Taking a closer look at both basketball teams

The last few weeks brought a merciful end to a tumultuous period for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

After the dismissal of former men’s head coach Kevin O’Neill and the resignation of women’s coach Michael Cooper, Athletic Director Pat Haden was hard at work, bringing in Florida Gulf Coast University’s Andy Enfield to lead the Trojans and USC great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke to oversee the Women of Troy.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to start thinking about the future. Neither team is going to be picked to win the Pac-12 conference in 2013-14. Really, an NCAA tournament appearance for either coach would be quite the accomplishment.

Still, USC basketball fans are going to want to see some results in year one of Enfield and Cooper-Dyke. This begs the question: Which team is better equipped for success next season — the men or women?

From a talent standpoint, the Women of Troy are the clear winners.

Next season, senior forward Cassie Harberts returns as the star of the team after finishing as an All-Pac-12 selection who also led the nation in free-throw attempts.

She scored at least 10 points in every game except for one this season. It’s not unreasonable to think she’ll compete for           Pac-12 player of the year and attract attention on the national stage.

Harberts alone is enough to separate the Women of Troy from their male counterparts, assuming the Trojans don’t land a top-ranked recruit and senior guard J.T. Terrell doesn’t morph into a future pro. Both of those possibilities are highly unlikely at best.

Generally speaking, there’s just more for Cynthia-Cooper to work with. Junior guard Ariya Crook came off the bench for most of her sophomore campaign and still finished with 13.4 points per game. She figures to put up similar numbers again.

Shooting guard Jordan Adams was the No. 7-ranked recruit in the class of 2012 according to ESPN and will be counted on for a much-expanded role next season. Freshman Brianna Barrett was another top-100 prospect from that class who gives USC some depth at the point guard position. Senior Kate Oliver returns, as do two juniors who made significant contributions last season — Kiki Alofaituli and Alexyz Vaioletama.

The Women of Troy will have to absorb the loss of the outgoing Christina Marinacci, who was an aggressive inside presence and a leader. But Marinacci was the only senior on the roster in 2012-13, meaning the core of this squad is coming back. That’s huge.

The Trojans, meanwhile, have more of an uphill challenge to contend with.

Outgoing senior point guard Jio Fontan was far from perfect — in fact, he put up more clunkers than all-around positive performances — but he was the undisputed veteran of an eclectic group of players. Enfield will also be without the services of this season’s most consistent player, forward Eric Wise, along with frontcourt depth provided by Aaron Fuller, James Blasczyk and Renaldo Woolridge. Those are gigantic holes to fill, especially with a recruiting class that remains in flux.

In addition, USC’s backcourt just doesn’t have much going for it other than Terrell and junior swingman Byron Wesley. There are players on the roster who will be able to thrive in Enfield’s high-tempo system, including senior big man Dewayne Dedmon and Terrell. That should make for a far more entertaining team for fans to watch compared to last season, but not necessarily a better one.

In terms of a coaching advantage, it’s just too hard to tell. Enfield had success on the national stage, but in a very small sample size. He does bring in an impressive group of assistants, but their impact is tough to predict.

Cooper-Dyke, meanwhile, has a more sustained track record with a 150-106 mark in eight seasons, though that accomplishment came at three schools even lesser known than Florida Gulf Coast. She also had a so-so performance as head coach of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, finishing 19-23 in a little less than two seasons.

I think it’s a safe bet that at least one of the two coaching hires will someday make Haden look like a smart man. Problem is, it’s just too early to tell whether that’ll be Enfield or Cooper-Dyke. In the immediate future though, look for the Women of Troy to make more noise in the Pac-12 than Enfield’s squad.

The Trojan men just don’t have the roster in place to be legitimate contenders in the conference yet, but Cooper-Dyke has a star — Harberts — and the talent to bring some excitement to the Galen Center sooner rather than later.


“The Fifth Down” runs Wednesdays. To comment on this story, email Alex at [email protected] or visit dailytrojan.com.