When it comes to football, Los Angeles is a USC town because the Trojans are one of the marquee programs in that sport with all those Heisman Trophy winners and national championships. In basketball, L.A. is clearly a UCLA town as some of the sport’s greatest players were Bruins and UCLA has won 11 national titles. But in the 2017-18 college basketball season, L.A.’s best team should be Southern Cal, and the Trojans are great NCAA basketball betting value to win cut down the nets next April.
I suppose that I can’t start any story about NCAA basketball without referring to the recent scandal that threatens the sport as we know it. USC is caught up in this mess. Trojans assistant coach Tony Bland was one of four assistant coaches around the country charged in a fraud and corruption scandal. USC has hired former FBI director Louis J. Freeh and his firm to investigate the allegations against Bland, who has been placed on administrative leave. Bland, elevated to associate head coach three years ago, is accused of accepting a $13,000 bribe in exchange for steering USC players to former agent Christian Dawkins and financial adviser Munish Sood.
There are going to be more dominos to fall regarding this scandal – Louisville already has fired head coach Rick Pitino – but for purposes of this story, I’m going to assume that USC has all its players eligible for this season. Recently, Coach Andy Enfield said every player on the team was, as of now. The Trojans are +2800 at BetOnline to win their first national title.
Enfield has worked wonders at USC. He was hired after leading little Florida Gulf Coast on a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Trojans struggled big time in Enfield’s first two seasons as he cleaned up a mess there. They improved to 21-13 in 2015-16 and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Last season, the Trojans finished 26-10 and won two games in the Big Dance (vs. No. 11 Providence in First Four and No. 6 SMU in first round) before losing to third-seeded Baylor in the second round.
Pretty much every key Trojan is back from that team, led by Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu, Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart. Boatwright led the team in scoring at 15.1 ppg, Metu was second in scoring (14.8 ppg) and led in rebounding (7.8 rpg), McLaughlin was third in scoring (12.9 ppg) and tops in assists (5.5 apg), and Stewart added 12.3 points per game while leading the team with 78 three-pointers made.
In addition, USC adds Duke transfer guard Derryck Thornton and a touted freshman recruit in Charles O’Bannon Jr. Thornton, a former five-star prospect in the 2015 class, averaged 7.5 points and 2.5 assists in 26 minutes per game as a freshman at Duke in 2015-16 before sitting out last season.
O’Bannon Jr., a four-star small forward, was quite a coup for Enfield. After all, his father Charles O'Bannon Sr. and uncle Ed O’Bannon were both key players on UCLA's 1995 national championship team.
USC has been to two Final Fours, but those were in 1954 and 1940. The Trojans haven’t been past the Sweet 16 since reaching the Elite Eight in 2001. Southern Cal opens the season on Nov. 10 against Cal-State Fullerton. USC opens Pac-12 play against Washington on Dec. 29. The Trojans won’t be Pac-12 favorites on the NCAA basketball futures as that honor will go to Arizona (+800 to win national title), but this has a chance to go down as the best team in school history.