CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Lon Kruger and friends had nearly five days to prepare for O.J.'s alma mater.
They could use another five.
"USC is the hardest team to prepare for in the Pac-10," Washington State coach Kevin Eastman said. "They do the most, offensively and defensively, in terms of different sets and defenses. They do things the pros do."
Which makes perfect sense, considering who coaches Illinois' first-round NCAA tournament opponent.
Henry Bibby played nine years in the National Basketball Association and coached eight years in the Continental Basketball Association.
"What you have in Henry is a guy with mostly a pro background and you can really see pro influences in the offenses they run, how he juggles his personnel, how he may move a player around the floor to take advantage of a mismatch," Eastman said.
"They do a lot of things you don't see at the college level."
Sometimes well, sometimes not so well. The Trojans, 17-10 and seeded 11th, did lose at Tennessee by 12, at Washington by 10 in the high-stakes regular season finale and by 46 in back-to-back games at Arizona and UCLA.
Here's five things Illinois needs to do to the Trojans to advance to Round 2 for the first time since 1993:
1. Gang up on David Crouse.
The Trojans' third-leading scorer is just the kind of player that can give Illinois problems.
The tall kind.
Crouse, a fifth-year senior, goes 6-foot-11, 245 pounds, shoots 81 percent from the free throw line (fifth in the Pac-10) and has been a terror down the stretch, leading the Trojans in scoring and rebounding in three of the last four games.
"He's a pretty slim cat, but he's strong," Illinois forward Bryant Notree said. "He reminds me a lot of Jelani McCoy of UCLA. He has some nice post moves."
The last 6-11 guy Illinois faced had a field day. Purdue's Brad Miller scored a game-high 27 points, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, blocked a game-high two shots and probably knocked the Illini down a seed.
"Crouse is not unlike Miller," Kruger said. "He's big, he's skilled, but he doesn't go out on the floor and shoot it like Miller."
Rodrick Rhodes and Stais Boseman get more ink, but Crouse may be the most dangerous Trojan of them all.
Said former Trojans coach George Raveling, who'll call the game for CBS: "USC will go as far as David Crouse takes them in this tournament."
2. Clear out for Kiwane Garris.
Notree's job description is to take the shots, not call them. But if the junior was drawing up a game plan for Friday, there'd be clearouts aplenty for Illinois' second-leading career scorer.
Who's going to stop him?
Bibby has assigned Boseman, USC's All-Pac 10 guard, to guard Garris, Illinois' All-Big Ten guard, all by himself. It's an assignment few have been able to handle the last four years.
"Kiwane is a hard person to guard off the dribble," Notree said. "He should just take it right at Boseman. We've got to get him in early foul trouble."
Boseman has only fouled out of two games – four fewer than Crouse – and has checked some of the nation's best guards.
"Boseman's defended the best guards in our league for a long time," Oregon State assistant Rich Wold said. "Some have been smaller and quicker than him, some have been bigger and stronger than him. But he usually gets the job done."
While he's achieved quite a reputation for his defense (fifth in the Pac-10 in steals, USC's all-time leader), he's no Michael Cooper.
Cincinnati's Darnell Burton hit him up for 31 points, Cal's Ed Gray had games of 28 and 22, Stanford's Brevin Knight scored 27, UCLA's Toby Bailey had 24 and Washington State's Isaac Fontaine went for 21.
Some of Boseman's thievery comes off the Trojans' press, which Eastman expects them to throw at Illinois early.
"They're a pretty good pressing team, but at the same time Illinois has some really good guards," Long Beach State coach Wayne Morgan said. "I don't know if that would work."
Said Kruger: "We've handled pressure pretty well all year, the one exception maybe being at Iowa. For the most part, fullcourt pressure hasn't bothered us."
3. Be on the lookout for changing defenses.
You never know when Bibby's going to pull the old switcheroo and go from man-to-man to zone, Eastman says.
But you'd better be ready when he does.
"They actually enjoy playing a bunch of defenses," Eastman said. "They'll go back and forth the whole game. Even though Illinois shoots the three well, you'll see some zone, just to try to mix them up."
"You gotta have a team that can recognize that and make adjustments without turning the ball over," Wold said.
If Garris keeps busy, Eastman would expect Bibby to bag the single coverage.
"If Garris has the ball a lot – not so much shot attempts, but touches – then he's going to be double-teamed," Eastman said. "That's what the pros do, try to get it in other people's hands. In college, the only time most teams double-team is when it goes in the post."
4. Pass the boards.
In Swahili, Jaha Wilson's first name means "king of the warriors."
To his teammates, he goes by "Buddah."
To Illinois, he could spell trouble.
"If you don't keep Jaha Wilson off the boards, he'll break your back," Morgan said.
Two years ago, the 6-5 Wilson led the Pac-10 in rebounding. He and Crouse are the chairmen of the boards for the Trojans, who average 37.4 a game, three and a half more than Illinois.
"The big thing you have to do against SC is rebound," Wold said. "They really go to the glass hard, and it's not just Crouse and Jaha. Their guards are athletic, Stais Boseman especially. They get a lot of second opportunities."
Like second-leading scorer Rhodes, third-leading scorer Wilson comes off Bibby's bench.
"We try and beat teams with our bench players," Bibby said. "We have an all-around team instead of just one guy that carries us."
5. Don't take the Trojans lightly.
Georgia may be on your minds, but not Illinois'.
"The people talking about Georgia have the luxury of sitting in their La-Z-Boys. They don't have to worry about looking ahead," Illinois forward Brian Johnson said. "Honestly, I could not tell you one thing about Georgia."
Name one Georgia player.
"Can't even think of one," Garris said. "I heard they're doing good, but I've never seen 'em play."
"We've got to be careful not to look past a seed you think you should beat because anybody can beat anybody," Johnson said. "Look at Pete Carril at Princeton."
Better yet, look at Illinois.
Seven years ago, the fifth-seeded Illini were bounced by 12th-seeded Dayton.
And we won't bring up Austin Peay.
"We're approaching it as one tournament in Charlotte," senior Jerry Hester said. "If we win that, we've got another tournament next week somewhere else."