Is there another rebound left for floundering program?
It's still quite early in the collegiate basketball season, but if you are USC Trojans head coach Tim Floyd then you are wondering which team will show up on Sunday Jan. 11 at the Galen Center in a crucial Pac 10 game against nationally ranked UCLA.
Will it be the team that gave nationally ranked Oklahoma all it could handle before succumbing in Norman, or the team that lost to both Missouri, Seton Hall and worst of all Oregon State in Corvallis last weekend?
They are probably questions that not even Floyd could answer at this point, but could go a long way into determining the future of the inconsistent USC basketball program that has often teased its fans with its potential and disheartened them with the results.
Just when you couldn't imagine things going any smoother after an impressive Pac 10 opening win in Eugene against Oregon, the Trojans had already calculated their 2-0 record before facing off with rival UCLA.
Then the unthinkable happened. First, the Trojans were forced into overtime by hapless Oregon State and then lost to a program that had failed to win a conference game in 21 consecutive previous outings.
The Beavers, coached by Craig Robinson, the brother-in law of President-elect Barack Obama, leveled their record at 6-6 with a stunning 62-58 victory.
Although the Trojans fell to 10-4 overall, they find themselves with a meager 1-1 mark in conference play along with Arizona State, Stanford and Oregon State.
Problem is Arizona State lost to Cal, Stanford to Arizona State and the Trojans to the team picked to finish last in the conference.
After losing OJ Mayo to the NBA lottery last year, USC began the season ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation.
Star Compton recruit DeMar DeRozan is third on the team in points per game with 11 behind Dwight Lewis (16) and Taj Gibson (15) and just in front of guard Daniel Hackett with 10.
It is a line-up that by many experts' comparison should contend for a conference title and go at least two deep into the NCAA tournament.
However those were the same predictions fostered last year when the Trojans went one and done in the NCAA tournament.
While Floyd is undoubtedly beside himself, he can't do anything more than shoulder much of the blame.
The team is without a true point guard, although Hackett can adequately play the position, and Lewis can look like a first round prospect on one night then have a 1-for-13 shooting clunker against Oregon State the next night.
Transfer Alex Stephenson will not be eligible until next year and former Westchester star and Connecticut transfer Marcus Johnson just became eligible.
Although Floyd contends that he would have offered a scholarship to Lil Romeo to begin with, there hasn't been a sighting yet and anyone who knows better is already aware that he was part of the DeRozan package deal.
Problem is that DeRozan is a one-and-done player and with only one top-100 recruit signed for next year in Solomon Hill of Fairfax High School, the road to glory is bumpy.
UCLA, on the other hand, is fresh off three consecutive Final Four appearances and is flush with freshman guards that could carry them into the next decade.
Senior Darren Collison leads a Bruins team that is rebuilding on the run, 2-0 in Pac 10 play and nationally ranked at No. 10 to go with a 12-2 record.
Who was it that said when they got the job that UCLA wasn't the standard of the conference?
If Floyd wants to aim at Arizona then he's going in the right direction. The Wildcats are winless and looking clueless with each growing day.
Not only are the Bruins the standard of the conference, but a measuring stick for the Final Four.
UCLA lost two players to the first round in Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook and while they may never truly replace Love, freshman Jrue Holiday has been just as good as Westbrook by averaging 10 points per game. And when Collison leaves, freshmen Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson are young, ready and willing to serve.
It's only the third game of the conference for both schools, but for USC it is a Sunday 7:30 p.m. mass that is critical.