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