USC: Joe Lunardi

Sitting, waiting, wishing

March, 13, 2011
3/13/11
1:52
PM PT
It was a funny sight inside the Galen Center, where all the USC basketball coaches huddled to wait for the 3 p.m. NCAA tournament selection show to hear official word on the next week of their lives.

Associate head coach Bob Cantu, who coached USC's Friday game against Arizona in Kevin O'Neill's absence, and assistant Dieter Horton sat in Cantu's office and watched the end of the Atlantic 10 tournament final intently. Richmond played Dayton in the final, and the Trojans needed Richmond to win in order to save them an at-large bid.

Richmond won, convincingly. Horton stood and did a dramatic fist pump.

USC's players were following the game, too. Junior guard Jio Fontan asked Twitter followers for updates on the game in between "Go Richmond!" tweets. Senior forward Alex Stepheson, in a slight stretch, said he'd been a lifelong Spiders fan.

Now Cantu sat in his office, alone, looking at a bracket report on his laptop. Horton and fellow assistant Tony Miller -- along with strength and conditioning coach Shaun Brown -- were leading the Trojans through a weightlifting session 30 feet away.

What was O'Neill doing? A whole bunch of things.

He ran the 2.5 miles to work this morning from his downtown Los Angeles penthouse, hearing a few catcalls from fans and passersby along the way. He's suddenly become a lot more famous, he noted.

He took calls in his office, almost non-stop, thanking well-wishers for their support during what he called the very tough times of the last three days.

Bracket talk was on in every television in the coaches' offices. Preparation for the next opponent must wait, of course, until the Trojans knew who their next opponent was.

They hoped to find out sometime in the 3 o'clock hour, during the NCAA selection show. They could also find out sometime in the 6 o'clock hour, during the NIT selection show. Obviously they were hoping for the former.

If the Trojans do make the Big Dance, they could be asked to play in the new First Four play-in games in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday or Wednesday.

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi was projecting the Trojans as the last team in the tournament and projected them to play Clemson on Tuesday or Wednesday in Dayton as a play-in game for a No. 12 seed.

An interesting note: If USC does make the tourney as one of the First Four -- the last four, technically -- and wins the play-in game, it will play its first- (and possible second-) round game in either Denver or Chicago.

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C. Kessler361236296820
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