After falling to Colorado Friday night, the Trojans' post-season fate will be in the hands of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. The bracket will be announced during a live
After finishing with an impressive record of 22-7, USC is comfortably in the field of 68, and will go dancing for the first time since 2017. Most experts slate USC anywhere from a 5-7 seed, and I suspect that the Trojans will receive a 6 seed, in either the 3rd or 4th region.
There will certainly some new wrinkles to this years Tournament, there are some pressing questions that remain. I will cover some of the issues that will dictate the Trojans' chances moving forward.
Pac-12 Representation: The Pac has underachieved in the last few Tournaments, and the rankings and Committee have reflected the conference's shortcomings in recent years. Oregon State's victory in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship should earn the conference 5 bids. In addition to Oregon State, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA and USC all expect to hear their names announced Sunday afternoon. For those who are fans of the "Conference of Champions" do not expect any favors from the committee, I would be surprised if any of the five teams climbs higher than a 5-seed. After losing 4-straight games to end their season, the Bruins may have reason to be a bit nervous, but this is one of the instances in which reputation and tradition may benefit one of the true blue bloods of the sport. UCLA finished with a record of 17-9, with it's best win coming against Colorado. Look for the Bruins to capture an 11-12 seed, potentially being relegated to a play-in game. Either way, it is certainly a positive sign for the conference to have this type of representation. Remember, the conferences receive monetary bonuses as a result of increased participation.
Strength of Conference: As a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic, teams were forced to be fluid in terms of scheduling. While there are certain standout games across the country from the out-of-conference slate, the committee with largely be judging teams from their conference schedule. For example, USC played 29 games this year, 17 of which were against conference foes. Experts frequently compare and rank the conferences, but with so little inter-conference exposure from this wacky year, it will be interesting to watch the teams really battle in a neutral environment for the first time. The Big-10 and Big-12 will rightfully receive most of the pre-tournament hype (8 of the top 12 teams come from these two powers), but one has to wonder if a long season battling against each other may be detrimental to this year's top tier.
Resume vs. Recent Success: We touched on it a bit earlier with UCLA, but how will the Committee evaluate teams that have had very unbalanced years. Perennial powers like Villanova have looked mundane since the season-ending injury to G Collin Gillespie. Does the Committee turn to their 16-6 record first or see a team that has lost 3 of 4. On the other side of the spectrum, a team like Michigan State, who was at one point 2-7 in conference will enter Selection Sunday red-hot having just defeating 3 of the top 5 teams in the country in a 2 week span. I expect the Big-10 and Big-12 to get the benefit of the doubt and favorable seeding, and frankly it is warranted. The Pac-12's recent tournament performances have not inspired anyone, and look for the Committee to make a statement by pitting the Pac-12 teams against other power-5 teams, rather than the automatic qualifiers from smaller conferences.
We are moments away from the release of the brackets! I will have a full regional breakdown as soon as I am able to digest everything.
Fingers crossed for a favorable path forward!