February 24, 2013 by Marshall Kelner
By Marshall Kelner
I am ecstatic to be in LA and going to my second SC hoops game this season. I graduated in 2011 and live in Minnesota right now, but I try to make it back out west whenever I can. This is the perfect time to do it. Three games in the next week, including today’s when USC will go for a season sweep of the Bruins for the first time since 2010.
Obviously, people see USC-UCLA and immediately get excited. It’s hard not to. But how big is today’s crosstown showdown at Galen Center in reality, after USC won the first meeting at Pauley? I’ll keep the answer simple and concise: Huge. Very huge.
After Cal continued their winning ways this weekend by sneaking past Oregon and Oregon State (!) on the road, the Golden Bears may have an inside track to win the league. More about that to come in the next few days.
I bring up Cal because they now look like they will secure a top four spot at least, which means an all-important first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament in Vegas. I’ve written before that SC still has a very outside shot at an at-large bid if they can win out in the regular season, but their best path to the Big Dance still looks to be cutting down the nets in Vegas.
If Cal gets the bye, that leaves three other spots. Oregon and Arizona, tied for first right now, obviously have the lead on two of those. The other one is seriously up for grabs, and today’s game will be critical in deciding who gets it.
Arizona State lost to Washington yesterday at home (how, I don’t know), and they have three road games to close the season against Arizona, SC, and UCLA. Right now, they are tied with SC in the loss column. Advantage Trojans.
Colorado is currently tied with SC in the loss column as well. The tough part about the Buffs is that they beat the Trojans in the only meeting, so they have the tie breaker. BUT their remaining schedule is very difficult, with road games against Stanford and Cal and a home contest against Oregon included. Advantage Trojans.
Then, there are the hated UCLA Bruins. If USC loses at home today, you can pretty much seal that fourth bye up for UCLA. At the very least, even if the Bruins crumble down the stretch and don’t get it, USC won’t either because they will be three games back with four to play. So, how big is this game again?