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Desert Road Trip

This week SC heads out to the wastes of Arizona, more formally known as Tucson and the Phoenix metropolitan area, to take on a pair of teams USC swept at home in Arizona and Arizona State. Needless to say, this is one difficult little swing and Tim Floyd is going to need a bit of luck to pull out a win or two. Just check out the Pac 10 basketball standings:

Pac 10 Hoops Standings
Rank Team Record Games Behind
1 UCLA 8-2 -
2 Washington 8-3 1/2
T3 ASU 7-4 1 1/2
T3 California 7-4 1 1/2
5 USC 6-4 2
6 Arizona 6-5 2 1/2
T7 Stanford 4-7 4 1/2
T7 Washington St. 4-7 4 1/2
T7 Oregon St. 4-7 4 1/2
10 Oregon 0-11 8 1/2

Talk about a tight race. Its pretty clear that UCLA, Wahington, and ASU all have a shot at winning the conference, but regardless of the conference champion I have a hard time imagining SC making it to the NCAA tournament if they finish below 4th in conference. As you can probably see from the above USC sits a mere half game behind the Sun Devils and a 1/2 game ahead of the Wildcats. Wins over both would all but guarantee a 4th or higher finish, while losses to both would put the team in a fairly desperate situation as they would then likely need to win five of their last six. In other words anything less than a split is bad news.

But even a split seems daunting when you consider the position Arizona is playing on. When the teams met up earlier this season Daniel Hackett pulled out a last second win thanks partly to a boneheaded foul from Jamelle Horn in a game that should have gone into over time.The Wildcats are also fighting for their tournament lives, and a win over SC would push them to .500 and give them a bit of momentum heading into a tough matchup against ucla. Similarly Arizona State will also be looking for revenge and quality wins as they still have a shot at a high seed and a conference championship. Needless to say, the odss are definitely stacked against USC.

Despite all of that, I still think that the team could pull out both wins. As I said, they beat both of these teams and that definitely carries a certain psychological advantage. More importantly though, Floyd has had a full week to prepare the players for tonight's game and then has most of the weekend to prepare them for ASU as the second game is not until Sunday night. Sure Marcus Johnson will be missed, but I think the motivation from the dissapointing performance against the bruins will more than offset the loss. Besides, there's no way that the players come out flat for two games in a row... right?