The USC Trojans are the first team from the Pac-10 to take to the floor this week in the NCAA Tournament, in one of two Wednesday Play-On Play-Off Games in Dayton, the second day of such doubleheaders.
A while after UT-San Antonio and Alabama St. finish fighting for a 16 seed into the East Regional, at about 6:10 PDT, the Trojans (19-14) face Virginia Commonwealth (23-11) from the Colonial Athletic Association, with the winner flying west to Chicago to play Friday. However, the winner will be rewarded, not with a 16 seed, like the winners from among the automatic qualifiers' play-on playoff games, but an 11 seed in the Southwest region.
TruTV (formerly know as CourtTV) has the coverage of all four of the Play-on games from Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday, part of the CBS set of channels that has (finally) done away with arguably the most annoying practice ever in sports broadcasting, where CBS almost on a minute by minute basis jumped from game to studio to game to another game, rendering it impossible to follow any team through the early rounds.
More on CBS, USC, the NIT, and those Ducks after the jump...Now, CBS will cover what they determine to be the most attractive games, but with the help of TBS, TNT, and TruTV, all the games will be shown in their entirety. For all the things the NCAA does that garners controversy, they got this right in the last television rights negotiation.
It's the first game back on the sidelines for Trojan coach Kevin O'Neil, who got into a verbal exchange with an Arizona fan after USC's 70-56 win over California in their first Pac-10 Conference tournament game, and got himself suspended for the rest of the tournament. As a result, O'Neil wasn't on hand the next day when Arizona beat them 67-62.
USC's opponent is part of one of the biggest stories of selection Sunday. The Rams were uncommonly wealthy in terms of NCAA committee love, receiving a heavily criticized bid over future Pac-12 member Colorado, who went 21-13, with 6 wins over top 50 teams, including three over Kansas St., a #5 seed, as well as wins over Texas and Missouri (and Oregon St.), and West Coast Conference regular season co-champion St. Mary's, who finished 25-8, both of whom are hosting first round NIT games this week instead.
In the event that the Trojans get past the Rams, they have a reasonable chance at another win in Chicago, against Georgetown (21-10). The injury hampered Hoyas finished eighth in the Big East, which has the best marketing department in the NCAA, getting all 11or their teams that finished above .500 into the NCAA tournament. (No NIT there!)
Speaking of the NIT, two Pac-10 teams, as well as the aforementioned newcomer nest year, are also in action tonight in the oldest post-season tournament that now takes the rest of the best 100.
At 6 PM PDT, California (17-14) takes on Mississippi (20-13) in Berkeley, and if the Golden Bears can defeat the Rebels, who finished tied for third in the SEC West Division, there's a good chance they will get an early introduction to future league opponent Colorado. The Buffaloes, one of four top seeds in the NIT regions, host Texas-Southern (19-12), who were the regular season champions of the South West Athletic Conference (SWAC), but suffered an upset in the SWAC tournament.
Up in Pullman at 7 PM, the Washington St. (19-12) takes on Long Beach St. (22-11). The 49ers are the regular season Big West Conference champions, but were upset in their conference tournament. The Cougars will be without their usual home court advantage provided by their student section, who has already left campus, due to their earlier class schedule. A win would earn them another home game, against the winner of the game between the Big XII's Oklahoma St. Cowboys (19-13), who finished 9th., but in a league where only two teams had losing records, and Harvard (23-6). The Crimson finished tied with the Princeton Tigers atop the Ivy League, but lost 63-62 in a playoff for the Championship and the NCAA automatic bid, as the Ivy League does not hold a post season tournament.
Down the road, Oregon takes over for Oregon St., who appeared in the last two CBA tournaments, and is the only Pac-10 representative this year. Oregon (16-17), as expected were able to leverage a 76-59 Pac-10 Tournament upset of UCLA, and the brand new Matthew Knight Arena, into an a home game, tonight at 7 PM, on HD NET.
The Ducks could face consecutive Big Sky opponents if the get past tonight's game against the Weber St. Wildcats (19-12). Montana (21-10), who finished second to Northern Colorado in both the Big Sky regular season, and also lost to the Bears 65-60 in the championship game of the Big Sky tournament, hosts Duquense (18-12), who finished in a tie for 4th. in the Atlantic 14 in the matchup next to Oregon's in the NIT bracket. The Grizzlies also happened to beat both UCLA, 66-57, and Oregon St., 71-66.
Here's the place to weigh in on the Pac-10's start in the tournament, your feelings about the O'Neil incident, and how USC Athletic Director Pat Haden handled it, the NCAA snub of Colorado, how long it took you to find TruTV on your satellite or cable system, what you think about the expansion of the trophy, or anything else about the start of the NCAA Tournament, and also what you think about the NIT, and the Ducks hosting a CBI game.