Southern California Trojans (21-11) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (20-11)
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROJANS
1. At Guard, Super Dave Osborne. One of the keys to last season's surprising Sweet Sixteen run was then-freshman Daniel Hackett's aggressive tournament play: He was all over the place, grabbing boards, causing turnovers, ending Kevin Durant's college career earlier than expected. The dude doesn't know how to turn it off ... which has caused some problems this year. In late September during a pretty physical pickup game, he took an elbow to the face from O.J. Mayo (or did Mayo deck him?), which resulted in his jaw being broken in three places and having to be wired shut. He came back six weeks later, happy only to need a protective mouthpiece. ("A mask, it shows weakness," Hackett said, sounding like an ancient kung-fu master.) Then at the end of January, he suffered a stress fracture in his lower back while diving for a ball in a game against Arizona. He was supposed to be done for the year, but he was back playing a month later.
2. Kids These Days. USC's six main contributors are freshmen and sophomores. Not surprisingly, this season has been an abject lesson in what it's like to root for a young team that's all enthusiasm and inexperience. They looked awesome beating UCLA on its home court in January and Stanford on March 8, but their thin bench and inability to keep their poise resulted in two tank jobs against Washington State and tough losses to Memphis and Kansas early in the season. After getting embarrassed in their season opener against lowly Mercer, the Trojans have mostly avoided playing down to their competition, but they're only 3-7 against Top 25 teams. So what does all that mean? Don't pick the Trojans to be the victims of a first-round upset special, but don't have 'em going too far in your bracket, either.
3. Get Me Outta Here. Depending on whom you ask, freshman O.J. Mayo (20.9 ppg), freshman Davon Jefferson (12.0 ppg) and sophomore Taj Gibson (11.0 ppg, 2.5 blocks/game, 7.7 rebounds/game) are all likely to be leaving for the NBA after this season. A lot of that will shake out once their tournament run ends, but there are also reports that Romeo-loving coach Tim Floyd could be out the door, too. Floyd keeps insisting USC will be his last job, and Mayo talks about enrolling in summer classes, but this is life in L.A. in the shadow of the UCLA Bruins, Los Angeles Lakers and Trojan football team: Ultimately, nobody's paying attention to the USC basketball program and you're always looking for a better opportunity somewhere else. — Tim Grierson
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
1. Beas-who? One wonders how Kansas State University, a school that has lacked a dominance on the hardwood in recent years, manage to resurrect Jesus Christ himself in the form of a 6-foot-10, 235-forward from the Washington D.C. area. Well, Michael Beasley was coached by in an AAU summer league and originally committed to Charlotte for Dalonte Hill. Hill was offered an assistant job under Bob Huggins prior to last season which, in turn, brought Beasley to Kansas State. After Huggins' departure, Kansas State was quick to hire Huggins' second-in-command Frank Martin, who left Hill on staff. In related news, the two favorite teams to cheer for in Manhattan, Kans., are the Kansas State Wildcats and whoever West Virginia is playing. With that being said, Bob Huggins is still a raging alcoholic asshole and wildcat nation is still a little bitter about his departure.
2. A Favorite Tradition Is A Song About A Fictional Train. Without being redundant, the Wabash Cannonball is a song about a fictional train and one of the best parts of Kansas State athletics. It's important to Kansas State fans because in 1968 Nichols Hall, the music building, burned to the ground and the only piece of music left was "The Wabash Cannonball." The following day the Wildcats had a game against Syracuse and using borrowed instruments, the band played this song, and only this song. Since then it has been a staple of all sporting events and includes a dance where the students rock back and forth to the beat, but each person alternates direction... oh screw explaining it, just watch it yourself.
3. Who Know Coaches Were Artistic? The current visual representation of Kansas State University is the purple powercat logo. Kansas State has seen a lot of visual changes over it's years, but the biggest celebrity in Manhattan, Kans., Bill Snyder, was partially the mastermind behind the purple powercat logo that now adorns everything relating to Kansas State. He helped design the logo with local Tom Bookwalter and made a permanent impact in the Little Apple worthy of having the two highways leading to the city renamed in his honor, oh, and it helped that he turned around the worst football program in Division I at the time. — Travis Hudson