USC has missed De’Anthony Melton on defense
By Joey Kaufman
LOS ANGELES — After a practice Tuesday, USC coach Andy Enfield gushed about De’Anthony Melton.
It was over Melton’s three steals during a scrimmage portion.
As Enfield recounted, the sophomore guard stripped the ball from one player in the low post and twice more jumped into passing lanes for steals.
“He has a natural ability that very few players in this country have defensively, with how he gets deflections and steals and blocked shots at his size,” Enfield said. “We miss that.”
Melton is set to miss his 16th consecutive game Thursday night at Cal (7-7, 1-0) as USC continues to investigate his connection to the college basketball bribery and corruption case. He did not travel with the team on its Bay Area trip, which also includes a matchup Sunday at Stanford (6-8, 0-1).
The absence of Melton has been most felt on defense for the Trojans (10-5, 1-1) during their up-and-down season, one that began with a preseason top-10 ranking and now appears headed toward the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Several measurements showcase a decline in defense. The Trojans have allowed 74.1 points per game this season, up from 73.1 points per game last season, and rank No. 133 in Division I in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings, compared to No. 91 a year ago.
The biggest drop-off has been with steals, according to KenPom.com. With Melton on the court last season, the Trojans recorded a steal percentage of 9.9 percent, ranking No. 65. This season, their percentage has been 7.3 percent, putting them at No. 281. There have been fewer blocked shots, too. Their block percentage was at 13.3 percent last season (No. 24 ranking), compared to 12.8 percent this season (No. 45).
Melton was a prominent factor. Last season, he ranked second in the Pac-12 Conference in steals, averaging 1.9 per game. Melton also averaged […]