USC received the sixth seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s West Region Sunday and will face the winner of Thursday’s Drake-Wichita State First Four game Saturday in Indianapolis.
“It is a little unique in the tournament to prepare for two teams and only play one of them,” Trojans coach Andy Enfield said. USC is among four teams whose first tournament opponent is uncertain.
If the Trojans (22-7) win Saturday, they would face the winner of the game between third-seeded Kansas (20-8) and 14th-seeded Eastern Washington (16-7) next Monday.
“The coaching staffs at USC as well as around the country will be very busy in the next few days (to) try to prepare for multiple teams, to have some kind of scouting report just in case you do play them,” said Enfield, whose team is 4-4 in its last eight games, including a 72-70 loss to Colorado Friday in a Pac-12 Tournament semifinal.
Each of the lowest four seeded at-large teams are required to play in the First Four as are the four lowest automatic qualifiers. Wichita State (16-5) is seeded 45th in the 68-team field and Drake (25-4) 48th. The Trojans are seeded 21st.
Because the entire tournament will be played in Indiana in an attempt to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the overall seed list was the main determination for the bracket. In a typical year, geographic proximity to hosting sites in the early rounds helps determine bracketing decisions.
Saturday’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the home court of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time and will be televised by TNT.
USC will be appearing in the tournament for the first time since 2017, although it would almost assuredly have received a berth in last year’s tournament which was canceled three days before Selection Sunday due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the third time in Enfield’s eight seasons as the Trojans’ coach they have qualified for the tournament. The sixth seed is the highest under Enfield.
The Trojans were seeded eighth in the East Region in the 2016 tournament, when they lost to ninth-seeded Providence, 70-69, in the first round. They were seeded 11th in the East Region in 2017 when they defeated Providence, 75-71, in a First Four game, and sixth-seeded Southern Methodist, 66-65, in the first round, before losing to third-seeded Baylor, 82-78, in the second round.