What makes the undefeated Southern California basketball special in 2022

USC is hardly a one-shot wonder. This program has lasted. He has several NBA players, including a No. 3 draft pick in 2021. He made the Elite Eight last March in the Indianapolis bubble. But the start here in 2021-22 was not in the plans.

Being one of the two remaining undefeated teams with No.1 Baylor was hardly expected. The Trojans lost Evan Mobley, yes the No. 3 pick, and their second leading scorer Tahj Eaddy. They have played four of their first six away games. They had a long COVID-19 hiatus that canceled a road game against Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City and two Pac-12 games against Arizona State and Arizona at home, leaving them without playing a game from Dec. 18 to Jan. 6.

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And yet they are there: 13-0 before Tuesday night’s game at Stanford, with a No.5 ranking – the best since 1974 – and potentially on track to match their best start in school history. from 17-0 from 1910!

“We didn’t expect to be undefeated in January,” said USC coach Andy Enfield. “But we are. It’s not something you expect. It’s very difficult to do. We had a few close games. We had to play well. We took a break. But we stayed focused.”

Enfield nominates students in the upper class, led by juniors Isaiah Mobley (brother of Evan Mobley), Ethan Anderson and Max Agbonkpolo, seniors Drew Peterson, Isaiah White and Chevez Goodwin and Memphis transfer Boogie Ellis as well as student sophomore Joshua Morgan.

“We have a lot of experience from players who have played in big games,” said Enfield.

Defense has been one of the main reasons the Trojans are undefeated, holding the top 12 opponents below 40 percent. USC limits opposing teams to 27.5%.

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“We’ve been in the top 10 defensive teams over the past three seasons,” said Enfield. “We are drilling it extensively. The players agreed to be individual defenders and joined in the team defense. ”

The loss of Evan Mobley was seen as a big blow defensively. But USC has a great length with the 6-11 Morgan, 6-10 Isaiah Mobley and 6-9 Goodwin.

The two main giants – Isaiah Mobley and Goodwin – have increased their production. Mobley went from 9.9 points to 15 while Goodwin went from 5.6 to 13 per game.

What is the reason for the jump for Mobley?

“Just trust,” Mobley said. “I kept working hard and challenged myself to improve myself every day. “

The schedule could easily have sent the Trojans aside. Of course, playing Temple and Florida Gulf Coast isn’t the same as going to Purdue or Duke. Still, these were the first road games across the country and playing for the FGCU came under immense pressure as it was the former Enfield stoppage he mistook for the Sweet 16.

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Both neutral games were played in Anaheim and a victory over Saint Joseph’s was followed by a victory over San Diego State.

“It gave us confidence to compete on neutral ground,” Enfield said.

Trojans are again an afterthought in the Pac-12. UCLA and Arizona are getting national love – as they should, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of USC.

The addition of Ellis was the last piece missing, a player who was desperately needed to compliment Ethan Anderson. It integrated perfectly, which is not easy to do outside the portal.

“Coach Andy allowed me to be myself and create for others, to score and to show my abilities,” said Ellis. “The chemistry that we made us play together, play well defensively. Another reason we’re undefeated is that we have a lot of veterans on this team who have been through wars. We understand what it takes to win. ”

The Trojans are 15th in KenPom, in the top 25 in offensive and defensive efficiency. USC is 12th in the NET. The Trojans are on their way to a top-four seed and may be able to play another deep NCAA tournament.

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Nothing is certain, but the Trojans follow Tuesday’s game at Stanford with home games scheduled against Oregon State and Oregon before traveling to Colorado and Utah. Stanford and Cal come to LA, before a game at Arizona State. USC will not meet other top 10 teams from Arizona (in Tucson) and UCLA until February 5 and 12, respectively.

“We worked together and followed our principles in attack and defense,” said Mobley. “We remained confined. We are a mature team who want to see ourselves succeed and that is why we have been so successful. “

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