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USC basketball: Quick turnaround for "First Four" game fits into Trojans' schedule

March 15, 2011 |  6:26 pm

Uscc For the eight teams in the NCAA tournament's new "First Four" round, they arrived here in style on a chartered flight paid for by the NCAA.

The NCAA picked up the tab and took care of the travel arrangements because it's such a quick turnaround for these teams, which learned on Selection Sunday that they'd be playing either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

USC was among those teams. It left Los Angeles on Monday at about noon PDT and arrived here at just after 4 p.m. EDT. The Trojans went straight to their hotel and had their first practice Tuesday afternoon.

But even though it seems like it's a quick turnaround for USC (19-14) to play Virginia Commonwealth (23-11) in a first round NCAA tournament game here Wednesday night, it really isn't. 

"Travel, it doesn't bother us at all," USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said Tuesday. "What I've said with short turnarounds and travel and all that, we're in the Pac-10 so we're used to travel weekends where you leave on a Wednesday, play on a Thursday, travel again on the Friday and play Saturday.

"So to us, having three days, we feel like we've got a luxury. So there's no excuse for us not playing our best, whether it be travel or the hotel or anything like that. I don't think that should affect us at all. If it does, we're not the team I thought we were."

What really helps the Trojans is that the team is used to not practicing as much anymore, especially on the days before games.

It's a tactic O'Neill introduced Feb. 18, a Friday, the day before the team played at Stanford.

He did it to rest the players, which they certainly liked because he only plays seven of them, six on most nights. And it worked, obviously, as USC started winning on Saturdays. 

By taking up this schedule, the team has "become immune" to quick turnarounds, senior guard Donte Smith said. "Our bodies are conditioned to it," he added. 

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Photo: USC Trojans coach Kevin O'Neil and a handful of players talke with the media moments after being admitted to the NCAA tournament March 13, 2011. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

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