Southern California will continue to ease into its 2021-22 schedule before the challenges become exponentially greater later in the week.
No. 24 USC (3-0) will take on Dixie State on Monday, following a return from a geographically sweeping road trip that took the Trojans to Philadelphia to faceTemple last weekend for a 76-71 victory, and then to Florida Gulf Coast for a 78-61 win on Tuesday.
In Dixie State, the Trojans will face an opponent that has already played more games in the Los Angeles area than they have. The Trailblazers (1-3) will enter off two defeats at the Good Sam Empire Classic at Cal State Northridge. They fell 79-73 to the host Matadors on Saturday.
An Elite Eight participant in last year's NCAA Tournament, USC continues to prove itself after the departure of Evan Mobley, who ended up as the No. 3 overall selection in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Memphis transfer Boogie Ellis leads the Trojans with 16.3 points per game, while Chevez Goodwin, a Wofford transfer last season, is next at 15.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. Isaiah Mobley has started to stand out himself after the departure of his brother with 12.3 points per game and a team-leading 8.7 rebounds.
There figures to be far less emotion for USC coach Andy Enfield in this one. Thursday's game at Florida Gulf Coast marked his return to Fort Myers, Fla., where he took the upstart Eagles to the Sweet 16 in 2013.
Goodwin scored 20 points in the victory, while Ellis had 18. But Enfield knows he will need more from the rest of the roster and could get a chance to explore the possibilities against Dixie State.
"It's a long season," Enfield said. "You need depth and players to come off the bench and contribute."
After Dixie State on Monday, the Trojans face Saint Joseph's on Thursday in the Wooden Legacy before a matchup against either Georgetown or San Diego State. After that, a Dec. 1 Pac-12 game against Utah awaits.
If common opponents are any indicator, the Trojans could have an easy time Monday. They are at least considered heavy favorites. USC defeated Cal State Northridge with ease in the season opener on Nov. 9, delivering an 89-49 victory.
Dixie State received 20 points and eight rebounds from Cameron Gooden on Sunday in a loss to Northridge, while Hunter Schofield had 14 points. The Trailblazers led by as many as 12 in the first half and by nine at 47-38 with 16:14 remaining.
Dixie State was even within one point with 3:39 remaining after two Gooden free throws but did not have enough down the stretch.
After falling to No. 1 Gonzaga 97-63 in their season opener, the Trailblazers welcome another test against a ranked team on Monday. Following last season's move to the WAC, coach Jon Judkins believes that the more tests his team has, the better.
"We have some good games on our schedule that will help us prepare and get ready for our second year of WAC play," Judkins said.
--Field Level Media