The USC Trojans head into this week’s Pac-12 Conference Tournament in Las Vegas losers of two in a row and with just overall 14 wins and a 9-9 conference record. While the Fighting Cantus nearly gained cult status early in February with a four-game winning streak, their fate now lies in their ability to get lucky in Sin City.
Strength of Schedule: 20th
Wins vs. RPI Top 50: Arizona, at UCLA,
Losses vs. RPI Top 50: Illinois (Maui), Marquette (Maui), San Diego State, at New Mexico, Minnesota, California(x2), at Colorado, at Arizona, UCLA
Losses vs. RPI < 150th: Washington State
What USC must do to get to the NCAA Tournament: At this point, the Trojans are Pac-12 Conference Tournament Champions or bust. Back-to-back losses to the UC schools in February, in addition to being swept up in Washington eliminated USC’s slim hopes of building up enough tournament clout by ending on a winning streak.
What USC must do to get to the NIT: Last week, The Bracket Project projected the Trojans to be just in the NIT field following a sweep of the Arizona schools, listing them as a 7th seed. Losses to both Washington and Washington State have all but eliminated those hopes this week, and the Trojans will need to make a deep Pac-12 Conference Tournament run, ideally into the Final, to regain NIT positioning. Should the Trojans get one win, they could possibly find themselves in the CBI.
Prediction: USC gets to face Utah on Wednesday in the Pac-12 Tournament, a team they blew out in January by 17 points, in what was Kevin O’Neill’s final game. The Utes are getting hot at the right time, if you can say that for a team with just four conference wins, and with the Cal Bears looming for a potential matchup on Thursday, the Trojans do not have an easy path what so ever in Las Vegas. They’ll have to go through Utah, California and presumably Oregon to get to the final. Those are three teams they played well against at times, but they’ll need to be able to finish games like they couldn’t against the Bears and Ducks. For that, the Trojans appear to be favorites against Utah, though they’re on upset alert and in danger of going one and done against Utah, who just swept the Oregon schools to finish the season.