USC dealing with March isolation at NCAA Tournament
Adam Grosbard (OC Register) — Things are a little different at the NCAA Tournament this year as college basketball plays through the pandemic. So much so that just taking an outdoor team picture is cause for celebration for USC.
“I have not been outside since we’ve been here, two days,” head coach Andy Enfield said Wednesday. “We’re excited to see some daylight.”
Such is life in Indianapolis this year. Like all 68 teams in the tournament, the Trojans have the entire floor of a hotel to themselves to avoid outside variables. Food is brought to their rooms, and the hotel has an indoor bridge that connects to the convention center where practices are held.
Gone is the typical festivity that accompanies the event. No community events, no team dinners to celebrate reaching the Big Dance, no fans waiting outside the hotel to cheer the team as it boards the bus to the arena.
Family members can’t even be there for that purpose. Enfield said that when his wife and three children arrive in Indianapolis on Thursday, his only interaction with them will be to wave from the court prior to tip-off.
“I really enjoy watching the family members of the staff get on the plane and fly out with the team and be part of our program for a few days at a very special time of year,” Enfield said. “The atmosphere is totally different.”
There have been some complaints from players in this bubble environment about the quality of food the NCAA is providing for the student-athletes, especially in light of the recent name, image and likeness debate. It’s led to some players, most notably Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon and Rutgers’ Geo Baker, to start tweeting about the issue using #NotNCAAProperty.
“Players ISOLATED entire year to help make this tournament happen,” Baker tweeted on Tuesday. “NCAA: rewarded w/ $900 million. Players: rewarded w/ free deodorant and small boxed meals.”
USC freshman center Evan Mobley, though, said he is enjoying the bubble experience as best he can, even if it admittedly doesn’t live up to the image he had in mind when he dreamed about this moment.
“They got good food, everything, so it’s a great experience so far,” Mobley said. “I would like it to be like normal, like in the past years, but it is how it is with the coronavirus and everything. But it’s been great so far.”
Sixth-seeded USC has one day left until it finds out who it will play in the first round, as 11 seeds Wichita State and Drake face off for that right on Thursday at 3:27 p.m. PT.
Mobley said he has yet to review much video of either potential opponent, but he says USC will be watching Thursday’s game to see how those teams approach the First Four matchup to help kick off the NCAA Tournament.
Enfield praised both Drake and Wichita State’s accomplishments this season but also said the opponent won’t necessarily change the style of play USC deploys.
“You have to do what you do well at this point in the season,” Enfield said. “You also have to make adjustments to guard the other team. I think both Wichita and Drake present challenges with us. We have a size advantage in the interior but they have some advantages at different positions.”
TrojanDailyBlog members — Always feel free to add information or topics to the TDB which don’t necessarily pertain to any particular moderator post or member comment.