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2011 NCAA Tournament: Defense, Consistency Key For USC To Advance Past First Four

The USC Trojans open their 2011 NCAA Tournament, the 16th tourney appearance in school history, tonight in Dayton, Ohio, facing the Virginia Commonwealth Rams. A win for USC (19-14) would give them a 20th win for the 18th time in school history. But they have their work cut out for them if they want to advance past the First Four.

Head coach Kevin O'Neill at yesterday's media session said VCU wants to play at a fast pace, per Jordan Moore of

"We know that we'll have to play our tempo, which isn't crawling," O'Neill compared the Rams to Washington.  "We have a formula for winning.  We have to impose our will on them."  As for the formula, it revolves around defense, rebounding and getting the ball inside offensively.

USC held opponents this season to 62.8 points per game, the best in the Pac-10, allowing foes to shoot 41.2% from the field. USC is 13-0 when holding opponents to under 60 points. VCU averaged 71.5 points per contest this season, and scored 60 points in 28 of their 34 games. Joey Kaufman of the SB Nation blog Conquest Chronicles cautions that USC has been an up and down team this season:

As we've seen many times this season, 'SC has had difficulties against, well, bad teams. This past season, they had nine losses against sub-76 teams and three sub-200 losses. And even most irritating, they finished with just a 1-[3] mark against the Oregon schools in conference.

If USC has any sort of personality, it's that its a Jekyll & Hyde team of sorts: beating Arizona and Texas on one night and losing to a team such as Rider or TCU the next. Stringing together successive wins, in other words consistency, has escaped the Trojans in 2011. And yes, that's hard with seven guys.


Tonight's 6:10 p.m. PST tip-off will be televised on truTV. Gus Johnson and Len Elmore will broadcast the game.

For more USC Trojans hoops news and information, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Conquest Chronicles. For more information on VCU, be sure to read SB Nation DC. For the full NCAA tournament bracket, click here.