Posted on February 16, 2021
USC has been the huge surprise of the Pac-12. Like I’ve mentioned before, they were only projected to finish sixth in the conference, behind schools such as Arizona, Arizona State and Stanford—all of which the Trojans have beaten this season.
Through 20 games, USC is 17-3 with only two losses in the conference—the other coming early against UConn—and are currently ranked No. 17 in the AP poll.
Not only do the Trojans have the best defense in the Pac-12, by far, they have the fourth-best defense in the country as well. It is a ridiculous feat for a team that only returned four players from the previous season: The tallest team in the nation is proving to be the most versatile on both ends of the ball, poised for a deep run in March.
However, since I am picky and want everything to be perfect, there are some signs of concern and things to be worried about.
Unlike his dominant brother Evan, Isaiah Mobley has struggled to find some consistency on the offensive end. Through 20 games, he has only been in double figures seven times. There was a span in the season where he scored single figures six games in a row, shooting an impressive 57.3% from the field.
The problem, though, is not really his field goal percentage.
Mobley converts from the field consistently, but lacks assertiveness on the offensive end. Frankly, he’s not nearly as aggressive as he should be, especially since he has the talent to drop 15 points against most opponents.
There have been many instances where Mobley has resorted to playing the wing—a playmaker role—instead of working the block. I’m far from a being a basketball expert myself, but it seems to me that a 6-foot-10, 235-pound forward might be more effective posting up than standing near the wing.
Isaiah is a raw talent, but his aggression on the offensive end can elevate this already fantastic Trojan team into a real contender.
He has immense versatility on both sides of the ball. He can swat a layup, scoop up the rebound then gallop down the court, leading the fast break for the bucket. Mobley has an underrated basketball IQ, always making the right play and rarely shriveling under the pressure.
Posting up, he has the complete package—the ability to face up, back you down, or spin past you for a layup. However, he’s rarely been used as such a player.
The main question for USC as the season comes to an end is if they can get Mobley in rhythm.
When Isaiah is on the court with his brother, the offense is usually run through Evan or guard Tahj Eaddy. The opportunities are limited with these two offensive powerhouses on the court with him, especially when you bring Drew Peterson or Ethan Anderson in the lineup as well.
Bringing a combination of forward Chevez Goodwin off the bench with Isaiah might be a lineup Enfield should look to use more often. Usually, the two are paired together for a couple of minutes a game, not enough time for Mobley to get some buckets.
It’s no secret that when March comes around, opposing teams are going to smother Evan Mobley on the defensive end, sending two or three defenders at a time. It’s moments like those where Isaiah can blossom and make it tougher to defend the Trojans.
He has used his lack of offensive production to control the boards. There have been multiple instances where Mobley has had more rebounds than points in a game. His rim protection has been outstanding, as well.
But when the game slows down and the stakes get higher, Mobley’s aggressiveness on the offensive end might be the difference between an Elite Eight visit and a Round of 32 departure.
—More from Anthony Gharib—
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- Gharib: USC’s Mobley Era Short and Sweet
- Gharib: Is it time to Extend Andy Enfield’s Contract?
- Gharib: The Pac-12 Stole the Show in both Tournaments
- Gharib: Whatever Happens with USC, it’s Already Enough
- Gharib: Time to Give Pac-12, USC their Due Respect
- Gharib: USC’s Vegas Improvement Can’t Stay in Vegas
- Gharib: Trojans Show Staying Power to Make Run in March
- Gharib: Ranked Trojans May Have Had Us All Fooled
- Gharib: Arizona Loss Wake Up Call for USC + UO Preview
- Gharib: USC Finally Getting Some Love, but Not Enough
- Gharib: Despite lack of love, USC poised to make statement
- Gharib: Oregon State Loss Just What Trojans Needed
- Gharib: USC Road Trip a Great Test of Pac-12 Title Hopes
- Gharib: USC rolling but needs Ethan Anderson to contend
- Gharib: Why USC Men’s Basketball will Shock the Pac-12
Gharib: USC Gets Lift from Memphis Transfer Boogie EllisThe combo guard elevates USC into position to compete for the Pac-12 championship again - May 12, 2021
Gharib: USC’s Mobley Era Short and SweetIsaiah and Evan Mobley brought Trojan basketball back to national relevance - April 21, 2021
Gharib: Is it time to Extend Andy Enfield’s Contract?The USC head coach has established the Trojans as college basketball power - April 13, 2021