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Trojans basketball season hangs in the balance of Pac-10 Tourney
About three weeks ago, I got a call from the mother of Pac 10 Defensive Player of the Year Taj Gibson.
"My son is the all-time rebounding leader at USC and you guys have not done one story on him yet," the voice mail uttered.
She was right in all aspects, but the USC men's basketball season has been like the stock market; more down than up and you don't have a clue as to what team you are going to see from game to game.
The one constant about Coach Tim Floyd's Trojans, which could see their season come to a conclusion at the Pac-10 tournament at Staples Center on Thursday March 12 against Cal-is Taj Gibson.
The junior postman is the leading scorer for a Trojan team that is 18-12 and on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament with selections due Sunday March 15.
He averages 14.4 points and also leads the team in rebounds and blocked shots. Gibson averages nine rebounds per game and has had eight games with at least four blocks.
The Brooklyn born native may be playing his final season for the Trojans and decide to opt for the NBA draft in June. Problem there is his stock has always been considered to be at the top of the board in the second round and not likely to improve no matter how long he stays in college.
However, he could change his and his team fortunes if they could get past Cal in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament and run the table for an automatic berth, but the odds are not in their favor.
While USC has split games against Cal, winning at home and then losing on the road, it has not beat either UCLA or Washington the two most likely opponents at the end of the rainbow.
Their one-point loss to nationally ranked Oklahoma was a midseason big tease, and what is likely to cancel their bid is their record in their last nine games. Three up and six down.
The four teams that are shoo-ins for the big dance are regular season conference champion Washington, UCLA, Arizona State and Cal.
USC will argue that they beat two of those four, Arizona State and Cal. But also on their resume is a loss to Oregon State and Stanford, which have no shot, and two losses to Arizona.
No matter which way the ball bounces, the Trojans have no one to blame but themselves.
It could be another costly season to the program. With Fairfax High School center Renardo Sidney on his way to Trojanville, freshman standout DeMar DeRozan could be on his way out.
The NBA could be calling his name in the lottery in June if he decides to leave, making it two one-and-done players in the past two seasons for Floyd.
That's okay if you are winning, but when you go one and out in the NCAA tourney and then perhaps not qualify altogether, it doesn't smell too good.
Not to mention the prospect that Daniel Hackett and Gibson could also be gone to test their pro potential in the NBA or European league.
It's not a pretty picture, but one that was painted by the artists wearing cardinal and gold.