The job of finding a new basketball coach at USC just got a little more difficult for athletic director Pat Haden.
The Trojans fired Kevin O’Neill -- hired to shepherd the program after Tim Floyd was fired amid NCAA sanctions -- midseason. Any advantages of getting ahead of the curve may have diminished when USC suddenly became the No. 2 vacant college job in its own city when UCLA fired Ben Howland.
Finishing the season on the NCAA Tournament bubble is a tight-rope walk to start. In addition to a handful of teams looking to build their NCAA Tournament resumes, bubble teams must also keep an eye on conference tournaments starting this week.
Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.
As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.
After three seasons of being a major conference by name only, the Pac-12 is starting to make a comeback. Arizona’s win over Florida (aided by a late-game collapse by the Gators) on Saturday and Oregon’s win over UNLV in late November have given the league its best non-conference wins in a while.
Success in Maui has been a good sign for most teams in recent years. Two of the last four Maui Invitational champions have gone on to win the national title (2008-09 North Carolina, 2010-11 Connecticut). Players like Kemba Walker, Ty Lawson, Kyle Singler and Adam Morrison have thrived in this tournament in recent seasons as well.
A season can be changed by an injury. In the same way, 10 teams are hoping a key player returning from injury will change their fortunes for 2012-13.
Among those players returning from injury include a forward with All-American potential at Minnesota, a key veteran at rebuilding North Carolina, and explosive guard at USC and former starters at three SEC schools.