It doesn't really matter now what the NCAA does -- or doesn't do -- to USC basketball.
OK, it does. If the NCAA comes down hard on the program in the case of O.J. Mayo, there will be scholarship losses, vacated games, history to be written and a lot of explaining to do.
In a sense, though, the basketball program as it wobbles now is effectively finished -- and you get the sense embattled Coach Tim Floyd knows it.
Sometimes, all it takes is the specter of scandal to bring a kingdom down. People are fleeing USC so fast you would have thought Floyd's fast-break had been replaced with a swine flu outbreak.
This isn't a SMU-like death penalty sentence for USC; it's a death watch sentence.
Floyd delivered the quote of the year Monday night at a Trojan booster affair in Pasadena -- and nothing needs boasted more right now than USC basketball.
"Kansas has two players who would have been NBA lottery picks, Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, and they are returning to school," Floyd said. "Our guys get an offer from Islamabad and they're gone."
The veil of possible NCAA sanctions has decimated Floyd's plans of building USC into a national powerhouse. It's incredible to think how quickly it dissolved. Daniel Hackett had the ball and was on his way to the game-tying basket in a second-round NCAA regional game against Michigan State.
USC basketball lost control of the program not long after Hackett lost control of the ball. Michigan State escaped with the win, advanced all the way to the NCAA finals and will likely be preseason No.1 next year.
USC was talked about as a possible Top-10 pick, if all the pieces came together.
Instead, USC went all Humpty Dumpty.
Hackett, DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson all declared for the NBA draft. When fresh reports surfaced about Floyd allegedly handing Mayo an envelope containing $1,000, the situation became toxic.
Recruits are starting to get Steve Martin happy feet. Renardo Sidney, a shaky prospect in the best of institutional control times, bailed to Mississippi State. USC lost a medial supply company: Johnson & Johnson. Marcus opted to turn pro (Hello team Islamabad?) even after receiving a sixth year of NCAA eligibility. Noel, a top recruit, was granted his release.
If you think opposing coaches aren't using the potential NCAA sanctions against USC, well, silly you.
Days, or weeks, or months before the NCAA renders its verdict, USC basketball, as you knew it, is dead. The Trojans would be silly to fire Floyd now because, the way things are falling now, you can just let gravity take its course.
It's over for USC basketball -- even IF the NCAA clears Floyd of wrongdoing.
In the 1980s, after being acquitted of larceny and fraud charges, former U.S. Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan famously remarked: "Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?"
Same for Tim Floyd. No matter what happens, it's too late. USC's mission statement now has to be to save football at all cost -- even if the price is basketball.
It's beyond nuance and subtext now -- everything's gone straight to CYOB.
This summer will be spent waiting for the NCAA to report ... on USC football.
The report on USC basketball is already in.
-- Chris Dufresne