USC Trojans (23-11) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (21-13)
When: Friday, 9:40 p.m.
1. This is Hollywood after all. The Trojans play on Jim Sterkel Court at the new Galen Center. Who's Jim Sterkel? Some guy who played for two seasons at 'SC in the '50s and averaged fewer than 10 points a game. So who decided to name it after him? Only the university knows: The $5-million donation for the naming rights was sent by an anonymous high-school friend of Sterkel's who stipulated that his identity never be revealed. Schmaltz-meister columnist Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times tracked down Anonymous, who explained that Sterkel had been his role model for living a good life, his mediocre sports career notwithstanding. A friendly, churchgoing type, Sterkel developed testicular cancer in adulthood, which eventually killed him, but which didn't stop him from writing Anonymous to console him about his own son's losing battle with leukemia. ("I'll never forget that he took the time out of his own life during his final days to do this for me, to try to inspire my life even when he was losing his own life," Anonymous said.) Between the tear-jerking sentiments and mysterious nature of the donation, it's a miracle Fox Faith isn't developing a film about the whole thing right now.
2. It's the hard-knock life. Former mohawk-sportin' junior swingman Nick Young will almost assuredly be jumping to the pros after this season with his team-leading 17.5 PPG. But don't worry that the NBA will be able to throw anything at him that can compare with what he's endured thus far in his life. When he was five, a teenage gang member killed his brother and close friend Charles Jr., who was only 18. His brother John, torn up by Charles' death, suffered a mental breakdown and ended up in an institution, a possible NBA career up in smoke. His father, Charles Sr., coped through alcohol. While his family life has improved much since then, there's no question there's a certain weight of expectation resting on Nick's shoulders."I think a lot about what will happen if I don't make it [in the NBA]," he said.
3. When I think of you, Baton Rouge. Considering how mediocre the Trojans have been since their unlikely run to the Elite Eight in 2001, losing to eventual champion Duke, USC should be thrilled just to make this year's tournament. But if they had their wish in terms of seeding, the team might prefer to avoid a visit to Louisiana. In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 13, 2006, Trojan freshman point guard Ryan Francis was shot to death while driving with some friends in Baton Rouge, where he was later buried (and where he grew up). Francis was the first recruit second-year coach Tim Floyd signed as part of his attempt to rebuild the floundering team. "It's difficult for me, because I loved the kid," Floyd said. "He never leaves my mind." DeAnthony Norman Ford, who has been charged with Francis' murder, will face trial in June in Baton Rouge. — Tim Grierson
1. The Name. The team was originally known as the Arkansas Cardinals until 1909, when football coach Hugo Bezdek declared that his team played like a bunch of "wild band of razorback hogs." The nickname stuck and became official before the 1910 season. The "hog call" of "Woo Pig Sooey!" came around several years later. The name has remained unique nearly 100 years later, as no other major college team has named itself after a feral pig.
2. Maybe You Should Try the NFL. Embattled Arkansas head coach Stan Heath most likely needed this NCAA berth to save his job. Had he been let go, he might have been wise to interview for a job as an NFL receivers coach. In his six seasons as a head basketball coach, Heath's basketball teams have produced two NFL receivers. He coached San Diego tight end Antonio Gates while at Kent State and Jacksonville wide receiver Matt Jones while at Arkansas.
3. D j Vu. During the SEC championship game, the Razorbacks played Florida at the Georgia Dome. Back in December, the Razorbacks and the Gators met at the Georgia Dome for the SEC football championship game. This was the first time since the SEC began playing its football championship game in 1992 that the same schools met in both the football and basketball championship games during the same year. — Chris Driver