Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Basketball: Tuesday practice report
By Pedro Moura
USC (13-12, 5-7 in the Pac-10) plays Cal at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Berkeley. We'll have a preview of the game on Thursday, but here are a few worthwhile nuggets from the Trojans' Tuesday practice in preparation for the Bears:
O'Neill not down on his team
Coach Kevin O'Neill has taken a curious stance on his team's status at this point in the season.
He's not down on his team, but he's not exactly up on it either. It's clear he fancies himself as a realist about the fate of the squad, but is he really?
Asked if things have gone downhill since the Trojans were 10-6 heading into the Oregon road trip last month, O'Neill said no. This is essentially what he expected to happen, he implied.
"I'm not sure they've gone downhill," he said. "Obviously we haven't won as many as we wanted to, but I don't remember ever saying we were gonna compete for the league title."
OK, maybe not a league title. But a certain amount of wins, maybe? O'Neill was -- after the Texas win in December, especially -- fairly high on his team publicly, and pretty much every player who spoke to the media did say a Pac-10 regular-season title was within reach.
So, with the Trojans now in danger of heading south of .500 if they are swept this weekend in the Bay Area, what does O'Neill expect for the rest of the season? There are six games left, plus three or four potential games in the Pac-10 tournament. Could they win five or six of those remaining contests?
Not according to O'Neill.
"We're not gonna win 18 or 19," he said Tuesday. "Let's be honest about this -- we'd have to win the rest of them and I don't know if we're capable of that. All we can do is play every game, one at a time, and see where we are at the end of the year."
Rotation moves not imminent
Nobody but Nikola Vucevic played well in Saturday's loss to Oregon, but O'Neill isn't seriously considering any adjustments to his current rotation. He's essentially been using the same seven players for the same amount of minutes since Bryce Jones decided to transfer last month.
"There's not a lot of moves," O'Neill said. "Let's face it: We're exactly who we are, and that's all there is to it."
Freshman forward Garrett Jackson could still play more as the season winds down, but, as O'Neill said last week, he has not been up to par in the minutes he has played recently.
Vucevic contemplating NBA
A compliance staffer passed out information to each player after Tuesday's practice about the NBA draft and all of its accompanying pre-draft camps and the like. A number of players left their papers near the court as they walked off the practice court; forward Nikola Vucevic, who is considering entering the draft, took his with him.
A junior, Vucevic is fourth in the Pac-10 conference in points and first in rebounds and has been by far USC's most consistent player through 25 games. A number of opposing coaches have also lavished praise upon him this season.
After practice, Vucevic answered questions about the draft, saying that it was a "little bit" on his mind but adding that he had a bigger job to focus on at the moment. He also said he would definitely take into account the fact that USC would be severely short-handed without him next season.
"Of course," he said. "I love this team. I've been here for three years now and I love this place. That will be definitely a factor in my decision."