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Pac-12 Tournament: Previewing the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins

For the third time this season The USC Trojans take on the UCLA Bruins. The Trojans won the first two but can they take the third?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The howling winds of El Niño have brought upon engulfing gray clouds and fierce onset rains throughout Southern California. Much like the regular season for the Trojans (20-11, 9-9), the weather phenomenon has gone through many changes over the past couple of months, as many expectations were difficult to predict.

However, much like the current matter of golden state weather, the end of the regular season for USC is a welcomed madness that will look to remain strong through March.

Finishing their season as the seventh-ranked team in the Pac-12, USC will have one of the more challenging paths to the tournament finals.

Their first round game is against longtime archrival #10 UCLA (15-16, 6-12).

Not to discredit USC's sweeping of their two-game series -- the first time the Trojans have done so since 2010, the institutional rivalry runs deep in southern California lore, and that alone gives way to unpredictability.

If the Trojans can defeat the detested Bruins, then they would take on Pac-12 Player of the Year sophomore center Jakob Poetl and the second-ranked Utah Utes (24-7, 13-5).

The Utes and Poetl had a lot of success in the NCAA Tournament a year ago -- €”solidifying Utah's position as legitimate 2016 contender as well as propelling Poetl and as a top NBA prospect.

The Trojans have a potentially turbulent road ahead, but this USC team has been tested many times in the regular season taking on NCAA elite teams in Utah, Oregon and Arizona.

In a season that produced sporadic moments of jubilation and disappointment, one flash of success was the naming of junior guard Julian Jacobs to the Pac-12 All-Conference First Team. Jacobs averaged 11.6 points, 5.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game this season, as he steadily willed the team to a successful regular season.

In addition to Jacobs' all-around contributions, the defense as a whole will need to play better if USC hopes to knock off uber-talented teams like Utah. The offense has shown regularly they can score at will as they are at the top of the conference in both points scored and three-pointers made.

The first round for the Trojans tips off at 6 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network as they look to advance past UCLA.