It’s now abundantly clear who Arizona’s top challenger in the Pac-12 should be next season.
With UCLA, Oregon and Cal each hemorrhaging talent, USC is the program poised to take advantage.
The Trojans received a huge boost Thursday night when leading scorer Bennie Boatwright announced on Twitter that he will return for his junior season. The 6-foot-10 stretch forward had initially entered the NBA draft without hiring an agent, preserving his right to come back to school.
Boatwright’s return means that USC will bring back virtually every key player from last year’s 26-win team that won a pair of games in the NCAA tournament. The Trojans’ only potential losses are reserve guard Shaqquan Aaron, who has declared for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, and seldom-used senior forward Charles Buggs, who has graduated.
In addition to returning its starting five intact, USC will also add some high-level talent in the form of former Duke point guard Derryck Thornton and top 50 incoming freshman Charles O’Bannon Jr. The biggest problem coach Andy Enfield may have with a roster so deep is managing playing time issues.
Will Thornton and incumbent starter Jordan McLaughlin both be happy splitting time at point guard? Or if Enfield opts to go to a two-point-guard look for stretches, how would Elijah Stewart feel about that eating into his playing time? And will O’Bannon be comfortable coming off the bench despite being one of the most heralded recruits Enfield has signed?
Assuming USC can navigate those potential chemistry issues, this is a loaded team, perhaps even a preseason top 12 team. The Trojans have a pair of NBA prospects in their frontcourt in Boatwright and Chimezie Metu and a perimeter corps that’s two-deep at every position.
Will that be enough dethrone an Arizona team with a great mix of returning experience and incoming talent? It’s possible.
But at minimum, USC should now be at the very top of the list of challengers.
– – – – – – –