It Could Be Worse, USC, Ask a Hoosier
In case you haven't been paying attention to the goings on of college basketball in the last few weeks, USC's 2009-10 basketball season has been already been summarily decimated. Tim Floyd resigned in the face of allegations against the program. In the wake, three incoming recruits have been granted their release from letters of intent to play for the Trojans. Plus, three players from last year's Sweet 16 squad have entered the NBA Draft early and now cannot change their minds. Factor in two graduations, and the team is left with only two players who logged regular, meaningful minutes in 2009, with no recruits of consequence.
It could be worse, though. Turn back the clock to last year at this time and direct your attention to the mess left behind by Kelvin Sampson at Indiana.
USC has already lost three recruits, two seniors, and DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett to the early entrant list of the NBA draft. Fortunately, though, they haven't had anyone transfer yet.
At Indiana, there were early entries into the draft, seniors, transfers and dismissals -- there was even a plant-throwing incident. When the dust settled, only Kyle Taber's 1.3 points per game returned in 2008-09 from a solid 2007-08 team.
Now, much for the Trojans hinges on what kind of coach they hire. It's awfully late in the game to be looking for a coach who could salvage any kind of a recruiting class for this coming season, so they'd better hire someone who can convince people like Dwight Lewis and Leonard Washington to stick around. Then, the task will be to build a recruiting class for the 2010-2011 campaign. Still, it's pretty doubtful things will get as bad for USC as they did at Indiana.
Though they aren't likely to land a coach as established as Tom Crean -- just check out Gary Washburn's top five candidates for the job (they aren't getting Jamie Dixon, by the way) -- USC still isn't looking at a 6-24 record with a 1-17 mark in conference like Indiana just endured, unless Lewis and Washington transfer and former North Carolina big man Alex Stepheson amounts to nothing.
If they do and the team is just as brutal as the Hoosiers were this past season, here are five ways to get through the season for Trojan basketball fans:
1. Get used to hearing things about "how hard" your team plays from the media. Soak it up and enjoy it, because it's much nicer than just saying they suck -- which is ultimately the truth.
2. Start talking about the future all the time. Something like, "Well, this is a good sign for next season, because tonight we saw [something complimentary, no matter how much of a stretch]and [another compliment, still heedless of the stretch]." When losing every game, even to schools like Lipscomb and Northeastern, there really isn't much else to discuss. Thus, clinging to things like a lower-than-usual turnover total, a freshman having his best game of the season, or a staunch defensive effort replaces any discussion about the outcome of the actual game.
3. Cling to next season's recruiting class. Indiana has a top-10 recruiting class for 2009-10 according to many outlets. That doesn't always translate to on-court success, but discussing it ad nauseum sure does anger Purdue fans. Give UCLA fans the same treatment.
4. Shower the new head coach with so much support it seems undue to those who cheer for other teams (again, Purdue fans hate hearing it). Inheriting a situation this bad isn't easy on the coach, so he needs to feel welcome and become invested in the job quickly. Sure, the money is nice, but it makes any human being want to succeed even more in an uphill battle when he feels like he has the full support of the students and alumni. Crean has immeasurable support from nearly everyone at Indiana, and he's maintained a child-like zeal for the job. It's not a coincidence.
5. Support the Pac-10 as a whole. I became the biggest apologist for every Big Ten team this past season -- to the point I actually pulled for the conference as a whole in the NCAA tournament. It gives you something positive to watch in the present.
Still, assuming there are no transfers, USC isn't falling into the meteorite-sized crater Indiana basketball fell into before last season. When watching Lil' Romeo bring the ball up court next season, please keep us in mind and be happy things didn't become completely unhinged.
Plus, the Trojan fans can take solace in one thing that us Hoosiers couldn't.
There's always football season.