USC was dealt a devastating blow earlier this week when the program announced star freshman guard Isaiah Collier would miss the next 4-6 weeks after suffering a hand injury against Washington State. If matters couldn't get any worse, USC fell to 8-8 overall and 2-3 in Pac-12 Conference play with a loss to the Cougars at home and it appears the Trojans' hopes at a berth in the NCAA Tournament are on life support unless they turn things around quickly.

Part of that turnaround could be anchored by another USC star freshman: Bronny James

With Collier going down with injury, it's expected that James could see an increased role within the USC offense. The son of NBA superstar LeBron James has been on a minutes restriction during the first eight games of his college career and has yet to exceed more than 20 minutes of action in those contests. 

Bronny James
USC • G • #6
Freshman | 6-4 | 210
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The reason for the restriction stems from a scary health scare over the summer. The younger James went into cardiac arrest during a preseason workout in late July and missed the first eight games of the season before returning against Long Beach State last month. 

The best stretch of James' young career came in the second and third conference games of the season. James scored 15 points in a loss to Oregon State and followed it up by scoring 10 points with three assists days later in a win over Cal.

However, since that performance, James has struggled on the offensive end. James shot 0-of-4 from the floor in a win over Stanford last weekend and followed it having the first scoreless performance of his college career. James missed all three of his field goal attempts against Washington State and played in his second-fewest minutes (15) of the season.

"All players go through stretches where they make and miss shots," USC coach Andy Enfield said on Wednesday. " ... you can affect winning without scoring the ball, and all our guys and Bronny in particular, he's capable of doing that."

Closing minutes

In all eight of his appearances this season, James has come off the bench. While there has been no indication on who Enfield will insert in the starting lineup ahead of USC's game against Colorado on Saturday, James could see more minutes, if his restriction is lifted. Despite not being in the starting lineup, James has routinely been in the closing lineup — a testament to his playmaking and defensive abilities. 

In the first game of his college career against Long Beach State, James played in the final minutes of regulation and the first minutes of overtime before being subbed out midway through the period. James also appeared in the final 30 seconds of crunch time against Washington State after Kobe Johnson fouled out. Collier's absence creates a void for a playmaking guard in the closing lineup — a role James could fill for the time being.

Bronny can increase his NBA Draft stock

James' NBA Draft stock remains a mystery. He could play himself into the first round during the final two months of the season ... it's also possible he comes back to school for another season. With the former being the plausible option, James should have a chance to show NBA teams what he could do with an increased role. James' greatest strengths are his defense and playmaking abilities, but he's taken real strides in his ability to hit shots from outside and get downhill. The biggest wild card to consider with his draft stock is how his father has publicly said he wants to play with his son at the next level. Could that incentivise a team to take the younger James with the prospect of his father not far behind? It's possible.

Coming back from a major health scare was one of the top moments of the college basketball season. Now, with the former No. 2 overall prospect from the 2023 recruiting cycle out for the foreseeable future, James gets a chance to show why he should be a first-round pick this summer. He could also help save USC's season in the process, too.