Last Season's Success
Despite nine new players on its 1996-97 roster and the nation's 11th-toughest schedule, USC posted one of the biggest turnarounds in the country, going from ninth place in the Pac-10 in 1995-96 to a second-place tie in 1996-97 and a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1992.
The 1996-97 Trojans (17-11 overall) posted the third-biggest turnaround in school history, improving by seven games (the 1995-96 Trojans went 11-19). USC also tied the school record for improvement in the standings with a jump of seven spots (the Trojans also improved by seven spots from 1984 to 1985, going from eighth to a first-place tie with Washington).
The Trojans won eight of their last 11 Pac-10 games (the three losses were on the road) and at 12-6 in conference play they had more than 10 league victories for only the second time since 1985. In Pac-10 games at home, the Trojans were 8-1.
According to the rankings in USA Today, Troy's 1996-97 schedule was the 11th-toughest among the nation's 307 teams and the second toughest in the Pac-10. USC's regular-season schedule included eight games against teams that were in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll and 16 games versus schools that participated in the 1996 NCAA Tournament (10) or the NIT (6). USC also had to play seven of its last 11 regular-season games on the road (the Trojans won eight of those games).
The following are some more interesting notes from 1996-97: