After filling out my 2008 NCAA Tournament Bracket, only two teams fit the profile for a Cinderella. While I am not sure about my pick of Butler over Tennessee, I feel with a good deal of confidence that the USC Trojans are primed for a deep run in this field.
This is a team that reached the Sweet 16 last season and lost a close game to North Carolina. The arrival and play of OJ Mayo makes another run more than possible.
Admittedly, USC faces a stiff first-round test against Michael Beasley and Kansas State. The matchup of Beasley and Mayo is one of the most intriguing plotlines of the first round.
However, I see the Trojans advancing based on a combination of Kansas State's erratic play and a deeper USC roster. Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson are much better complimentary players for Mayo than anything Kansas State has to offer.
After getting by Kansas State, a tricky second-round matchup against Wisconsin likely awaits. While USC played a regular season slate against a stacked Pac-10, and even played Kansas and Memphis out-of-conference, Wisconsin has taken advantage of what has been an awful Big 10 and has not looked all that impressive doing it.
Wisconsin will try and keep this game low-scoring, but Mayo will be tough to contain. If he gets going, Wisconsin will fail to be able to score enough to keep up. Wisconsin also has a history of slow starts in tournament games, and that would be a dagger against USC.
The Trojans road may not end there either. While the Midwest Region certainly has a ton of talented teams, USC will have the better player in every game they play. While it is certainly not the case that the team with the best player wins every game, it certainly doesn't hurt.
Simply put, USC can beat anyone in the region. They may not be favored to win all their games, but I would be willing to bet that no team wants to see USC on the court with them with their season on the line.
USC has Final Four talent. They also have quality coach in Tim Floyd, who has demonstrated an ability to be successful in tournament play without Mayo. If he can get to a Sweet 16 without Mayo, one with the superstar freshman won't be far behind.
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