DAYTON, Ohio -- USC plays Virginia Commonwealth at 6 p.m. PST on Wednesday here at the University of Dayton Arena in the final game of the NCAA's inaugural First Four system. We'll have a full-on what-to-watch-for preview of the game Thursday, but here are, in the next few posts over the next few hours, a few worthwhile nuggets from the Trojans' prep until this point:
No looking ahead
Junior guard Jio Fontan admits it now: the Trojans were, at times, looking ahead to the NCAA Tournament during last week’s Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles – hoping to skip past the set-up stage right into the Big Dance.
But, after USC was swept away in the semifinals by Arizona and forced to wait out Selection Sunday on the very edge of the bubble, it won’t happen again, he insists.
“As far as I’m concerned, I think it was a little harder not to look ahead in the Pac-10 tournament than it is in this tournament, simply because this is it,” said Fontan, the team’s most vocal leader and its second-leading scorer at 10.4 points per game. “In the Pac-10 tournament, we had the mentality that we wanted to win the tournament. And at halftime of those games, you’re thinking about the next opponent, thinking about what’s coming next.
“Here I think the risks are higher than they were in the Pac-10 tournament, so you’re just trying to beat the first team. Every day somebody loses and goes home and their season is over, so I think it’s a lot easier to take it day by day."
Second-year coach Kevin O’Neill agrees, flatly noting that his team is smart enough not to look ahead here Wednesday against VCU and risk ending its season immediately.
“Well, it’s straight up one and done now,” O’Neill said Tuesday at the team hotel here in Dayton. “You lose, you go home. I don’t think our guys will look ahead. They’re looking ahead to play VCU, but there’s no reason with the kind of season we’ve ahead to look past it.
“It’s not like we’re 29-2. We’re a 19-14 team that had to play great down the stretch to get ourselves into position to play in the NCAA Tournament. “