March 4, 2018 by Sam Dodge
Losing to UCLA is really going to sting. (SB Nation)
Dave Pasch said this to Bill Walton after USC’s double-digit loss to UCLA:
“See you in the NIT.”
While he is probably referencing their own announcing duties for the lesser postseason tournament, it’s hard to think they weren’t really talking about the Trojans.
Assuming there is no crazy craps run in Las Vegas next weekend, USC should not be anyone’s March dance partner.
The immediately visceral take: You got swept by not just your rival, but a fellow bubble team. If a bracketologist has to choose between USC and UCLA, the choice was made on the court.
On this crucial Saturday, as the second to last team in according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the very last team in (Texas) got a pivotal win over a ranked West Virginia squad. The Lone Star State’s team is not moving anywhere but past their Southern California counterpart.
Take a team like Syracuse, the first team out of Jerry Palm’s bracket on CBS entering today. They leave Saturday with a pivotal win over a top-20 Clemson team.
Sure, other bubble teams such as Louisville, Providence and Penn State lost. USC has the edge over Utah with the season sweep, and despite the late December loss, Washington didn’t hold serve in conference play nearly enough to get the nod.
The term de jour of this year’s bracketology is your record against Quadrant One teams. This means games at home against the RPI top-30, neutral against the top-50 and away against the top-75.
This metric may save the Trojan’s recently burnt bacon.
USC is staring down a mediocre 4-6 record against Quadrant One teams. Their four wins?
Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, at Oregon and at Utah. Hardly inspiring.
However, this bests the closest competition. While UCLA carries the season broom-job, they stand at 3-7 in such games. Syracuse holds the same mark. Texas snagged only five wins in 15 opportunities.
Is USC really going to feel comfortable touting their wins over MTSU and NMSU, both basketball luminaries and four-letter acronyms?
Let’s be clear: The Trojans need to get to the title game next weekend. They play the winner of Washington and Oregon State 6:00 P.M. on Thursday. Win that, Oregon or Utah (barring a Washington State stunner) would need to be win No. 2.
It’s not that these wins would be total head-turners, but a loss in any of them ends the March Madness conversation. USC needs to either lose to one of the Arizona schools in the final, or make the whole at-large conversation moot with a tournament title.
With few quality wins, a barely superior record against decent teams and lacking “what have you done for me lately” momentum, here’s the hard truth.
Barring a Rain Man performance in Sin City, the USC fanbase will be yelling four-letter words on Selection Sunday.