USC won’t back down from Gonzaga task


USC’s Trojans are gifted, talented, deep, clever, powerful; Gonzaga’s Bulldogs are more gifted, more talented, deeper, more clever, more powerful. USC looks unstoppable; Gonzaga looks bulletproof. The Trojans have the best player in future pro Evan Mobley; the Zags may have the next five best.

USC has a terrific coach in Andy Enfield.

Gonzaga has perhaps the best coach in Mark Few.

USC has become a terror on both ends of the floor in this NCAA Tournament, taking a wrecking ball to accomplished teams and teams with pedigree — stifling Drake, stomping Kansas, strafing Oregon on Sunday night, 82-68, to advance to the West Region finals of the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga has been a terror from the beginning of the season, never once letting its foot off the gas pedal, winning 29 games in 29 tries, all but one — all but ONE — coming by a double-digit margin, the one exception the third game of the season against West Virginia. They have made mincemeat of Norfolk State, of Oklahoma, of Creighton in Indianapolis.

USC could be a Final Four team; Gonzaga might soon take its place among the very best teams that have ever played college basketball.

Bottom line after Sunday’s marathon of wall-to-wall hoops? Gonzaga is almost certainly better in every way than USC, and will be expected to ease past them Tuesday night when the Bulldogs and Trojans meet in the West finals for the right to stay in Indiana one more week, play in next weekend’s Final Four.

But USC is going to show up.

“I don’t know what everyone else is saying,” said USC’s Isaiah White, who led the Trojans with 22 points and a 4-for-5 night from 3-point range, “but I know what this team thinks. And we know we’re special.”

Isaiah White during USC’s win over Oregon in the Elite Eight on Sunday.jpg
Getty Images

USC is going to make Gonzaga know it’s in the building Tuesday, you can believe that. There will be no fear, no intimidation. USC quickly fell behind Oregon 5-0 Sunday night and then, across the next 39 or so minutes, the Trojans put on a show that was interrupted only by a brief Oregon surge about 14 minutes into the second half.

There may still be something that looks almost incongruous about Gonzaga belonging in the same sentence, in the same building, on the same floor as mighty Southern Cal, let alone being prohibitive favorites. Gonzaga, after all, is Bing Crosby, John Stockton, Spokane, Wash; USC is John Wayne, O.J. Simpson, and South Central L.A.

USC is a mighty favorite in Q-rating.

Gonzaga is the smart money in basketball.

But what USC is intent on proving is what we’ve come to understand across these first 10 days of the tournament, that Bill Walton was right; there’s some awfully good basketball played in the Pac-12. And the Trojans would be especially happy if their cousins from the West Coast Conference, Gonzaga, receive that message Tuesday.

“Everybody is sleeping when we play,” is the way the coach of USC’s ancient rival, UCLA, Mick Cronin, put it after his Bruins secured their slot in the Elite Eight (Oregon State earned its spot Saturday, upsetting Loyola) when asked why he thought that just about everyone alive (besides Walton) dismissed the league entering the NCAAs.

Nobody is doing that now. UCLA has survived two overtime sessions, a First Four assignment, and a near catastrophe Sunday when Alabama hit a 3 at the end of regulation to force overtime. Oregon State dominated Loyola. Oregon is good enough that the Ducks, given a different bracket, might still be playing on.

And USC …

Well, the Trojans had their missteps this year. They had their hiccups. They let the regular-season title slip away late. They were knocked out of the conference tournament by Colorado. They were expected to be shown the door by Kansas, and instead tossed the Jayhawks to the curb.

“It’s a huge win for our players and our program,” Enfield said of only the Trojans’ second appearance in the Elite Eight in the last 60 years. “Our players are very mature, they celebrate and have fun but we have another game to play on Tuesday and we’ll give it our best shot.”

They will show up Tuesday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. You might expect a coronation for Gonzaga. You might get a coronation for Gonzaga. Gonzaga is that good. Gonzaga has been playing that well. Gonzaga is three chapters shy of authoring one of the greatest basketball stories ever told. All well. All good. All fair.

USC will show up anyway.

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Janice Hill

Janice is a Co-Founder of NetDebaito Official & a family member of Brit Media 360. Our News HUB aiming to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific viewpoint for each story catered. Every project is a proficient journalisms' who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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