From a certain point of view, it isn’t an overreaction to call USC one of this year’s most surprising NCAA Tournament teams.
No, the Trojans aren’t a record-setting No. 15 seed like Oral Roberts, and they don’t have Sister Jean’s magic the way that Loyola-Chicago does. But the Trojans are in the Sweet 16 for the first time in quite a few years.
Yes, it has indeed been some time since the Trojans last made it this far. And with a win against Oregon, USC will snap a lengthy drought involving the Elite Eight.
USC’s basketball team is headed to the Sweet 16
USC fans shouldn’t be surprised at how far the Trojans have made it in this year’s tournament given their regular-season performance.
The Trojans went 22-7 amid the coronavirus pandemic and lost to Colorado-Buffalo in the Pac-12 Tournament’s semifinals. USC reached this year’s NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed and faced No. 11 Drake in the opening round.
Although Drake kept things close in the first half, the Trojans outlasted the Bulldogs in a 72-56 victory. That set USC up for a date with Kansas, a No. 3 seed in the West Region, in the second round.
USC outscored Kansas, 40-21, in the first half en route to an 85-51 victory for the Trojans.
The Trojans’ last Elite 8 appearance came in 2001
USC fans of a certain have never seen the Trojans advance beyond the Sweet 16.
The Trojans have only made three Elite Eight appearances and none since 2001. A No. 6 seed in the East Region that year, USC lost to Duke, 79-69, in the Elite Eight. That Duke team featured numerous future NBA players, including Carlos Boozer and Jay Williams.
USC won their other two Elite Eight appearances in 1940 and 1954. Unfortunately for the Trojans, they lost in the Final Four in both of those years.
USC gets a familiar foe in the Sweet 16
The USC Trojans men’s basketball team has never won a national championship, and they’re looking to change that fact.
The Sweet 16 is an opportunity for Pac-12 foes to square off once again. USC, a No. 6 seed in the West Regional, plays No. 7 Oregon. The Trojans routed Oregon, 72-58, on February 22.
The winner of that game gets either No. 1 Gonzaga or No. 5 Creighton in the Elite Eight. USC did not play either of those teams in the regular season.
If the Trojans repeat their regular-season success, they will make the Elite Eight for the first time in 20 years. That would be an incredible accomplishment most years, but one especially worthy of praise amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But if Oregon gets its revenge, the USC Trojans will return to California still trying to break a lengthy drought. And with how wild college basketball can be, it’s impossible to know when they’ll get their next opportunity.