It's taken Head Coach Andy Enfield a few seasons to turn around the Southern California Trojans men's basketball program, but a good showing in the Pac-12 Tournament this week in Las Vegas should get the team to the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row. The last time the Trojans did that was 2009, so USC's opening-round game against the Washington Huskies has huge implications for Enfield and his players. The Pac-12 tourney can either make or break Trojan dreams this time around.
Regular season stats: 78.9 points per game scoring (56th of 351 NCAA Division I schools), 73.1 points per game allowed (210th of 351)
Conference record: 10-8 (T5th place)
Overall record: 23-8, .742 winning percentage (43rd of 351)
Home record: 14-3
Road record: 6-5
Best win: The Trojans started the season 14-0 thanks to a relatively easy schedule, so when USC hosted crosstown rival UCLA on January 25, the Trojans had something to prove. Boy, did they do so! With an 84-76 victory over the then-No. 8 Bruins, USC proved they were for real despite some inconsistent play in the early conference season. UCLA shot just 30 percent from behind the three-point line, while the Trojans notched 12 steals and had five players score in double figures. The Bruins haven't lost since then.
Worst loss: The Trojans got worn down late in the season after consecutive losses to Oregon, UCLA and Arizona—the last two on the road. That's a nasty gauntlet, but USC got caught down by Arizona State on February 26, which handed the Trojans a fourth straight loss, 83-82. USC shot 56.4 percent from the floor in Tempe, but the Trojans committed 12 turnovers. That turned out to be the big difference in the game. USC did recover to win its final two games of the season at home against the Washington schools, but that ASU game is one they'd like to have back.
Best Player: Sophomore forward Chimezie Metu doesn't have stats that leap off the page, but it's clear he's the best player on a well-rounded, talent Trojans squad. Metu averaged 14.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while playing in all 31 games this season and staying on the floor for over 31 minutes per contest. That gives USC a big presence in the middle that's hard for the opponent to defend all game long.
Pac-12 Tournament outlook: The Trojans drew the Washington Huskies for their opening-round game in the Pac-12 tourney, and that's a good sign for USC. The Huskies provided little resistance as the Trojans swept them this year. Assuming USC wins on Wednesday, a third game against UCLA awaits on Thursday. That should be one of the best games of the tournament, in truth, and although the Bruins are playing very well right now and ranked No. 3 in the country, the Trojans know they can hang with their crosstown rivals. Fasten your seat belts for that one! A USC victory on Thursday all but guarantees the Trojans another bid to March Madness.
Tickets to Session 2, featuring the Colorado-Washington State and USC-Washington games on Wednesday evening, can be purchased here.