Deep into the weekly slug of college football, the routine has become monotonous. We have the weeklong predictions and analysis after nightly practices leading up to a full day dedicated to a game that lasts more than three hours. But luckily, we have a reprieve coming.
Football season is filled with lots and lots of great things — weekend road trips, the Fight Song being seared into your memory and the camaraderie that comes from 70,000 people joining forces in the Coliseum chanting “We are ’SC.”
Basketball season is quickly approaching however, and with it a break from the tiresome routine of football season. Sure, USC doesn’t have the reputation for being a basketball school, but last year the team did well enough to garner large crowds at their conference home games.
With basketball comes as many exciting opportunities as football season does, including a more personal experience with DJ Malski, the ability to make signs that are throwing major shade and of course the slam dunks that make your head spin.
Basketball’s official season begins around the country this weekend as Midnight Madness takes the scene. Oh, what I would give to have Midnight Madness at USC. Ok, fine. We have our version of it, though Trojan Tip-Off just doesn’t compare to Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness — but I would hardly expect it to.
Midnight Madness is a long-standing tradition in the college basketball world originating from the time when teams would practice together for the first official time at the earliest possible date. Since then, it has become more of a celebratory kickoff to the season, but it still includes drills, practices and scrimmages for both the men’s and women’s teams for many schools, including at USC.
At Kentucky, students and fans camp out to get tickets for the event, which begins at 7 p.m. on Oct. 14. USC’s event is scheduled for Oct. 22, a Saturday, beginning at noon. Of course, this is the football team’s bye week so maybe students will still be interested in meeting the teams? Who knows? Why not capitalize on last year’s hype and start this season off with a bang by doing a real Midnight Madness event?
Needless to say, with the “official” start of the basketball season less than two days away around the country, it should be a hopeful time for USC fans. After being a consistent cellar team in the Pac-12, USC had a breakout year, losing only two games at the Galen Center and being selected to the NCAA tournament (the best sports tournament in the world) for the first time since 2011.
A young team, the Trojans bring back three starters from the tournament, but also return their most dynamic bench players. Despite an early exit in the tournament and a lot still to prove to critics around the country, I believe in this team.
Sophomore forward Chimezie Metu was named a breakout player of the upcoming year by Fan Rag Sports. Metu averaged 6.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while consistently being good for at least one highlight reel play each game — either an eye-popping dunk on offense or a stalwart block on defense.
Metu is just one of several players who contributed to what was an exceptionally explosive USC team. Sophomore guard Bennie Boatwright, junior guard Elijah Stewart and redshirt sophomore guard Shaqquan Aaron could regularly be seen competing in a dunk contest during warm-ups for fans who were lucky enough to come to the games early. Expect the same thing this year.
With another year of experience under their belt and with a taste of what success can bring after a disappointing end to the season, the men’s basketball team should be ready to take the next step and consistently compete at a high level.
Even though the football team has turned it around, no end-of-the-season result will ever appease the ravenous football fans of USC. For the basketball team though, things are different, and the genuine enthusiasm for the team that is shown by people who really care should be cherished.
The fact that the football team is suffering a dramatic and rough year only opens the door for the basketball team to make a greater impact, especially if they can capture the same energetic, and plain old-fun playing style that they had last year. I guess we’ll find out when the clock strikes midnight — or rather — noon.
Hailey Tucker is a junior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. She is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Tucker Talks,” runs Thursdays.