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College Basketball | USC REPORT

Sweeping Reality Puts Everything in Focus

February 19, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

The combined 57-point sweep by the Arizona schools did more than embarrass USC. It also shocked the Trojans into the realization that the only way they will make a school-record third consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament is by winning the Pacific 10 Conference tournament and its automatic bid.

"This past weekend made it clear," said sophomore guard Errick Craven. "It was always in the back of our head that we'd have to win out [the remainder of the league schedule] to think about getting an at-large bid, but this past week made it concrete."

At 10-11 overall and 5-7 in Pac-10 play, the Trojans are in sixth place and play four of their last six league games at home, beginning with No. 21 Stanford on Thursday.

Anything less than winning the Pac-10 tournament and USC is looking at the less-prestigious National Invitation Tournament, which has been called everything from the Not Invited Tournament to the Nobody's Interested Tournament.

But USC must finish with at least a .500 record to even be considered for the stepchild of postseason competitions (Arizona State received an NIT bid last year with a record of 14-14).

"I don't know anything about the NIT," Craven said. "I've seen one NIT game, watched about five minutes of it. I'm not very interested in the NIT, at all. But we may have to look at it."

Craven went so far as to say that Coach Henry Bibby should consider declining a bid for the event, should one be offered.

"That's Bib's choice," Craven said with a laugh. "If it was me, I would [decline]. Not to put down the NIT, but it seems like it's inferior.... I don't want to feel inferior."

*

Junior guard Desmon Farmer, USC's leading scorer who was kicked out of Monday's practice for trying to explain why he was in a certain spot during a drill, survived Tuesday's workout and said he harbors no ill will toward Bibby after being dismissed twice from practice this season.

"I don't worry about it," he said. "I've just got to deal with it."

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