Trojans beef up non-conference slate for 2010-11 season

During the preseason, USC head basketball coach Kevin O’Neill was quite critical of the Trojans’ 2009 non-conference schedule for being too soft and not featuring enough matchups against top-25 teams. Fortunately for O’Neill, that won’t be an issue next season.

According to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News, USC has already reached tentative agreements to play games against Kansas and Marquette next season in addition to their previously scheduled contests with three of this year’s opponents, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas.

If that isn’t enough, the Trojans will also participate in the Big 12-Pac-10 challenge, where they will face an undetermined opponent. This year, USC struggled in the event, losing to Nebraska by three points at home and to Texas on the road by a score of 69-50.

But quality opponents are not the only reason why next season’s slate will be all the more challenging. The Trojans — who have impressed sports fan nationwide this season with their 12-7 record — will be faced with the challenge of replacing senior guards and key starters Mike Gerrity, Marcus Johnson and Dwight Lewis.

In turn, the team will feature an entirely new backcourt. Incoming freshmen Maurice Jones of Arthur Hill High School in Saginaw, Mich. and Bryce Jones of Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Calif. will be expected to start in place of the graduating Gerrity and Lewis. Fordham transfer Jio Fontan may eventually start at point guard, but he won’t be eligible to play until after the first semester in mid-December.

With a tougher slate combined with an unproven backcourt, the Trojans will be hard-pressed to experience the same success they enjoyed in 2009.

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