Update: So yeah, USC is in the NIT, preparing to blast (we hope) UNC Asheville.
A few years ago I wrote about one of my alma maters (the University of South Florida) as a bubble team in a particularly contentious year of bracketology , and in light of changes in the system of choosing teams for the bracket , I would like to continue this series in talking about another one of my alma maters and their basketball team, the University of Southern California. With wildly different brackets that range from being a fairly safe seed (in the 10 range) to being among the first four or next four out and a sure NIT top two seed, USC has inspired wildly different analysis by different bracketologists and is perhaps a sure sign of the sort of chaos that college basketball has faced this year, particularly as the regular season and conference tournaments came to a close. Let us look now at the profile of USC and see what it tells us about this team and whether they deserve to be a moderate underdog in their first NCAA game or preparing to blast Florida Gulf Coast University or some similar such team in the NIT.
Team Profile [based largely on a recent Bleacher Report post]:
Record: 23-11 (2nd in the Pac-12)
Ratings: RPI: 33, KenPom: 42, SOS: 50, NCSOS: 60,
New Feature: Q1 record: 4-6, Q3/Q4 record: 13-1
In a down year in the Pac-12, USC made the most of its few chances to burnish its resume, and despite scheduling a strong OOC schedule it managed to lose a home game at Princeton (its worst loss) while knocking out such mighty teams as Middle Tennessee State and New Mexico State. It is entirely possible that USC will have played an entire season of decent basketball without winning a single game against an at-large team in the NCAA tournament, but not through a lack of effort. The Pac-12 had a really down year this year and its neutral court and away wins over Utah, Oregon, and Washington will not mean as much as it would in a normal season where the conference is sending 4 or 5 teams to the NCAA tournament. This year, USC would probably be the third such team, along with Arizona (the winner of the conference tourney against USC in the final) and UCLA (which swept USC and lost to Arizona in the conference tourney semifinals).
In terms of which teams to rank USC against, it probably comes off a bit under UCLA (because of the sweep) and a bit over Oklahoma State, but all three of those teams probably belong among the best 68 teams in the country and the best 34 at large teams. The question here, as it often is, is whether a team that scheduled well and ended up getting second place all by itself in a power conference having a down year deserves to be in the NCAA tournament over mediocre teams that got 8th or 9th place in much better conferences but managed to win one or two games against a much more impressive slate of competition. Really, USC has the feel of a mid-major powerhouse this year, and in a year when mid major powerhouses did not step up, it at least managed to get into the final of its conference tourney against Arizona, and you have to believe that will be enough for USC to get in over such teams as Syracuse, Baylor, and Louisville. I’d say they probably belong as an 11 seed, probably just over the first four teams, and a mild underdog against a 6 seed that is not going to be happy to see them, but that’s just my opnion.
 See, for example: