Cynthia Cooper, Women of Troy headed to Knoxville for NCAA Tournament

USC is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006.

LOS ANGELES — Cynthia Cooper accomplished a lot during her playing career at USC. She won back-to-back NCAA championships in 1983 and 1984. In all, she made three NCAA title game appearances and advanced to at least the Elite Eight in all four seasons. In 2011, her No. 44 was retired joining former USC Women of Troy greats, Lisa Leslie and Cheryl Miller. 

She doesn’t discuss any of that with the players she now coaches at her alma mater. 

"I talk very little to this team about tradition and history," Cooper said. "I really want them to make their own — put their own footprint on this program.

"It’s not about me. It’s not about what we did in the past. It’s about them carving their own name into the history books of USC women’s basketball."

Her current team beat No. 4 Stanford in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament. 

Her current team won four games in four nights to win the conference tournament. 

And, now her current team is headed to Knoxville, Tennessee to make the first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. 

The No. 9 seed USC Women of Troy will face No. 8 St. John’s on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the first round of the Louisville region of the NCAA Tournament the team learned at a Selection Monday party held inside Galen Center Monday evening. 

"Just to see our name flash up there that was so exciting for us," senior forward Cassie Harberts said. "I’ve never experienced anything like that."

The NCAA Tournament will be unchartered waters for this USC team. No player on the roster has ever competed in a NCAA Tournament game.

Its coach, however, has. Cooper played in a total of 15 NCAA Tournament games during her illustrious career. As a coach, she’s making her third NCAA Tournament after leading Prairie View A&M to the Big Dance twice.

Following the end of the regular season, Cooper implored her team to "step your game up a level." Focus, determination, heart were all characteristics that needed to be enhanced if the group was going to be successful.

They bought in, winning the Pac-12 Tournament while becoming the first program to win four games in four days to do so.

As the team prepares to head to Knoxville, Cooper says she’ll probably give a "similar" speech to her team.

"If you want to know how it feels (to be successful), you’ve got to step your game up to another level," Cooper said. "If it’s turnovers, if it’s making that jump shot, if it’s getting into the lane, if it’s getting a defensive stop or a rebound — whatever it is, do it better. And I think that will get us prepared for that first NCAA game."