It’s on, again.

As usual, USC is facing UCLA in men’s basketball and the rivalry looks like it’s about to blow the roof off the 44-year-old Pauley Pavilion. (At least the renovation will be easier.)

But this season is a little sweeter for UCLA fans.

The Trojans come into this game in the midst of the attempted coup of Norm Chow, Lane Kiffin’s triumphant return to SoCal, two NCAA investigations regarding their football program and their self-punishment after the O.J. Mayo situation; USC’s athletic program looks to be in a tough situation.

To say the least, USC is in deep.

And like in Wednesday night’s UCLA men’s volleyball match against USC, the taunting between both teams will be extreme.

Chants of “We are ““ ‘SC” will meet angry hoots of “O.J. Ma-yo,” and various other sayings I can’t say here will flood Pauley. This 230th meeting in the battle for Los Angeles is already shaping up to be extra special.

As Den President Jamie Arneson said, Saturday’s game could not have come at a better time. “It’s perfect timing.”

And The Den is starting to camp out tonight for tomorrow’s game, a change from last year’s two-night campouts as per the request of UCLA Athletics.

Ever since Pete Carroll’s play-action touchdown pass to end the football game back in December, UCLA students have been waiting for another big ‘SC game to show their wits, to prove which school owns athletics in this city.

And it may not matter to either team, but the drama of USC football this past week has primed the pump for an intense basketball game for those in the stands.

With USC attempting to bring Norm Chow back to guide its offense under his former subservient, Lane Kiffin, the rivalry just got some extra fuel.

Norm held his own and rebuffed attempts to bring him back ““ and refused a possible raise to return to South Los Angeles.

“It’s not always about the money,” he said, assuring everyone where his loyalties are.

Norm basically told USC and its money to sit down. He’s with the Bruins.

So in the midst of USC’s soap opera, The Den has a perfect chance to try out all sorts of new, creative anti-USC sayings. Rather than simply preceding “S-C” with an expletive, fans have plenty of ammo to draw from, including an athletic department in shambles and the usual variations of what USC stands for.

Arneson said most of The Den’s preparation for tomorrow’s game will go down during the camp-out tonight, but they already have some suggestions of what to yell that will come out on a special four-page edition of “The Dirt from The Den,” the student section’s newsletter for each game.

Saturday’s game, in addition, comes early in the year, when students are not bogged down with their Phy-Sci midterms.

Although a proper basketball school should not have to question the timing of exams as a cause for low attendance at the games, it unfortunately has an effect here. But, the Saturday of a long weekend before third week is prime time to face USC.

The Den is ready. The Bruins are ready. The Trojans are ready. I’m ready.

UCLA has a chance to make a statement this weekend ““ not just as a basketball team, but more so as a university in Los Angeles. What better time to show USC who owns Los Angeles than this week?

And if all goes as the UCLA fans want it to, maybe Rick Neuheisel will be making calls to USC looking to fill his staff. I heard he could use a new water boy.

Of course, money won’t be an issue.

If you’re trying to hire Kevin O’Neill as the new team manager of the men’s basketball team, e-mail Mashhood at