Friday, January 26, 2007


In the run up to tomorrow's important game with USC (3 PM, Comcast Sportsnet), we exchanged some questions with the good folks at Conquest Chronicles, who are undoubtedly enjoying this basketball season. Basketball is no longer something to pass the time through recruiting season in LA - the Trojans are legitimately thinking about NCAA tournament seeding. Our thanks to Jim and his readers for contributing to these answers; our answers to his questions will be up at some point at his site.

Tightwad Hill
: A simple question - did anyone in Trojan Nation expect the team to be this good in '07, or were you (like us) waiting on your Top 5 recruiting class?

Conquest Chronicles: There were some people who said, "we're going to be really good next year," but those people were more or less written off. As a school that has had limited success (if any) on the basketball court, no one had any major expectations. That said, the potential was definitely there, with Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young in the lineup. The emergence of Taj Gibson as a big man and reliable scorer has been unforeseen, and a huge reason we've been successful thus far.

Tightwad Hill: USC has gone from being an awful defensive team (2005) to a pretty good defensive team ('06) to the sixth most efficient defense in the country (as defined by Ken Pomeroy). Fill Bear fans in on what accounts for this type of dramatic improvement.

Conquest Chronicles: Floyd's coaching has made 'SC a defensive juggernaut. 'SC plays relentless man to man defense, with Taj settling into a semi-zone sort of postition in the paint. This allows for ease of slipping screens, and most importantly, for Taj to step into a helpside position to stop players from driving and getting the easy layup. Additionally, freshmen Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis are damn quick, and make life difficult for opposing guards off of the bench.

Tightwad Hill: SC was playing pretty well with Gabe Pruitt on the sidelines, and we
wondered whether his return might actually interrupt a pretty good flow on offense. Seems our suspicions were completely unfounded. With GP back, how far can this team go? What would constitute a successful season for Tim Floyd?

Conquest Chronicles: Since no one had any expectations going into the season, a decent run into the pac-10 tournament and or a NCAA big would be considered wildly successful. Floyd has made the team very competitive in the most competitive league in the nation, and at this point, we've bought into him as the next Pete Carroll, but in the sport that we're not actually good at. If the season were to end today, it would be considered wildly successful. Assuming we don't have a Washington-football-esque breakdown, it will be hard to call this season anything but a success.

Tightwad Hill: It seems as though SC has gotten itself into trouble on those occasions when it turns the ball over. What is Floyd doing to address this aspect of the Trojan game?

Conquest Chronicles: We've struggled here for indeterminate reasons, but turnovers are coming down. The biggest problem is that our turnovers have allowed teams to come back into games we should have won in a blowout because of the incredible momentum shifts they provide. Floyd keeps emphasizing holding onto the ball and making good looks, and we definitely are making progress. That said, it needs a lot of work. Another problem area has been free-throw shooting. If we're ugly from the line, it hurts, it did against Stanford, it did agains the Bruins, and it will against any other team who can keep it to single digits.

Tightwad Hill: The Trojans are shooting very well from three - Lodrick Stewart checks in at 44% and Nick Young is at 46% (on far fewer attempts). What accounts for the improvement from 2005-6 - are they simply hot or is the offense doing something that creates better looks?

Conquest Chronicles: The players have gotten better, but the offense has become much more patient. The Trojans are content to run 30 second plays before getting an open look. We are very satisfied with a game in the 50's or 60's because it suits our slow the ball down and get a good look offense. We CAN run the ball up and down the court, but we generally will pull the ball out, set something up, and then pass around until someone has an open look. Lodrick is a very streaky shooter, so be careful about him. Nick and Gabe are more consistent, but they also don't take as many shots outside the arc.

Tightwad Hill: Your prediction for the game.

Conquest Chronicles: Cal pulls away early b/c of home court advantage and because they need a win. The Trojans keep it close however, and eventually wear Cal down with their bench, building a decent lead that gets blown up by free-throw shooting and fouling at the end of the game. Final score: 71-64

Our thanks to Jim and his readers for contributing to this exchange, and our best wishes for a good, injury-free game.


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