USC: NCAA Tournament

Basketball: Travel issues

March, 15, 2011
DAYTON, Ohio -- Sure, the Trojans had to depart Los Angeles fewer than 24 hours after they found out their seeding – NCAA Selection Committee chair Gene Smith joked on the selection show there was already a plane waiting for USC – which made for a rough celebrate, practice and pack schedule in the between-time. But they also got to fly by charter direct from L.A. to Dayton, a rare luxury that only occurs for NCAA tournament play.

Thursday’s travel plans will be a bit more hectic, assuming the Trojans do in fact pull out the victory. Because Dayton and Chicago, USC’s would-be next destination for a Friday night game against Georgetown, are fewer than 350 miles apart, the NCAA does not pay for the team’s travel.

“You have to pay your own way,” Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill said Tuesday. “We haven’t even talked about it yet, because I’m not letting anybody talk about this stuff until we play the game.

“If we were to get to Chicago, my assumption would be this: we’ll fly the players, and the rest of us will bus or take cars. I want to make sure the players are the priority with everything, including travel.”

The bus ride from Dayton to Chicago measures in at about six hours, which would actually be more travel time than Monday’s L.A.-to-Ohio trek. A direct flight takes less than hour.

That’s if USC wins. If it loses, the team will head back to L.A. Thursday morning and the players will have an abbreviated four-day Spring Break before classes resume Monday.

To top it all off, the team’s Monday night stay in Dayton was also problematic. The hotel lost power early on in the night for a number of hours and alarms and cell phone chargers weren’t able to function regularly.

Basketball: Learning about the Rams

March, 15, 2011
DAYTON, Ohio -- Virginia Commonwealth (23-11), although a noted mid-major nationally because of its recent success in the postseason and the NBA Draft, was not exactly the No. 1 team on the Trojans’ radar heading into Selection Sunday.

The Rams play in the Colonial Athletic Association, a 12-team East Coast league made up of five schools from the state of Virginia and a number of former bracket-busting teams like George Mason and Old Dominion.

Still, none of the players – aside from maybe juni0r guard Jio Fontan, the braniac of the team and a noted coach-in-waiting type – knew anything substantial about VCU prior to the matchup announcement.

As the team’s six key players sat at a makeshift podium for a post-selection press conference, they looked around nervously at each other when asked to relay what they knew about the Rams.

Finally, junior forward Nikola Vucevic spoke up.

“We know they beat UCLA,” he said.

True, the Rams did beat the Bruins – at Madison Square Garden in November as part of the – tournament. They also narrowly lost to the ninth-seeded Tennessee Volunteers the previous game.

But Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill hasn’t paid much attention to VCU’s early-season games, instead of focusing on their most recent five or six games. He watched the Rams’ CAA tournament final against Old Dominion live last week and has-rewatched it since.

“I didn’t even go back and look at [VCU-UCLA] because it was so far ago. I watched their last five or six games. It’d be like anybody watching us play Rider or play Bradley.

“It’s a whole different team -- they’re much better, they’re much deeper. They’ve got some experience for guys who didn’t have experience early. We know that they’ve matured as a team; hopefully we have.”

And, about the players not knowing anything about the Rams – that’s mostly been resolved.

“Players, in general, never know about other teams unless they play them,” O’Neill said Tuesday. “We’ve spent a lot of time on it the last couple days, and they understand now what kind of team they are and how dangerous they are.”



C. Kessler361236296820
J. Allen1357855.814
T. Madden1387035.13
M. Lee5779113.94
N. Agholor5691816.46