Which team should USC fans want to see in Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals?
The USC Trojans will play either Arizona State or Oregon State in the quarterfinals of the 2023 Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday night in Las Vegas.
Fans, players, coaches, administrators might all have an opinion on which is the better outcome for USC. We will simply lay out the details of each scenario and let you decide which is better.
The Trojans lost to Oregon State one month ago and nearly lost to the Beavers in early December in the Galen Center. OSU really gave USC problems in both meetings, even though the Beavers are located near No. 200 in the national NET rankings. The odds would suggest that USC is due for a good game if it gets a third crack at the Beavers. Oregon State is, as the 11th-place team in the Pac-12, not objectively very good. USC’s chances of beating the Beavers are a lot better than they are of beating Arizona State three times out of three and twice in six days.
However, while Oregon State is the team USC is more likely to beat, the Beavers bring an element of danger to a potential matchup with the Trojans on Thursday: Precisely because they are so low in the NET rankings, a second USC loss to the Beavers would create a much bigger downward movement on the seed list. It’s the kind of loss which, if suffered, really could damage USC’s overall NCAA Tournament profile.
Easier to win, but the downside of a loss is far bigger. That’s the Oregon State angle.
Arizona State would be just the opposite. The Sun Devils would be far harder to beat than Oregon State. It’s rarely easy to beat one opponent three times in the same season when that opponent is not markedly inferior. ASU might be inferior to USC, but not nearly to the extent Oregon State is. ASU offers a much tougher matchup. No explanation needed.
However, if USC plays ASU and loses to the Sun Devils, the loss would not have a significant negative effect on the Trojans’ portfolio. Yes, USC would slide a few places down the seed list, but not that many, maybe three or four at most.
A USC loss to Oregon State would carry a loss of seven to 10 places on the seed list.
USC is — according to most bracketologists (looking at various forecasts which are populating the internet and the college basketball community) — a No. 10 seed on Monday morning. At worst, USC is one of the “last four byes,” meaning the Trojans avoid Dayton and the First Four.
If USC plays and loses against Arizona State, the Trojans’ worst-case scenario is probably the First Four.
If USC loses to Oregon State, it could potentially be worse than the First Four … but USC should beat Oregon State by 20 and advance to Friday’s Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. Another game with ASU, on the other hand, would probably go down to the wire.
There’s the choice USC fans have. You can think it over and decide for yourself.
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