coach Andy Enfield, avoiding potential NBA defections during the offseason. That leaves the biggest on-the-court question as to how Enfield and his staff will manage minutes and touches for the bevy of playmakers. Some of the burden will fall on point guard Jordan McLaughlin, the main distributor. McLaughlin thought the Golden State Warriors might serve as a guide. “They don’t care who’s scoring, as long as they end up with a win,” McLaughlin said. Enfield said the program has tried to “create a culture of sharing the basketball,” noting “every bad team has a leading scorer.” The Trojans were third in the Pac-12 in assists last season. Added Elijah Stewart, “You’re not going to get that many shots. We’re all prepared for that. Whoever’s night it is, whoever’s got the mismatches, that’s who’s going to get the shots. But if you’re not with the mismatch, you best shoot 100 percent.”
2. Scandal impact
It remains to be seen how the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball might further impact the program. Associate head coach Tony Bland was previously placed on administrative and is unlikely to return this season. Among four college basketball assistant coaches indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury in New York City, Bland was charged on four counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and travel act conspiracy. Bland was not only an effective recruiter, but also heavily involved in Xs and Os, a big reason why the team has used a zone defense in recent seasons. Assorted questions linger. Will USC lose any players because of eligibility issues? Could the NCAA start an investigation, subjecting it to potential penalties? Even if there are no significant developments in the probe, will it become a distraction?