This is how great a difference two high-quality wins can make. The USC Trojans were projected to go to the NIT two weeks ago by bracketologists. USC simply didn't have enough meat on the bone. Its profile was noticeably thin. It needed high-profile, big-leverage victories to change its NCAA Tournament calculus.
USC crushed Arizona State in Tempe.
The Trojans hammered UCLA with a big second half.
Everything is different now.
In ESPN's latest bracketology forecast, USC isn't even listed as one of the last four teams in the field, or as one of the last four byes, meaning the teams which avoid Dayton and the First Four. USC is better than the teams occupying those last four byes. No Dayton, no First Four, no middle-tier bubble position. The Trojans are decidedly on the good side of the bubble, checking in as a No. 9 seed in ESPN's new bracket projection on Jan. 31. At least eight teams projected to be in the NCAA Tournament have a worse bubble position than the Trojans. USC has a small but real cushion. Now the Trojans have to preserve it.
Pac-12 men's basketball standings for January 30
Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire