USC's NCAA tournament hopes are still alive despite loss to UCLA

USC's NCAA tournament hopes are still alive despite loss to UCLA
UCLA guard Aaron Holiday has the ball knocked away by USC guard De'Anthony Melton during the first half. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

USC Coach Andy Enfield fully expects USC to make the NCAA tournament when the field of 68 is revealed on Sunday.

He does not have a reason for concern.



The Trojans' 76-74 loss to UCLA on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference tournament squandered a chance for an emphatic statement before Sunday, but Enfield believed that USC already had done enough to comfortably make the field.

"A quarter of our schedule has been teams with 27 or more wins: UCLA three times, Arizona twice, Oregon twice, and SMU, who we beat early in the season," Enfield said after the Trojans' victory over Washington on Wednesday. "So we're not worried about the NCAA tournament selection."

Some players, such as guard Elijah Stewart, thought that USC should make the tournament but weren't convinced they would.

"It's always something," Stewart said.

Of 117 bracket projections listed by the bracketology aggregator Bracket Matrix, 113 had the Trojans making the cut.

More relevant may be whether USC can avoid a preliminary-round game at Dayton, Ohio. Before tipoff Thursday, ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi's projections had upgraded USC slightly, but not enough to avoid a play-in game.

"With there not being much on their resume, Sunday will be nervous," said Shelby Mast, who runs the website Bracket W.A.G. and is USA Today's bracketologist.

But he noted that a loss to a team such as UCLA wouldn't negatively affect the Trojans.

"My gut says they'll be in," he said.

Scott extended

Larry Scott has no regrets. Five years ago, the Pac-12 commissioner said, the conference considered multiple options for its new television deal.

None was perfect. And none would have yielded wider distribution or more revenues than the current deal that, after five years, still has not put the Pac-12 Networks on DirecTV.

"Given the opportunities that we had at the time, we absolutely made the best decision at the time," Scott said Thursday during a news conference. "There is nothing I would have done differently looking back on it."


Earlier in the day, the Pac-12 announced that it had extended Scott's contract, which was set to expire next year, through the 2022 season.

To many fans, the lack of access to Pac-12 Networks has come to define Scott's tenure. So did the extension come with the expectation from the 12 schools that Scott would solve the distribution problems by 2022?

"It's a set of balances," Scott said. "So the idea of solving something, it's a little bit more complex in that we're juggling a lot of, sometimes, competing interests."

He added: "I certainly feel like there is some unfinished business."

Scott noted the ways in which the TV deal had been a success. He said the exposure had been a particular boon to USC's non-revenue sports.

"The primary motivation for the creation of the Pac-12 Networks at the time," Scott said, "was to create a platform that would give exposure not only for all the football games and men's basketball games that previously hadn't been exposed, but to create a platform for all the Olympic sports that we're proud of."

The value of the deal to those sports, he said, "is hard to overstate."


The major question after the conference decided to move this year's tournament to a larger venue, the 18,000-seat T-Mobile Arena, was whether fans would fill it.

In short: yes.

The conference announced that Friday's semifinals and Saturday's final had sold out.

The new venue has about 5,800 more seats than the MGM Grand Garden Arena, which the Pac-12 had used since moving the tournament to Las Vegas.

"It's awesome," Arizona Coach Sean Miller said. "We made a great decision."

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand