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USC to Open NCAA Tournament Against Providence Thursday

The latest news coming out of USC. Courtesy photo.
The latest news coming out of USC. Courtesy photo.

USC received the East Region’s eighth seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Sunday and will begin play Thursday against ninth-seeded Providence in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“We’re just happy we have a chance to compete,” Trojans coach Andy Enfield said. “It doesn’t matter who you play, where you play. All the teams in this tournament are very good teams.”

The Friars (23-10) finished fourth in the Big East and reached the semifinals of the conference’s postseason tournament.

“Providence is a great team,” Enfield said. “They have an excellent coaching staff and some great players. We’ll prepare for them and see what we have to do to combat their All-American point guard (Kris Dunn).”

Dunn was selected as the Big East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.  The 6-foot 4-inch junior led the conference in steals and is fourth among all Division I players, averaging 2.6 per game.

Dunn is second in the Big East in assists (6.4) and fourth in scoring (16.3).

The ESPN-affiliated data prediction website FiveThirtyEight.com gives USC (21-12) a 38 percent chance of defeating the Friars.

Since the NCAA tournament field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the eighth seed is 63-61 against the ninth seed.

The game will mark Enfield’s return to the tournament after a two-season absence. In 2013 under Enfield, Florida Gulf Coast became the first 15th seeded team to reach the Sweet 16.

Enfield was then hired by USC. The Trojans went 11-21 and 12-20 in his first two seasons.

The game is expected to begin at 6:45 p.m. and will be televised by TBS.

The winner will play Saturday against the winner of the game between top- seeded North Carolina and the winner of Tuesday’s First Four game between Florida Gulf Coast and Fairleigh Dickinson.

This is the first time since 2011 the Trojans have received an invitation to the NCAA tournament. In 2011, USC lost to Virginia Commonwealth in a First Four game. The Rams went on to reach the Final Four.

The Trojans last won an NCAA tournament game in 2009, when as the 10th seed in the Midwest Regional they defeated seventh-seeded Boston College in a round of 64 game.

USC then lost to second-seeded Michigan State, which went on to reach the championship game.

The No. 8 seeding is the Trojans’ highest since 2008 when they were the sixth-seed in the Midwest Regional, losing to Kansas State. The loss was later vacated because of violations of NCAA rules.

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