NCAA tourney a possibility for women's basketball

Since the start of 2010, USC women's basketball has been streaky — very, very streaky.

Beginning Jan. 10, the Women of Troy (18-12, 12-6) won five straight games. Beginning Jan. 30, USC lost five straight games. And beginning Feb. 20, USC won its last five contests.

What does coach Michael Cooper make of these trends now that his team is seeded third in the Pac-10 women's basketball tournament?

Calling his team “very fortunate and lucky,” Cooper said the peaks and valleys will help them in the tournament, which begins Thursday at the Galen Center. The Women of Troy won't play until Friday, when they play sixth-seeded Oregon.

“We have experienced some terrible lows in a five-game losing streak, but it seems like we’ve got ourselves back together,” Cooper said in a Tuesday teleconference. “And now we’re on a five-game winning streak and we’re definitely good going out of the season.”

USC beat some solid teams over the course of the year, including No. 13 Texas, No. 17 Arizona State and No. 19 Mississippi State, but the Women of Troy also lost to some bottom-feeders — the most notable being Washington State, which won only two other conference games.

Asked to essentially make his team's case for the NCAA tournament, which begins a week from Saturday, Cooper didn't hesitate.

"I think we had some very impressive wins throughout the season," Cooper said. "But, again, we had some losses that we shouldn't have lost. It's up to the committee now, but again, that's the position you put yourself in where you go out and play to your opponent's level.

"We never have established the type of play that has been consistent for us."

The easiest way for USC to qualify for the tournament would be to win the Pac-10 tournament outright, but No. 2 Stanford lingers as a potential opponent in the championship game. Still, two wins for the Women of Troy would probably would clinch an at-large bid.

Notes: In other USC news, the baseball team shut out Pepperdine on the road, 5-0, and the men's volleyball team lost to Hawaii at home, 3-1. The Trojans had beaten the Warriors in four sets on Monday night but couldn't repeat their efforts. ... Men's tennis sophomore Steve Johnson, currently ranked third in the nation, was named Pac-10 player of the week Tuesday. ... The women's tennis team fell to visiting Baylor, 5-2, on a windy day in Los Angeles.