TCU and USC get together tonight at the beautiful new Dickie’s Arena in Fort Worth to play the second half of a home and home — neither of which were played at home but okay — tonight. We reached out to Matthew Lowry of Conquest Chronicles to find out about the Frogs’ second Power 5 opponent of the season.
Frogs O’ War: TCU and USC meet in the follow up to last year’s game at Staples Center, but both teams are quite a bit different 12 months later. What can you tell folks about what you have seen out of the Trojans so far?
Matthew Lowry: So far the Trojans has shown the amount of talent that they have on their roster which was a given. However I still feel that the Trojans lack an offensive system that fits with the team. This is something that has to be addressed with the tam moving forward. They suffered a pretty bad loss to Marquette in Orlando, but I think the Trojans down the road will improve as their youth gains more experience.
FOW: Onyeka Okongwu has been SC’s best player so far, averaging a stout 17.9 points and 9 rebounds per game. What does the freshman forward do well and how has been able to be so impactful so early in his collegiate career?
ML: Well through the off-season and last year Okongwu has shown what he is capable of doing. Right now it’s on full display. He has had a huge hand in the Trojans front court depth and is only going to get better moving forward. It also helps that he plays along side Rakocevic and Isaah Mobley in certain instances.
FOW: Junior Nick Rakocevic was one of the leading scorers in this matchup last year, and is off to a strong start this year as well, as the second-leading scorer and rebounder for this team. He seems like the prototypical 3 and D wing, a good three point shooter and guy who leads the team in steals. How critical is he to the Trojans’ success game in and game out and does he have to have a big game for USC to win Friday?
ML: Rakocevic for the last couple of seasons has been a vital part to the Trojans front court. His rebounding ability as well as his defense and post play have been important for the Trojans. Now that he has developed a jump shot and expanded his range, it has made him even more of a threat. He will be an important key to Friday’s game. USC has to get him going if they want to win.
FOW: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the team this season?
ML: The strength of this team is their ability to rebound. The Trojans currently average 40.4 rebounds a game which is currently 2nd in the Pac 12 right now. With their length, that comes as no surprise. However their weakness is finding their consistency with their jump shot, especially from the outside. USC ranks in the bottom half of the Pac-12 in field goal percentage and three point percentage. The issue is that the Trojans go on long dry spells which puts them behind in games as shown in the past.
FOW: How happy/unhappy are folks around the program with the job that Andy Enfield has done, now in his seventh season in LA?
ML: It’s about the same right now. I have been one of Enfield’s biggest critics through the last two seasons, but I will admit him and his staff has done a great job recruiting for USC. I think this season will tell a lot about how he will be as a coach moving forward.
FOW: What are the expectations for this team this season? Are they an NCAA Tournament team and should they be?
ML: Expectations are that USC SHOULD be a tournament team. Right now I believe that they are indeed a tournament team, but they won’t do enough to make a meaningful run this year. Now that could indeed change moving forward, but the field goal problems and lack of direction on offense makes me question what this team will do in the tournament right now.
FOW: What’s your prediction for Friday night and how do we get there?
ML: I think USC will indeed compete with TCU, however they’re a tale of two different teams. I think their field goal woes will hold them back, but rebounding and defense will keep the Trojans in this game. Despite all that I have USC winning 77-74. The two teams are similar. TCU is tough at home, but I think USC will outlast the Horned Frogs in a close one.