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Junior forward Nick Rakocevic goes for the lay-up against Cal last season on Jan. 4. (Tal Volk | Daily Trojan)USC men’s basketball starts the 2018-19 season Tuesday with a home matchup against Robert Morris 8 p.m. This is the first of three straight home games to open the season against lesser competition, so the Trojans will look to take advantage of the opportunity for a strong start.The Trojans, who went 24-12 and made the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game last year, will be tasked with replacing their leading scorer and rebounder in forward Chimezie Metu and their leading assist man in guard Jordan McLaughlin. With both departed for the NBA, along with the program’s all-time 3-pointer leader in guard Elijah Stewart, the Trojans have big shoes to fill.Despite this, USC still retains a measure of the depth that made it successful last year. They return six players who played double-digit minutes in 2017-18, and junior guard Jonah Mathews said that the Trojans will once again have a varied attack.“Everybody on the team can score,” said Mathews at Pac-12 Media Day in October. “I think we have one of the most talented offensive teams in the nation, from top to bottom.”Head coach Andy Enfield has put an emphasis on executing on defense. “[We are] making sure our opponent doesn’t score 70 points, because last year [when we played an] opponent that didn’t score 70 points, we won the game,” redshirt senior guard Shaqquan Aaron said.If there is a star for this team, it’s senior forward Bennie Boatwright. Boatwright was the team’s second-leading scorer last season, and is a potential all-conference selection candidate. He was also named to the preseason watch list for the Malone award for the nation’s best power forward and for the Naismith Trophy, which is awarded to the top collegiate basketball player. Boatwright missed the end of last season due to a knee injury and has spent the off season recovering. According to Enfield, Boatwright will be a gametime decision on Tuesday night. “I think Bennie is very determined this year to come back and have a tremendous senior season,” Enfield said of Boatwright in an interview with Pac-12. “He puts a lot of time and effort in.”Redshirt junior guard Derryck Thornton dribbles the ball down the court in a game last season. He is expected to take on a leadership role this season. (Tal Volk | Daily Trojan)A key factor that will determine the Trojans’ success is point guard play, as McLaughlin led the conference in assists last season. His calming presence will be replaced by redshirt junior Derryck Thornton, a five-star recruit out of high school in his second season with USC after transferring from Duke.“This summer, I got in the gym, I worked on my shooting a ton,” said Thornton per USC Athletics, adding that he learned a lot from McLaughlin last year. “I have been watching a lot of film, breaking down great point guards and seeing how I can learn and get better.”The Trojans’ rotations have yet to be determined, mostly due to a talented freshman class that will compete for minutes. Guard Kevin Porter Jr. highlights the group; the Washington product is the best candidate of the incomers to start right away due to his athleticism and shot-making ability. Porter’s talent has earned buzz that he can go one-and-done and be a first round pick in the NBA draft.Freshman forward J’Raan Brooks should also see significant playing time because of USC’s lack of frontcourt depth. The wild card is guard Elijah Weaver, who has been out with an ankle surgery since late August. When he returns, Weaver should step in as the backup point guard to Thornton. Weaver is apparently ahead of schedule and is expected to return in the next few weeks.“You know, [injuries] happen,” Aaron said. “It’s part of the game. Now we’re all … pretty much all healthy and back. The days that we’ve had all together we’ve prepared, gone at it hard, and we’ll be ready for [tonight].”Robert Morris also needs to replace production after losing leading scorer Dachon Burke. They do, however, return their other four starters, including leading assist man in sophomore guard Jon Williams and their second-leading scorer in sophomore forward Koby Thomas.The Colonials struggled as a team last year. They don’t shoot the lights out, grab every rebound or defend incredibly well. Their per game numbers were pretty similar to their opponents’ in most statistical categories, such as their 68.8 points per game and .411 field goal percentage compared to their opponents’ 70.7 and .448. They went 16-17 on the year and had a scoring margin of -1.9, so they tended to keep games pretty close.Thomas was also the team’s leading rebounder, despite being listed at 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds. With Rakocevic and Boatwright both over 6-foot-10, USC will have a significant size advantage that it should be able to exploit.Prediction: 88-66The Trojans shouldn’t have any issues winning this game comfortably. The Colonials are not from a Power Five conference; they don’t have the talent USC has and lack the star production necessary to make up for the overall disparity. If the Trojans lose this game, they’ll have the answers to the questions the team has this season, they just won’t be the ones the team wants.