USC draws Colorado to open Pac-12 tournament

The USC men’s basketball team will try to channel some magic from the Pac-12 Champion Women of Troy as they head into their own conference tournament. 

USC (11-20, 2-16 Pac-12), by virtue of being the last place team in the conference, will square off against the 5th-seeded Colorado Buffaloes (21-10, 10-8). Colorado finished in a five-way tie for third place in the conference, but was bumped down to the seventh spot due to a series of tiebreakers. The top four teams (Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State and Cal) received a first round bye.

Colorado was led in scoring by guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who injured his ACL in a game against Washington earlier this year and has missed most of the season’s second half. 

Guard Askia Booker has picked up the slack for the Buffaloes, averaging 13.7 points per game in Dinwiddie’s absence. The L.A. native has been helped by frontcourt duo Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson, who are averaging 14.5 and 12.2 points per game, respectively. Scott also leads the team in rebounds with an average of 8.8 boards per game.

The Trojans and Buffaloes squared off twice this season, with USC coming up short in both contests. The most recent time the two teams matched up, played while the Trojans were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, the Trojans came up just short at the end, falling 83-74.

In that game, like so many others this season, junior guard Byron Wesley was one of the sole bright spots for Andy Enfield’s squad, scoring 21 points to go along with his eight rebounds.

On Monday, the Pac-12 first, second and honorable mention teams were announced and Wesley was not among those who were honored.

This is an unfortunate trend in Wesley’s career, partly from playing on underachieving teams at USC. As a freshman in 2012, Wesley was left off the all-freshman team despite averaging more points than four of the seven freshman honored and more rebounds than all but one.

Still, Wesley and his squad will have a chance at revenge if they are able to shock the world and make a run at the conference tournament. A win over Colorado, no easy task, would pit them against a Cal team that the Trojans defeated at the Galen Center in their most impressive performance of the season. USC also played the Bears tough on the road, falling 77-64 only after Cal went on a 11-0 run in the second half.

The Trojans are coming off the momentum of a rare weekend split, as they beat the Washington State Cougars last Thursday in Pullman. Wesley tied his career high with 31 points in that contest.

USC followed that with a loss to the Washington Huskies on Saturday, to finally end what was a disappointing regular season in Troy.

Though the Trojans might be able to compete on Wednesday, a victory over a 21-win Colorado team seems unlikely. If USC loses, it would be the end of one of the worst campaigns in recent memory.

The teams play at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow in Las Vegas’ MGM Garden Arena.