As another week of March comes to a close, men’s basketball is on the brink of something truly special at the NCAA Tournament.
Sixth-seeded USC will face familiar Pac-12 foe seventh-seeded Oregon Sunday in the Sweet 16. A win would secure the Trojans’ first Elite Eight appearance since 2001.
The Trojans are coming off a huge lopsided victory against third-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the Round of 32. Five players reached double figures for USC, including senior guard Isaiah White and senior forward Chevez Goodwin. It was also a game where freshman forward Evan Mobley, USC’s biggest star, had only had 10 points.
The Jayhawkssuffocated for the entirety of the game, only shooting 29% from the field and outrebounded by 16. They also only had one player reach double figures — senior guard Marcus Garrett, who needed 15 shot attempts to reach 15 points.
Head coach Andy Enfield highlighted the significance of a win over a college basketball powerhouse like Kansas.
“This game meant a lot to our program and to our fans. USC basketball is on the rise,” said Enfieldin a virtual press conference Monday. “Over the last 80 years, it’s been like a roller coaster — a lot of great players, great coaches [and] great teams — but we’re trying to sustain the success, build a program and sustain the success.”
The complete performance from the Trojans prompts a matchup against the Ducks who are hitting their stride at the right time. Oregon upset No. 2 Iowa in their last game, putting up 95 total points while shooting 44% from the 3-point line.
The Ducks have an outstanding trio of guards such as seniors Chris Duarte and LJ Figueroa and junior Will Richardson. All three men combined for 63 points against Iowa and shot 66% from the field combined.
Couple their fantastic shooting with first-team All-Pac-12 selection senior forward Eugune Omoruyi, and USC faces an explosive offense, including streaky 3-point shooting they’ll have to contain. The Trojans’ length will be tested against Oregon’s quick guards, and the story of the game will probably be how USC’s stingy defense performs against the explosive Ducks offense.
Enfield had mixed emotions about the meeting with the Pac-12 opponent.
“We have a lot of respect for that team … To play Oregon in the Sweet 16, honestly, I wish we were playing a team from another conference. I’m not sure how we’re meeting them in the Sweet 16,” he said. “They were 14-4 in the league; we were 15-5 this year. I think it’ll be a great college basketball game.”
In the first and only matchup against the Ducks this season, a 47% shooting performance from 3 carried USC to a 14-point win. However, the game was played over a month ago, and both teams are in very different positions this weekend.
Oregon proceeded to go on a six-game winning streak, stealing the Pac-12 championship from USC by only one game.
The matchup with the Ducks prompted a reaction from sophomore forward Isaiah Mobley when asked about the upcoming game.
“I don’t want to say, necessarily, that they got luck because they are a good team,” he said Monday. “But they stole the Pac-12 championship from us, so I think we match up well, though. We both have chips [on] our shoulders.”
A spot in the Elite Eight awaits. Tip-off is Sunday at 6:45 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, In.