USC Looks to Continue What It Started Last Season
March 13, 2002
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Southern California felt it really startedsomething last season by reaching the final eight of the NCAA tournament forthe first time.
This year, the Trojans expect to do as well or better.
'We're building something special,' senior guard Brandon Granville said.'Hopefully, we're beginning to get some recognition across the nation as oneof those teams that's consistently getting into the tournament and winningsome games.'
The Trojans begin against 13th-seeded North Carolina-Wilmington (22-9) inThursday's first round at Arco Arena.
'Now I feel like a veteran,' said senior Sam Clancy, the Pac-10 player ofthe year. 'I feel like I've already been here, where last year I didn't knowwhat to expect. This is all familiar to all three of us. We know what ittakes to win the big games.'
Clancy was referring to Granville and fellow senior David Bluthenthal. Theyare among five players averaging double figures. Clancy and sophomore DesmonFarmer lead the way with 17 points each.
Seventh-seeded Wake Forest (20-12) opened Thursday's play against No. 10Pepperdine (22-8), followed by No. 2 Oregon (23-8) and 15th-seeded Montana(16-14).
Later, fifth-seeded Indiana (20-11) faces Utah (21-8), which finished secondin the Mountain West Conference.
While USC tries to establish tradition, Utah is looking for consistency.
The Runnin' Utes barely sneaked into the tournament with a No. 12 seed incoach Rick Majerus' first season back after taking a leave to care for hiscancer-stricken mother.
Utah is 8-0 in first-round games under Majerus, but the Utes' seed is theirlowest under him.
'Someone said, `Is the pressure off because you're a 12 seed?' and I thinkI'd like the pressure of being a five seed,' he said. 'We don't have a lotof depth.'
This year, USC earned a fourth seed, reflecting its 22-9 record andrunner-up finish to Arizona in the Pac-10 Conference tournament.
For the first time in more than 60 years, the Trojans put togetherconsecutive 20-win seasons. They were 24-10 last year, and lost to eventualnational champion Duke in the regional final.
Those credentials are enough to convince Bluthenthal that USC has surpassedcrosstown rival UCLA (19-11), which stumbled to a sixth-place Pac-10 finish,its worst ever.
'We felt like we passed them up last year. We got farther than they did inthe tournament and we've been playing better than they have all year,'Bluthenthal said.
'I don't really think you can say we passed up UCLA because of the historytheir basketball program has,' he said.
USC coach Henry Bibby helped build UCLA's legacy, playing point guard onthree NCAA title teams in the 1970s.
'I didn't hate SC the way Sidney Wicks hated SC. It was another basketballgame for me,' said Bibby, a North Carolina native who was recruited by JohnWooden. 'When John Wooden comes into your home and offers you a scholarship,you can't turn that down.'
Bibby relishes having three seniors whose heads aren't turned by thetournament atmosphere.
'They know what it's all about. They're not overly excited about being herelike they were last year,' he said. 'They're not in awe of anything. They'rejust saying, `Hey, let's play basketball.'
'They've really made this program. They've been the cornerstone for the lastfour years of building what we're hopefully on our way to, being a real goodbasketball school.'