USC Basketball: True Test Comes in Pac-12 Play and Fan Interest


Andy Enfield’s red-hot USC basketball team is riding high with an 11-2 record, but their success will be determined in Pac-12 play and at the box office.

With another roller coaster USC football season nearly in the books, many a Trojan faithful look to next season’s opening week match up against Alabama.

Let’s face it, USC has over 100 national championships, but only 11 of them garner any real attention.

Football has and shall remain the most important sport for a private university that very dearly needs donor dollars to stay afloat.

The crosstown rival UCLA has all but dominated the game of basketball, and though USC has proven to be quite adept at baseball, it’s still only college baseball.

Enfield’s kids are performing quite well out of conference, compiling a record of 11-2 going into Friday’s Pac-12 opener at Washington State.

At times, USC has looked downright uninterested in basketball, but a flourishing program in the second most popular college sport is what the administration should very much be interested in.

Two years ago, athletic director Pat Haden brought in Andy Enfield after he lead Florida Gulf Coast, an Atlantic Sun school, to the Sweet Sixteen.

It was the first time a No. 15 seed had ever made it that far in the tournament, and Enfield was getting headlines due to FGCU’s bracket-busting Cinderella run and his team’s up-tempo style of offense that was highlighted by lob dunks.

After two years of building the USC program to his specifications, Enfield found himself on the hot seat. The Trojans not only failed to even sniff the March Madness tournament, they compiled a grand total of only five wins in conference play.

November 16, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Andy Enfield watches game action against Monmouth Hawks during the first half at Galen Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Fast forward to 2015, and Enfield’s kids are performing quite well out of conference, compiling a record of 11-2 going into Friday’s Pac-12 opener at Washington State.

The Trojans are averaging over 80 points per game, and are off to their best start since 2001-2002.

However, the Trojans’ only victory of note is over perennial mid-major power Wichita State, a team that is now no longer ranked. If USC is going to make any hay in the 2015-2016 season, they’ll need to do so in conference play.

With Pac-12 teams coming to town, one would think the Galen Center would be full should they keep winning. Arizona and UCLA will undoubtedly put their alumni and fans in seats at home, where USC is 9-0 this season.

Therein lies the problem.

Unfortunately, USC men’s basketball has zero tradition and only one Pac-12 Championship in the modern era.

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The student section has been an absolute joke, with patrons being pulled from the second level to fill the black hole in between DJ Mal-Ski and the Trojan pep band.

Haden hired Enfield to make a splash and reinvigorate the program, but leading into this season it was a resounding thud.

Enfield now has the opportunity to do something that no other coach has ever done at USC: build something sustainable.

If USC basketball were even good for several years in a row, the sting of an underachieving football program wouldn’t be so great. That’s why it’s so important for Enfield to take the bull by the horns and create something special.