The USC women’s basketball team got the party started when they stunned then-No. 2 Stanford on Sunday, January 14. USC was an off-the-radar women’s basketball team until that point in time. The Trojans needed a very splashy win to make themselves a factor in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. Beating the colossus of the Pac-12 in women’s hoops was the perfect way to accomplish the goal. USC then built on that important Stanford win by sweeping the Washington schools on the road. USC is likely a No. 10 seed — several spots inside the bubble cut line for the NCAA Tournament, but far from a lock or a team safely in the Big Dance.
The USC men looked at the women’s progression and thought that was a good idea.
The Trojan men’s basketball team defeated No. 8 UCLA on Thursday, bagging the top-tier win they needed to have to significantly improve the quality of their portfolio. They moderately enhanced their resume leading into Thursday’s win by beating Arizona State on the road.
Both basketball teams — men and women alike — have scored an elite win in January and paired it with second-tier wins against bubble teams and third-tier wins against lesser opponents. The third-tier wins might not seem like much, but their value is immense. The nuance: The value is immense not because beating a mediocre team carries so much weight. The importance is supreme because the win simply means a loss was avoided. Loss avoidance is also part of a resume. Bubble teams can’t afford bad losses; neither USC team, men or women, has endured a truly bad loss in January.
Both teams were on the bad side of the bubble to start the month. Now they’re both well inside the cut line. They aren’t home free, but they have some margin for error. Crucially, their big wins (USC WBB over Stanford, MBB over UCLA) mean that the job over the next several weeks is not to pile on more huge wins (though that would be great), but to avoid bad losses. If these two teams do avoid a single truly bad loss, they will be in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
In case you’re wondering: The last time USC put both its women’s and men’s basketball teams in the NCAA Tournament was 1997. USC is on the verge of making history.
The next month just became a lot easier because of what the Trojans have done over the past month.
USC fan brings up a fascinating point about Trojan revenue sports in a simple tweet