Record: 24-9 (10-8)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 11 (East)
How they got to the Big Dance
USC started the season off strong, winning all 13 of its out-of-conference games. Its biggest win during that stretch came at home against SMU, the eventual winners of the AAC.
USC opened conference play losing four of its first seven games, including a blowout loss on the road to then-No. 21 Oregon. After this slow start to conference play, USC went on to win its next five games, including a big win at home against arch-rival UCLA. USC then entered the hardest part of its season, facing three top-ten teams in a row with two of those games on the road. USC went on to lose all three games, including a humiliating blowout loss on the road against UCLA. The Trojans would lose their next game after this before recovering to win their final two games of the regular season.
USC opened the PAC-12 Tournament with a win over Washington. After that win they narrowly fell to rival UCLA in the third meeting of the season.
Why they’re a legitimate contender
USC is a pretty good team that can win games in the NCAA Tournament. They managed to win all of their out-of-conference games, beating a strong SMU team and a top UCLA squad. USC has multiple guys that can score, with Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu, Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart all averaging double digits in the scoring column this season.
As a whole, the team does a pretty good job scoring, averaging 78.7 points per game. Part of USC’s ability to score lies in its ability to distribute the ball, as the Trojans dished out 15.3 assists per game this season. USC is a team that can score with the best of them and that will give it a chance once the tournament begins.
Why they’re not a legitimate contender
USC has struggled with defense this season. In their blowout loss to UCLA, the Trojans gave up over 100 points and could not stop the Bruins. Over the course of the season, Southern Cal gave up 73.2 points per game, which left the team in the bottom half of Division I. If USC is going to win the NCAA Tournament, the Trojans are going to have to beat some top scoring teams, and with their defense, that does not appear to be likely.
Player to watch: F Chimezie Metu
Metu had a strong season for USC and was a force on the boards for the Trojans. He averaged 7.8 rebounds per game this season and had eight double-digit games on the boards. Metu played a big role on defense for USC this season, averaging 1.5 blocks per game. Against Omaha Metu put up a season high of five blocks, setting the tone for his season early.
Metu was also USC’s second-leading scorer this season, averaging 14.5 points per game. Against Washington State on the road he scored a season high 29 points. Metu is a player that can dominate the boards, score and block shots. He will be one to watch once the tournament begins.