Men’s basketball No. 5 seed in WCC tournament
The West Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament begins on March 6 in Las Vegas, Nev. at the Orleans Arena. The University of San Diego Toreros earned the No. 5 seed, meaning that they have a bye in the first round. Their first game is a quarterfinal matchup on Saturday, March 7 against the No. 4 seed, Pepperdine University Waves.
The Toreros have played the Waves twice already this season, winning one game each. Each of these games was rather lopsided, as the Toreros lost to the Waves 59-47 on Jan. 10, but won by 22 at Pepperdine on Feb. 7. In order to win, the Toreros must avoid turnovers while being productive on offense.
Junior guard Stacy David, who has averaged nearly 16 points and eight rebounds per game this season, is a threat on offense that the Toreros will need to account for in order to gain momentum throughout the game. Senior guard Johnny Dee has his keys for the game and understands what it will take to succeed.
“We have to do a really good job keeping them off the offensive glass,” Dee said. “They have a great player in Stacy David and we need to do a good job guarding him as a team!”
If they are able to advance, the next opponent would be the top-ranked Gonzaga University Bulldogs, who are currently 29-2 on the season and hold a No. 3 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll. Gonzaga just recently suffered their first loss in WCC play against the Brigham Young University Cougars.
The Bulldogs are loaded with talent this year, as several players have stepped up as leaders this season. Junior forward Kyle Wiltjer transferred to Gonzaga from the University of Kentucky and leads the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game.
Senior point guard Kevin Pangos is the facilitator on offense, averaging 11 points and five assists per game. The Bulldogs are definitely the favorite in the WCC tournament, and could potentially earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament if they win in very dominant fashion.
It is without question that Brigham Young University deserves some respect as well, proving that they can compete with the best talent in the nation by beating the Bulldogs on Feb. 28. Senior guard Tyler Haws is currently ranked fourth in the nation in scoring.
He has averaged 22 points and 4 rebounds per game this season and poses a serious threat on offense no matter who his opponent is. The Cougars have 23 wins this season to just eight losses, which is the second best record in the conference behind the Bulldogs.
Junior guard Kyle Collinsworth has been very effective on offense throughout the season, averaging 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists per game. They have the momentum heading into the tournament after defeating the Bulldogs last week and would not have to face them again until the championship game.
Dee recognizes that the Toreros have a different style of play than the Cougars, so in order to beat the Bulldogs they will have a different game plan.
“BYU is a unique team that can play really fast with Gonzaga,” Dee said. “That won’t be our game plan. We will try to slow the game down and make them work on defense and see if we can control the tempo. Definitely think they are beatable!”
The St. Mary’s College Gaels have also posted an impressive record at 21-8, but are coming off a tough one-point loss at Santa Clara on Feb. 28. Senior forward Brad Waldo leads the way with 18 points and nine rebounds per game, but the rest of the team needs to step up in order to compete in close games.
Dee has high expectations heading into his final WCC tournament as a Torero.
“We want to win this conference tournament,” Dee said. “ It starts Saturday and we need to have a good effort and get a win and move on to the next one.”
Overall, the WCC tournament is very important for several teams because the conference champion receives an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
It is very likely that Gonzaga and BYU will be in the field of 64 regardless of whether they win the WCC or not. One of the lower seeds in the field could sneak in if they perform well in Las Vegas.