USC chosen for first NCAA Tournament since 2011
LOS ANGELES (AP) Julian Jacobs finished last season with Southern California wondering if he would ever reach an NCAA Tournament.
With only five conference wins combined in two seasons, it appeared doubtful.
Instead, thanks to a turnaround under third-year coach Andy Enfield, Jacobs and the Trojans are headed to the Big Dance for the first time since 2011.
USC (21-12) is seeded No. 8 in the East and will face Providence in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Thursday.
''I just feel really glad to be a program that has done a complete 180,'' Jacobs said Sunday. ''Going to the laughingstock of the conference to the NCAA Tournament is indescribable. This is why we play.''
USC finished last in the Pac-12 the last two seasons and was 23-41 overall, but got off to a hot start this season and finished with its first 20-win campaign since 2009.
''There was no timetable,'' Enfield said. ''Our goal as a coaching staff was to make this program better every week, every year. Our recruiting pitch was they could be the reason USC gets back to the tournament and have a chance to win a championship, and now here they are.''
It is USC's 17th NCAA Tournament appearance and first under Enfield.
Enfield coached 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet Sixteen in 2013 in his only previous NCAA Tournament appearance.
Junior wing Katin Reinhardt, a UNLV transfer who played in the NCAA Tournament with the Rebels in 2013, is the only player on USC's roster with previous tournament experience.
''I've been telling the guys you gotta be ready because any team can play hot, any team can play well and beat anyone,'' Reinhardt said. ''The whole week leading up to it you're more excited than a normal game, but I think we'll be ready to go.''
The Trojans are 12-18 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, and their last win came in the opening game in 2009.
Providence (23-10), finished fourth in the Big East and reached the Big East semifinals.
The Friars are making their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
''I've known Coach (Ed) Cooley for a long time, they've built a really great program out there,'' Enfield said. ''They're players are excellent and they're a very balanced team. We haven't seen them a whole lot, but we're excited to be able to be there and I have a feeling it will be a terrific basketball game.''