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NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: USC & UCLA Have Work To Do

The very first NCAA Tournament bubble watch has been released at SB Nation, and as expected, the Pac-10 Conference does not fare well. Both the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins are on the bubble, and currently on the outside looking in based on their bodies of work. Both local teams need to make runs in conference play if they expect to be invited to March Madness.

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SB Nation resident bracket expert Chris Dobbertean had USC among his last four teams out of the 68-team bracket, released on Tuesday, before their loss to Oregon on Thursday. USC is 10-7, including 2-2 in conference play, and has an RPI ranking of 54. Dobbertean thinks Jio Fontan will help the Trojans' cause:

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Bad early losses to Nebraska, Rider, TCU, and Bradley should fade from memory with more league wins, especially since they happened before Fontan started playing, but that's unlikely to happen if the team drops bad games in conference, like Thursday's arena-opening setback at bottom-feeder Oregon.

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UCLA is 10-6, including 2-2 in Pac-10 play, and beat Oregon State on Thursday night for the 12th straight time. UCLA ranks 81st in RPI, but Dobbertean believes the conference will help the schedule strength:

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A 1-4 mark against the RPI top 50 isn't great, but the one win was an impressive one over an excellent BYU team. Plus, the Pac-10 provides a few more quality win opportunities this time around, starting next week against the Bay Area schools.

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The Pac-10 is having such a down year that even conference leader Washington isn't seen as a tournament lock. USC plays in Corvallis on Saturday, while UCLA battles Oregon in Eugene, with both local schools looking for their third conference win. They host the Bay Area schools next weekend.

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For more local hoops news and analysis, be sure to read Conquest Chronicles and Bruins Nation.