Unranked Trojans ready to begin their season Nov. 9

Junior guard Ethan Anderson holds the ball at the perimeter guarded by a defender.
Junior guard Ethan Anderson is one of USC’s best three-point shooters. He shot 38.6% from beyond the arc last season, playing in 25 games for the Trojans. (Simon Park | Daily Trojan)

Despite coming off an Elite Eight run, men’s basketball did not crack the top 25 of the preseason Associated Press poll. USC received 30 votes, enough to put it at No. 28 in the country behind Michigan State and Indiana; however, the Trojans are not officially ranked. 

The top of the poll is littered with familiar foes, including No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Kansas and No. 13 Oregon. USC faced each of these teams, besides UCLA, in the NCAA Tournament in March, falling to the eventual runner-up Gonzaga in the Elite Eight. 

The Trojans beat the Bruins in both of their matchups last year, one of which was due to a buzzer-beater by then-graduate student guard Tahj Eaddy and the other a blowout win. They also upset Kansas in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament with a massive 34-point win. The Trojans trampled the Ducks in the Sweet 16. The only team in the top three of the poll that didn’t lose to USC last season is No. 1 Gonzaga. 

After losing star center Evan Mobley left to the NBA draft, USC will have to prove itself to the media. Most of the players from last year’s roster are returning, and Memphis transfer junior guard Boogie Ellis will be a key addition. UCLA and Kansas have a corps of returning players from last season, which could explain why the media believes they should top the rankings despite losing to USC last season. 

Being unranked at the beginning of the season is not a new experience for USC. Last season, the Trojans started the year unranked and were able to build a reputation throughout the season that gave them the sixth seed in the NCAA Tournament. The team will have the opportunity to prove itself in the regular season against No. 2 UCLA Feb. 12 and March 5 as well as against No. 13 Oregon Jan. 15 and Feb. 26.