USC’s path to the NCAA Tournament runs through the bench
The USC Trojans will likely get to the NCAA Tournament if they win two more games this season. They will definitely get in with three more wins. The most realistic scenario for USC is to beat Arizona State this week in the Galen Center and then win the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal.
What USC needs in terms of the number of wins is clear.
How to actually get those wins is a separate question. This is less about bracketology, more about actual basketball. Let’s discuss.
The tricky part of this week for USC is that the Arizona game is first and the ASU game is second. The ASU game is the more realistic win opportunity for the Trojans, especially since an angry Arizona team will be coming off a loss to Arizona State. That’s another reason the Arizona State win over Arizona was damaging for the Trojans.
USC obviously shouldn’t punt the Arizona game and focus on ASU, because beating Arizona probably gets the Trojans into the tournament. However, there is a need for USC to not completely empty the tank for the U of A and not have anything left for Arizona State just two days later. It would be so much easier for USC to have had the Arizona State game first this week and Arizona second.
The point stands: USC will need an all-hands-on-deck approach in these two games. Beating Arizona on Thursday or ASU in the turnaround game on Saturday will require more than just Boogie Ellis or Drew Peterson taking out a flamethrower and hitting a ton of shots … or at least, USC can’t depend on one of those two players going crazy.
This is why the Mountain road sweep of Colorado and Utah was so encouraging.
USC got contributions from everyone: Joshua Morgan, Vince Iwuchukwu, Tre White, Kobe Johnson, and Reese Dixon-Waters all helped Boogie and Peterson. USC received bench production on offense and defense, on the interior and the perimeter.
Everyone doing something is much more sustainable than a few players doing everything. If USC puts up a good fight but loses to Arizona, and the Trojans have to come back on Saturday with a lot of pressure on their shoulders, their bench and their full rotation will need to make it happen on Saturday against Arizona State. This week will be hugely challenging, and if USC is to win at least one game and remain on course for the Big Dance, it will take a legion of Trojans — not just one or two — to get the job done.
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