The Trojan season will continue Saturday afternoon, with a trip to the east coast, where the Trojans will take on the Owls of Temple University.
While not the sexiest out of conference matchup, wins against highly regarded mid-majors, especially on the road, factor into the committee’s evaluation process come Selection Sunday.
Both teams will enter the matchup 1-0, with wins over weaker opponents, USC defeating CSUN on Tuesday, and Temple taking care of the University of Maryland - Eastern.
Temple, who competes in the AAC, is led by Guard Khalif Battle. The 6’5” Sophomore led the Owls in scoring a year ago, and looks poised for a monster follow-up campaign after dropping 22 in the opener. Battle, who transferred from Butler after an up and down freshman year, does a hefty portion of his scoring from beyond the arc, but is not afraid to take the ball inside and use size to induce contact. Look for Coach Enfield to deploy a small army against Battle, with a steady supply of fresh legs. We have already commented on the tremendous length and depth of this Trojan team. Expect Isaiah White, Ethan Anderson, and Drew Peterson to get the early assignment on Battle. If the Trojans are able to overwhelm him with size and physicality, things should bode very well for the Trojans.
Joining Battle in the backcourt will be Damien Dunn, another capable scorer for the Owls. Dunn averaged 13.5 points per game last year, and tallied 18 in the Owl’s opening victory. The two guards play very well off of each other, albeit with different styles. Dunn does the majority of his damage from inside the arc, and moves well without the ball. Like Battle, Dunn is strong and knows how to finish at the rim.
Inside, the Owls will feature a group led by 6’9 Jake Forrester, 6’8” Sage Tolbert III and 6’8” Nick Jourdain off the bench. What Temple lacks in pure size, they make up for in toughness, grit and tenacity. While the Owls will clearly be overmatched physically, they take a “no easy buckets” mentality and will make USC earn their points. The Owls rely on their guards to help clean up on the boards. With all five men crashing to secure defensive rebounds, I doubt Temple will be able to get out in transition much.
USC will look to use tempo and take advantage of their front court size and depth. The big Trojan wings (Agbonkpolo, Peterson, White, etc.), should prove to be matchup nightmares for the Owls.
Early in the season, many of our important questions will remain the same, but they need to be asked until we have clarity.
The makeup of Temple's starting lineup, should push Isaiah White back into the starting fold. The size and strength of Temple's backcourt should force Andy to use more size. I expect a simple swap of White and Anderson for this game.
PG - Boogie Ellis
G - Isiah White
G - Drew Peterson
F - Isaiah Mobley
C - Chevez Goodwin
How deep will Coach Andy go into the bench? Assuming the starting five listed above, we know that both Ethan Anderson and Max Agbonkpolo will play significant minutes. After that, I am not sure how the minutes will be broken down. In the front court, Joshua Morgan and/or Boubacar Coulibaly look poised the contribute, especially defensively. The combination should fill the role that Chevez held last year, high energy, efficient bigs who are able to mix it up with some physical play. Beyond those four, will Andy continue to get the freshman in the game. While Malik Thomas and Reese Dixon-Waters are the headliners, Kobe Johnson may see minutes based on his versatility. It is so early in the season, I really have no clue what Andy is thinking, and it will most likely be a work in progress, but what a good problem to have!
Other Story Lines
Not that there is any bad blood in this non-conference matchup, but the 2019-2020 Trojans may remember the embarrassing home loss at the hands of the Owls. Ethan, Max and Isaiah Mobley all played in that game, and while athletes must have short memories, I have a feeling they will remember the game and use tonight to exact some revenge.
This will be Coach Enfield’s first game coached in his home state of Pennsylvania. Enfield, who hails from Shippensburg, still sports a bit of an Pennsylvania accent, and is never shy to talk about his roots. I am sure this will be a thrill for him to return home to take on the Owls.
The Owls are coached by former NBA player Aaron McKie. McKie, who returned to coach at his alma mater, had a successful NBA career and played on some uber-tough teams. His grit has worn off on his team, and it should be a good tune-up for some of the more physical teams within the Pac-12 (Colorado).
I was able to watch most of UCLA's OT victory against Villanova last night. UCLA is very talented and well-coached. Mick Cronin's three-headed monster of Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard and Jaime Jacquez are going to cause a lot of issues in the Pac-12 this year. UCLA did not shy away from anyone this year and will take on #1 Gonzaga in a few weeks. As much as I hate to say it, UCLA's victory was very good for the Pac-12. Big out of conference wins legitimize the talent in the conference and will help come Selection Sunday. The Trojans schedule lacks a marquee opponent, but there will still be opportunities against Power 5 teams (Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, etc.) and every bit helps. I hope UCLA remains in the top 5 for the mid-February showdown at Galen Center.
The Trojans appear to be in good shape, and playing good team basketball. And I expect USC to handle the feisty Owls, we probably will not see the 40 point margin we did on Tuesday, but a 15-20 point victory should not be surprising. Isaiah Mobley and Chevez should be able to impose their will inside, and I suspect the Owls will crash down and leave themselves exposed from Boogie and Isaiah White from deep.
I’ll go out on a little bit of a limb here.
Owls - 64.