The USC basketball program wants to be taken seriously. Scheduling tougher nonconference opponents is part of that process of earning respect.
Andy Enfield needed to show he could beef up his nonconference schedule. While there are still some low-level cupcakes in the mix, it's clear that Enfield and the Trojans have aimed higher.
The full nonconference schedule was released earlier this week. USC will definitely have a chance to play its way into the NCAA Tournament and test itself for the heart of the Pac-12 Conference schedule in January and February.
The Battle 4 Atlantis tournament gives USC another neutral-court game against BYU (the teams met on a neutral floor two seasons ago), with a chance to potentially play Tennessee and maybe even Kansas in The Bahamas.
USC hosts Vermont, an excellent mid-major team and the kind of opponent the Trojans should schedule more often.
USC begins a home-and-home series with Bruce Pearl and Auburn this December. It played a neutral-court game in Phoenix last season versus Georgia Tech. This year, the Trojans return to Phoenix to face a very good Colorado State team out of the Mountain West. Cal State Fullerton, which made the NCAA Tournament last season, is also on the USC nonconference dance card. This is a lot better than last season.
Yes, Alabama State should not be on the schedule. That simply lowers the overall profile. It's understandable why that game is being scheduled. It's a developmental game to get the whole roster involved in live-game action. Still, Enfield can shoot a little higher than that.
Overall, though, this is a solid nonconference platter of games. USC can lose one game but make up the deficit with a high-end victory. Schedules should offer opportunities to move up the seed list for the NCAA Tournament.
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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire