Final Regular Season Games Saturday for Bruins and Trojans
March 5, 2020
March madness is supposed to start when teams reach the NCAA Tournament in the third week of March. For the USC and UCLA men's basketball teams it starts on Saturday when the two teams meet in the final game of the regular season. USC is 21-9 overall and UCLA is 19-11
The tipoff is set for 12:15 p.m. and both teams need a win to stay in contention for a bye next week in the Pac-12 Tournament at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The first day of the tournament, Wednesday, the top four teams in the league will have a bye. The quarterfinals are Thursday, semifinals are Friday and the championship is Saturday.
Games that are played this week will determine who the top four teams will be. Seven teams are still in contention for the four spots. UCLA is in first place with record of 12-5 followed by Oregon, 11-5, Arizona State, 10, Colorado, 10-7, USC, 10-7, Stanford, 9-7 and Arizona, 9-7.
Although the Bruins are currently in first place they realize a loss to the Trojans may keep them out of the NCAA Tournament. "A lot of people still don't believe in us," said Bruins head coach Mick Cronin last Saturday after they beat Arizona at home. "We have to continue to play hard. We still make mistakes but late in the game tonight we made the right plays."
Helping the Bruins make the right plays is their best player, junior Chris Smith. The 6-9 forward from Chicago is their leading scorer. "I just try to look forward to the next play and be there for my teammates," said Smith last Saturday.
Smith knows the game against the Trojans is huge. "It's a big atmosphere but it's just another game. We just take it one game at a time. That's what we have been doing."
USC relies on their three seniors to lead them although they have one of the best freshmen in the country in Onyeka Okongwu. The seniors are Jonah Mathews, Daniel Utomi and Nick Rakocevic.
"We have been winning by committee," said USC head coach Andy Enfield last Saturday after their win over Arizona State. "The fact that we have 21 wins is a testament to our defense and our toughness. We just have to win. If we win ugly or pretty it does not matter. We just have to win."