Southern California basketball fans are a major Lakers collapse away from a disastrous hoops season. Save for the Lakers’ current championship run, collegiate and professional hoops teams in the L.A. area are all having miserable years – including USC and UCLA. The question is whether the misery is greater in Westwood or in University Park.

While the Bruins were staking claim to the Pac-10 cellar, the Trojans were surging just before the school assessed self-imposed sanctions on its basketball program in light of recruiting violations surrounding former one-and-done standout O.J. Mayo apparently receiving money and/or favors from a booster.

“When we’ve done something wrong, we have an obligation to do something about it,” USC athletic director Mike Garrett said Jan. 3 in a released statement. “Although we are disappointed that rules were violated, we look forward to moving past this matter and to the future success of our men’s basketball program.”

Of course, Garrett did not say the “future success” would be immediate, as the men’s basketball team lost consecutive games at Stanford and California after his announcement.

The fallout did not appear to be limited to the hardwood, either, as Pete Carroll resigned as head football coach almost immediately after Garrett’s announcement, causing some to infer the pigskin guru did not want to be around when the other shoe dropped.

Back to the hardwood, USC’s 67-46 victory over UCLA last weekend may have helped the school exorcise some demons, but it definitely did not take the sting out of Trojan basketball’s punishment, what with the program vacating its entire 2007-08 regular season and sacrificing postseason berths in the Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments.

Such a punishment probably helped the Bruins deal with the home loss, as at least UCLA can say they still have a chance to qualify for the Big Dance this season.

Conversely, all hope of success in 2009-10 is lost for USC men’s basketball, making last weekend’s game at Pauley Pavilion an abomination.

It was the first time since 2003-04 that a UCLA-USC game had very little meaning beyond bragging rights. Six seasons ago, the Bruins transitioned from Steve Lavin to Ben Howland and the Trojans were in rebuilding phase after consecutive Big Dance appearances in 2001 and 2002.

Back to this season, if UCLA (7-10 overall, 2-3 in Pac-10) continues its current rebuilding phase, it will mark the first time since 2004 that neither Bruin nor Trojan basketball will be represented in the NCAA Tournament.

At least the Bruins can say their season was not lost to recruiting violations, but instead to this season being one of transition.

Yet, the Trojans had all the makings of successful season before Garrett presumably saved the football team from further NCAA investigations by sacrificing the not-highly-regarded basketball program. A promising season lost to past scandal.

Pity, as the hardwood boys were on to something special with first-year head coach Kevin O’Neill – who coincidentally replaced Tim Floyd, the man partly responsible for the Trojan’s current predicament. Prior to Jan. 3, the Trojans had won eight consecutive games, sported a 10-4 record and were undefeated in conference play.

Who knows what could have been had USC’s hardwood boys been able to continue on the course they were headed entering 2010. Prior to the announced sanctions, USC appeared on track to take a walk in UCLA’s shoes and legitimately challenge it for the Pac-10 title – just like the Bruin football team was trying to do in 1998 in replicating USC’s football success by holding the No. 1 spot in the inaugural BCS Poll before news of a handicap parking scandal broke out. In the fallout, UCLA went on to lose its regular season finale to Miami, costing the football team its berth in the BCS National Championship Game. After losing to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, Bruin football never recovered.

Today, the USC men’s basketball team is certainly hoping they do not suffer a similar psychological disaster in light of sacrificing appearances in this season’s Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments.

Then again, do the Trojans value basketball the same way the Bruins value football? As you ponder answering this rhetorical question, I am going to put my money on Cal State Fullerton to finish with the best record in Los Angeles-area college hoops.