At the close of the 2013 men's college water polo season, it was clear that the USC Trojans still have the caliber and athleticism that has built them into the five-time defending national champions. Jovan Vavic still has this team performing top-notch water polo in every game, Kostas Genidounias and Nikola Vavic have scored a combined 137 goals, and the team is still expected to be a strong contender for a sixth straight title.
At the same time, though, it is clear that the Trojans' rivals have caught up with them. After a very strong start to the season, USC has faltered in MPSF play, losing to Pacific on November 2 and then losing to Stanford and UCLA in overtime in the final week of the season. USC now enters the conference tournament as the #4 seed with a record of 23-4 (5-3). While the teams who defeated them will get easy opponents in the opening round, the Trojans will have to take on the Cal Golden Bears, whom USC narrowly defeated 11-9 on November 9. The winner will then likely take on Pacific on Saturday in the semifinal, with the tournament being held in Pacific's home pool in Stockton.
The winner of the tournament will automatically advance to the NCAA championship semifinals, while the other teams will have to wait to see which one of them will be chosen by the NCAA playoff committee to fill an at-large berth. This year's NCAA tournament will expand from four teams to six. Four berths will go to the champions of the four major conferences, while two more will enter as at-large berths. USC's recent dynasty probably prevents the tournament from becoming a must-win for them, but they will likely have to reach the final in order to become front-runners for one of those at-large berths. USC is currently fourth in the national rankings.
USC vs. Cal takes place today at 3 PM. You can watch the match on Pacific's website HERE