USC is certainly the surprise team of the Pacific 10 based on a pre-season media and coaches poll that relegated the Trojans to seventh place.
Coach Stan Morrison's team is several rungs above that estimate and would take sole possession of first place in the conference by beating Stanford tonight at the Sports Arena.
The Trojans are currently tied with Oregon State for first with a 5-1 record. USC is 11-4 overall, already equaling its total wins in the 1983-84 season.
Stanford is 1-5 and 9-7, but the Cardinal has been a troublesome team for USC the past two seasons as the Trojans have managed only a split and were extended into overtime last year at the Sports Arena before winning.
Stanford didn't bother UCLA, though, Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion, losing, 100-71. But the Cardinal was simply sustaining a time-honored tradition. Stanford hasn't beaten UCLA in Los Angeles since 1952.
Coach Tom Davis has a group of over-achievers at Stanford. It is a team that presses, runs, scraps for every rebound and attacks with quaint bounce passes. Unfortunately, for the Cardinal, it is shooting only 38.6% in six conference games.
"When you play against Stanford, you play against a system," Morrison said. "I'm impressed how hard they play. If you show for a second that you're intimidated, fatigued, or confused, you'll be exposed.
"They press you the moment they get off the bus. I've already put in three special plays just to get the ball in bounds."
Trojan Notes Tonight's game begins at 8. . . . Coach Stan Morrison was disappointed with the way his team frittered away a comfortable lead against Cal Saturday afternoon before holding on to win, 86-80. "We helped Cal by stopping the clock and fouling in the closing minutes and giving them an opportunity to score from the free-throw line," he said. "Our ineptness on defense was only matched by the television transmission from Corvallis Saturday." He was referring to the blank screen in the second overtime of Arizona State's upset win over Oregon State. . . . Center Clayton Olivier's right knee popped out of its socket in the opening 37 seconds of Saturday's game. The knee was popped back in place by trainer Paul Williams and Olivier was able to return to the court. Morrison isn't sure how long Olivier will be able to play tonight, if at all. "He'll probably have to have corrective surgery when the season is over," Morrison said.