Record: 21-12 (9-9)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 8 (East)
How they got to the Big Dance
The Trojans earned several top-100 wins in the beginning of the year. They beat then-ranked No. 20 Wichita State, Monmouth and Yale before losing to No. 23 Xavier. The Trojans had a very mediocre conference record of 9-9, but were able to add a few quality wins to their résumé. They beat Arizona State, ranked No. 7 at the time, in four overtimes. Their other quality wins were against Colorado and Oregon State, although both were home games. The Trojans earned the No. 7 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, and beat UCLA before losing in the quarterfinals to the No. 2 seed Utah. But the Trojans are still heading to the Big Dance for the first time since 2011, where they will face No. 9 seed Providence.
Why they are a legitimate contender
The Trojans have had to keep up with some good teams in the Pac-12 this year. They clinched a tournament birth thanks to their scoring prowress. They rank 17th in the country, averaging 80.8 points per game. If USC can keep their scoring up in March, they have a good chance of getting through a couple rounds. The Trojans shoot 45.7 percent from the field, including an above-average 38.5 percent from behind the 3-point arc. The USC big men have done a great job this season protecting the paint, ranking 11th in the nation with 5.4 blocks per game. If the Trojans can protect the 3-point line, the USC big men will be able to continue what they have done all year.
Why they aren’t a legitimate contender
USC hasn’t been to the Big Dance since 2011 and they haven’t won a game in the tournament since 2009. Based of some of their weaknesses this year, nothing will be changing. Although they score over 80 points per game, they allow 74.8. If the Trojans face a quality defense, they won’t stand a chance due to their inconsistent defense. There is a much better chance USC gives up 74 points than scores 80. The Trojans also allow too many offensive rebounds, over 11 per game, resulting in an abundance of second chance opportunities for their opponents. Additionally, the Trojans can’t make their free throws, only sinking 67.8 percent of them. Their weaknesses are common for teams making quick exits.
Player to watch- G Jordan McLaughlin
The 6-foot-1 sophomore guard sets the tone for the Trojans. He is their best all-around player, averaging 13.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. He hits 42.3 percent of his shots from 3-point range and sinks about 75 percent from the free throw line. In the Pac-12 tournament, he averaged 21.0 points per game on 52% shooting. McLaughlin is has led the high-scoring Trojans into the NCAA Tournament, and it is up to him whether or not they will make some magic.
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