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USC Basketball: Pac-12 Tournament preview

The push for the NCAA Tournament begins with a first round meeting with the Arizona Wildcats.

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s March! The most wonderful time for basketball fans alike. This is where upsets happen, cinderella stories take place, and buzzer beaters! The USC Trojans are looking to write a story of their own following an up and down season in a wacky Pac-12 conference. The Trojans limp into the Pac-12 tournament after being swept by the mountain schools to fall to 15-16 overall and 8-10 in conference, which puts them in the eighth seed. The only shot USC has reaching the NCAA tournament, is by winning the conference tournament. Something the Trojans haven’t won in 10 years.

The Trojans open the Pac-12 tournament against the No. 9 seed Arizona Wildcats in a rematch of last season’s tournament final. The Wildcats defeated USC in a game that ultimately put the Trojans on the outside of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats come in with a 8-10 conference record, locking in their first losing record in the Pac-12/10 since 1983-84. Arizona is also looking to play its way back into the NCAA Tournament despite having a 17-12 record. USC defeated Arizona 80-57 at Galen Center in their only meeting on January 24th. Some bad news for Trojan fans is that USC have never beaten the Wildcats in the Pac-12/10 tournament.

This year the Pac-12 tournament is wide open with no clear favorite to win despite the Washington Huskies being the only ranked team in the conference. For USC it brings some good news because it doesn’t face a daunting task of reaching the conference final. The Trojans have shown that they can string a few wins together, but as of late they’ve lost four consecutive games and only won three of their last 10 games. In order to make a run in the tournament they’ll need production from their key players.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at Southern California
USC will have to win the Pac-12 tournament if they want to go to the NCAA Tournament.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

All-Pac-12 first team senior forward Bennie Boatwright has been a bright spot for the USC Trojans on offense. He leads the team in scoring and has been a consistent scoring threat that the Trojans need. Junior forward Nick Rakocevic has done a solid job on both sides of the floor this season. The duo have shown up for the Trojans on a consistent basis, however they’ll need more production from the likes of junior guard Jonah Mathews and senior guard Shaqquan Aaron. Both played a huge role in the team’s tournament run last season. The big question is whether freshman guard Kevin Porter Jr. will be available to play after missing time with a sprained ankle. The freshman guard has missed some time this season between injuries and a suspension. He will give USC a huge boost off the bench if he is able to play against the Wildcats.

The Pac-12 Tournament is wide open, but which USC team is going to show up? The Trojans can shake things up by stealing an automatic bid. One loss will mean that the team is at home in March, which isn’t a good thing considering the team is bringing in the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation. Missing the tournament for a second consecutive season also won’t help things for head coach Andy Enfield and his future.