Breaking down the three biggest takeaways from No. 6 Southern California's 82-68 win against No. 7 Oregon to advance into the men's Elite Eight:
1. This was a revenge game of sorts for USC, which beat Oregon in the lone regular-season meeting between the teams but lost the Pac-12 regular-season championship by virtue of the league’s decision to use winning percentage to determine the final standings. (USC went 15-5 and Oregon finished 14-4 in conference play.) The Ducks have been the most successful team in the Pac-12 during coach Dana Altman’s tenure, far out-performing USC during coach Andy Enfeld’s uneven tenure, so the Sweet 16 win also signals a potential changing of the league’s pecking order with the Trojans and rival UCLA taking control.
And while a Pac-12 team was advancing from Sunday night’s game regardless, the final makes it official: With USC, UCLA and Oregon State in the Elite Eight, this year’s tournament belongs to the conference. In all, only one of the eight teams plays in the Eastern Time Zone.
2. USC has the talent, star power and momentum to win the whole thing. It’s still a long shot: Gonzaga is playing for a place in college basketball immortality and Baylor has dominated its path to the Elite Eight. But in a one-game tournament, USC has the pieces to knock off the Bulldogs on Tuesday night in the East Region final and then upset another favored opponent in the Final Four.
Most of that optimism stems from the play of true freshman forward Evan Mobley, who with his performance in the past month has secured a place among the top two picks in this year’s NBA draft. Mobley went for 10 points with eight rebounds and six assists against the Ducks, punctuated by a booming dunk late in the second half, while the Trojans were boosted by the play of guards Isaiah White and Tahj Eaddy, who combined for 42 points.
3. This is what USC has been waiting for from Enfeld. Once one of the hottest up-and-coming coaches in the sport, Enfeld had failed to duplicate his Florida Gulf Coast magic with the Trojans. Until now. This run could spark a new era for USC basketball and easily serves as the shining moment for Enfeld’s tenure. The win also stands as a reminder that not every coaching era blossoms from the start — even those led by the coach responsible for one of the most memorable runs in men’s NCAA Tournament history. Instead, USC was patient and gave Enfeld time, with the payoff this year’s Elite Eight run.
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sweet 16: Southern Cal beating Oregon wake-up call for rest of Pac-12