Basketball: USC scouting report

Don’t ask Mike Montgomery to project his team’s chances of reaching the NCAA tournament.

Or USC’s Kevin O’Neill, for that matter.

The fifth-seeded Golden Bears (17-13) and fourth-seeded Trojans (18-13) square off at 12:10 p.m. Thursday at the Staples Center in a Pac-10 tournament quarterfinal, and neither coach will be lured into trying to predict what his team must achieve this week to get the nod from the NCAA selection committee.

“This is same old same old for me,” Montgomery said. “It’s all about NCAA right now. All we can do is play SC and whatever happens happens. I don’t even concern myself with scenarios and arguments.

“They’ve got their criteria. We played the toughest preseason schedule in the country. We needed to get more wins, probably. At the end of the day, if the conference is not very highly thought of . . . if they’re battling to get three (Pac-10) teams in, I don’t know how they’re going to get four or five teams in.”

See, you couldn’t get the guy to talk about it if you paid him.

And O’Neill?

He was asked if reaching the Saturday final would be enough to land his team in the NCAAs.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I’ve said this every time I’ve been involved in this sitation. I don’t have any real opinion.

“I think we’re a pretty good team at this point. I leave it to the committee — they know a lot more about this than I do. For me to speculate would be a waste of time.”

So, I guess we await their game.

ON CRABBE’S  HONOR: Montgomery was matter of fact in his reaction to Allen Crabbe being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. “I think he deserved it,” Montgomery said. “Once he got into conference, we got solidified. He’s been not only the best freshman, but one of the best players in the conference.”

USC SCOUT: The Trojans arrive in the Pac-10 tournament having won five of six games. USC is 12-10 all-time in the Pac-10 tournament and has reached the final four times. The Trojans’ only Pac-10 tournament title came two years ago when they beat Cal in the semifinals on the way to the 2009 crown . . . Junior F Nikola Vucevic leads the Pac-10 with 20 double-doubles, including the past eight games in a row . . . Junior PG Jio Fontan, who became eligible at midseason after transferring from Fordham, has scored 20 points or more in two of USC’s past four games . . . Freshman SG Maurice Jones had 22 points, including 5 for 6 from 3-point range, against Cal at Berkeley, after senior SG Donte Smith scored 24, including 8 for 12 from deep, in the Cal game at L.A. . . . Figure senior G Marcus Simmons, the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, to draw the assignment of guarding Cal’s Allen Crabbe, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.

MONTY ON USC:  “They play pretty close to the vest. They’re comfortable in a low-scoring game. He plays seven guys. He’s willing to not run the break as much, rest on offense a bit. They expend a lot of energy on defense. Both games we’ve given up some big numbers to wing players on the weak side of the zone. I would expect it would be the same type of game.”

THE BRACKET: Today’s quarterfinal winner advances to Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinal against either top-seeded regular-season champion Arizona or Oregon State, which beat Stanford on Wednesday night.

THE SERIES: Cal leads 128-120 all-time. The teams split two regular-season games, Cal winning 68-66 at Los Angeles on Jan. 22, USC winning 78-75 at Berkeley on Feb. 17. The teams have alternated victories the past seven games. If that pattern continued, it’s Cal turn. The Bears and Trojans have met four times in the Pac-10 tournament, each winning twice.

TIPOFF: 12:10 p.m. Thursday at Staples Center. TV: CSNBA. Radio: 910-AM.

Cal (17-13, 10-8)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF Harper Kamp 6-8 Jr. 14.6 5.7
C Markhuri Sanders-Frison 6-7 Sr. 11.2 7.4
SF Allen Crabbe 6-6 Fr. 13.0 5.5
SG Jorge Gutierrez 6-3 Jr. 14.6 4.6*
PG Brandon Smith 5-11 So. 6.1 3.9*
Key reserves
F Richard Solomon 6-9 Fr. 5.4 4.1
F Bak Bak 6-9 So. 2.4 2.3
G Jeff Powers 6-7 Fr. 3.9 1.0


USC (18-13, 10-8)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF Nikola Vucevic 6-10 Jr. 17.7 10.3
PF Alex Stepheson 6-10 Sr. 9.9 9.0
SG Marcus Simmons 6-6 Sr. 4.5 2.8
SG Jio Fontan 6-0 Jr. 10.5 4.0*
PG Maurice Jones 5-7 Fr. 9.9 3.3*
Key reserves
G Donte Smith 5-11 Sr. 9.9 1.7
F Garrett Jackson 6-7 Fr. 3.6 1.8


Jeff Faraudo