While USC interim Coach Jim Saia readily admits that Stanford is not the same team without leading scorer Dan Grunfeld, Saia also is leery of the effect the absence will have when the Trojans meet the Cardinal on Thursday night at Palo Alto.
Grunfeld, a junior swingman whose 17.9 scoring average is second in the Pacific 10 Conference, was lost for the season Saturday when he suffered a torn ligament in his right knee while attempting a layup in transition in a victory against California.
"They're not as good without Dan Grunfeld, that's for sure," Saia said. "But it gives another Division I athlete a chance to step up, a guy like Fred Washington or Jason Haas.
"They're without one of their star players and that tends to bring unity to a team. That concerns me as [an opposing] coach."
Grunfeld's 14.5-point jump in scoring average from last season is the best in Division I this season.
First-year Stanford Coach Trent Johnson said his team has responded well to the bad news. "We're minus about 18 points," Johnson said, adding that his team could make up the difference if each player scored one more basket.
Saia said he had settled on a starting lineup for the rest of the season -- freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt, sophomore shooting guard Lodrick Stewart, freshman swingman Nick Young, senior power forward Jeff McMillan and senior center Rory O'Neil, though McMillan and O'Neil are essentially interchangeable in the frontcourt. The quintet has started the last three games -- they also started the Trojans' first three Pac-10 games as a unit -- after Saia used nine starting lineups.
Senior guard Errick Craven, who has an injured right ankle, has not practiced this week after sitting out Saturday night's victory over Arizona State. And though Craven is expected to travel to games at Stanford and Cal, Saia said he is not counting on Craven to play in either game. Craven has not played in three of the Trojans' last four games.