USC plays Arizona and Arizona State to wrap up Pac-12 play this week
If you believe the bracketologists, USC has moved ever so slightly off of the NCAA Tournament bubble and into the field. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS’s Jerry Palm both currently predict that the Trojans will earn an at-large bid and not have to play in the First Four.
But with two regular season games remaining against Arizona and Arizona State, two of the top four teams in the Pac-12, plus the conference tournament in Las Vegas, USC still has work to do to ensure qualification for the Big Dance.
Two days before the Trojans enter their stretch run, we talked with USC head coach Andy Enfield to take his temperature ahead of the program’s biggest games of the season.
SI All Trojans: After winning four games in a row, is it accurate to say that your team is playing their best basketball of the season at the best possible time?
Enfield: Yes, we’ve improved a lot since the beginning of the year. We have a full roster, we’re finally healthy. We’ve only had nine games with our full roster and we’re 8-1 in those games with our only loss at Arizona…We’re playing well offensively and defensively. We’re playing together. We feel good about where we are right now.”
SI All Trojans: Looking back to October and November, is this about what you expected from this season so far?
Enfield: “I think with such a young team to be 21-8 and tied for second in the league, it’s an accomplishment for our players because they’ve improved so much. We started the year with only two experienced guys, Drew and Boogie, that were relied upon to win college basketball games and now we have a lot of guys that have improved and feel comfortable in their roles. We’ve come together as a team. We’ve come a long way defensively and now our offense over the last month and a half has improved as well.”
SI All Trojans: How challenging is it to end the Pac-12 regular season with second place Arizona and fourth place Arizona State?
Enfield: These are games that you want. You want these games to mean something. That means you’re in the mix for a high finish in your league as well as an NCAA Tournament berth. If these games didn’t mean anything or weren’t difficult, then we probably wouldn’t be as excited as we are now.”
SI All Trojans: With so much at stake, is it ever challenging not to try and look ahead to the Pac-12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament?
Enfield: I haven’t even thought about Arizona State. We have the Wildcats coming in here on Thursday, a top ten team in the country. They’re exceptionally talented and they’re big. We understand that we have to play our best basketball.”