FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas and Southern California, two teams that lost decisively in their conference-tournament finals, will play each other for just the third time when they meet in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Spokane, Wash., on Friday.
The fifth-seeded Trojans (23-11, 10-8 in Pac-10 play) lost 81-57 to Oregon in the Pac-10 Tournament finals at Los Angeles on Saturday night.
Twelfth-seeded Arkansas (21-13, 7-9 in the Southeastern Conference) lost 77-56 to Florida in the SEC Tournament finals on Sunday.
Taj Gibson, a 6-foot-9 forward, made the All-Tournament team for USC and averages 11.8 points per game. Nick Young, a 6-6 swing man, leads the Trojans with a 17.4 average.
"I haven't really had a chance to watch them, other than highlights here and there," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said Sunday night in Fayetteville. "I know early in the year, I watched some film when South Carolina played them at their place and was able to win that game. But I know they had a great
Southern Cal first played Arkansas in the first round of the LA Holiday Classic at Los Angeles in 1966, edging the Razorbacks 70-67 during a season when Arkansas went just 6-17 under coach Duddy Waller.
Then in 1986, Nolan Richardson's first year as Arkansas' coach, USC thumped the Hogs 88-74 in Barnhill Arena. That was Arkansas' sixth loss in seven games after an 8-2 start, en route to a 12-16 record.
That USC team featured Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, who later found fame at Loyola (Calif.) Marymount, and a guard named Tom Lewis.
Lodrick Stewart, whose twin brother Rodrick Stewart plays for Kansas, averages 14 points for Southern California and is the school's career, 3-point shooting leader. Trojans guard Gabe Pruitt averages 12.6 points per game.
"I'm going to do a lot of homework on them over the next couple of days," Heath said. "I'm really kind of blind on them right now, but I'll know a lot more by (Sunday night), I promise you that. I'll have about two or three films under my belt."
Dave Tuttle, the basketball sports information assistant at USC, noted Sunday that the Trojans are known for good defense under second-year coach Tim Floyd, having ranked in the top four nationally in field goal percentage defense most of this season.
Floyd, a former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls coach, looked into the Arkansas job before Heath got it in 2002, but publicly denied that he was a candidate.
The Trojans defeated Washington State 70-61 on Friday to reach the Pac-10 tourney title game.
Southern California has played in one Final Four, losing 74-72 to Bradley in the national semifinals in 1954 at Kansas City, Mo. In the finals, La Salle downed Bradley.
Both Digger Phelps and Dick Vitale of ESPN questioned Arkansas' at-large selection into the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night.
Phelps praised USC's Gibson for his scoring and rebounding, but Jay Bilas of ESPN said, "I'm not sure USC has the size to stay with Arkansas."
Arkansas vs. USC
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