USC basketball’s best start in a decade still has the Trojans on the outside of the NCAA Tournament looking in, according to ESPN’s bracketology expert Joe Lunardi.
Lunardi’s first bracket projection for the new year has USC among the first four out, alongside Wake Forest, Colorado and Saint Joseph’s. The last four in were set as Texas, Arizona State, Seton Hall and Monmouth.
In this bracket, the Pac-12 would have six teams represented in the tournament. Arizona is the conference’s highest-seeded team as a three seed followed by Oregon as a six seed, Cal as a seven seed, Utah as an eight seed, UCLA as a nine seed and ASU as an 11 seed.
The Trojans were on a seven-game winning streak, including an opening victory in Pac-12 play against Washington State, before blowing a 22-point lead versus Washington on Sunday afternoon.
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Andy Enfield’s team now stands with a 12-3 record on the season with a 1-1 mark in conference. This time last year USC was 8-6. They would go on to earn just three wins in conference play.
Despite the loss to the Huskies, the Trojans are much improved this season and are still poised to make a run at their first tournament appearance since 2011 if they keep up the level of play they have shown in the early goings. The health of guard Julian Jacobs may be a major factor in that, as his absence due to an ankle injury in the second half of Sunday’s loss seemed the root cause of the collapse.
On Thursday USC will open the Pac-12 home schedule with Arizona State at the Galen Center.