Late-Season Slide Shuts the Door for USC

Times Staff Writer

A handful of impressive victories couldn't compensate for a late-season slide for USC, which was not selected Sunday to the 40-team National Invitation Tournament field.

Despite posting victories over UCLA, North Carolina and Arizona -- seeded Nos. 2, 3 and 8, respectively, in different regions of the NCAA tournament -- the Trojans (17-13) were shut out of the postseason after losing seven of their final nine games.

While acknowledging that his inexperienced team could have benefited from participating in a postseason tournament, USC Coach Tim Floyd declined to say he was disappointed.

"There's a part of me that feels like if you finish sixth in your conference, you should be out recruiting because our goal is to try to get into the NCAA tournament and try to make something happen in the NCAA tournament during our tenure here," Floyd said.

Maryland, Louisville, Cincinnati and Michigan were selected as No. 1-seeded teams in the NIT, which is now owned and operated by the NCAA. Stanford, the only Pacific 10 Conference team invited, will play host to Virginia in an opening-round game Tuesday.

USC defeated Stanford and Brigham Young, another NIT participant. But the Trojans lost in their opening Pac-10 tournament game and were No. 113 in the NCAA's latest official Ratings Percentage Index figures.

Floyd said he would meet with his players Sunday night and begin recruiting today.

The Trojans have already signed four players for next season and have another scholarship available.

Areas of concern that Floyd said he would address through recruiting and player development are rebounding and interior scoring. "We wish we were still playing," Floyd said. "[But] I think it's time to start looking forward to next year."

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