Intro: The USC Trojans’ calling card as they enter March Madness is their defense. They led the Pac-10 conference allowing 62.4 points per game, and senior guard Marcus Simmons was named Pac-10 Defensive Player Of The Year. Head coach Kevin O’Neill employs a six-man rotation, with three seniors, two juniors, and a freshman.
Record: 18-13 (10-8 in Pac-10 play)
RPI: 69, per CBS Sports
Key wins: USC has three wins over ranked teams this season. The most impressive was a 73-56 blowout win over No. 19 Texas at Galen Center in Los Angeles on December 5. They also beat No. 19 Tennessee by a point on the road on December 21. USC beat regular season Pac-10 champ Arizona 65-57 in Los Angeles on February 24, and will have to do so again in the Pac-10 Tournament semifinals if USC has any chance at making the NCAA Tournament.
Key losses: USC led by two points over No. 3 Kansas with 40 seconds remaining at Allen Fieldhouse on December 18, but ultimately succumbed to the Jayhawks, 70-68. A win there would have made for three wins against ranked teams in a four-game stretch in December.
Player(s) to watch: Junior forward Nikola Vucevic was a legitimate conference Player of the Year candidate, averaging 17.7 points and a conference-best 10.3 rebounds per contest. Vucevic had 20 double-doubles on the season, also best in the Pac-10. Senior forward Alex Stepheson is Vucevic’s partner in crime in the paint, averaging 9.9 points and 9.0 rebounds on the season himself.