San Diego Toreros (16-15, 7-11)
Position in West Coast Convo Power Rankings: 5th
After starting off conference season shaky, the Toreros have found new, recent energy and were able to edge out Portland for the six seed and a first round bye in the WCC tournament.
Despite their rough opening to WCC play, the Toreros are playing just about as good as any team in the conference. As a result, many people – pundits and fans alike – are dubbing USD the “dark horses” of the tournament.
While Johnny Dee (a.k.a. Johnny Buckets) is a lethal scorer, Christopher Anderson is an all-around point guard and Jito Kok is a fantastic rim protector, do the Toreros have the substance to make a Cinderella run in the WCC tournament like they did in 2008? I think they can.
Players to Watch
First and foremost, Johnny Buckets is the man to watch for the Toreros. Like his nickname indicates, Dee just gets buckets, and from anywhere on the court too. He is always a threat to pull from anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the 3-point arc, and must be accounted for at all-times. Dee has the best chance of anyone to drop 30 points in Vegas.
Jito Kok has slowly improved his offensive game throughout the season, and its finally showing in the stats. In San Diego’s last two games of the season, which were against the top two seeds in the conference BYU and Gonzaga, Kok shot 80.0 percent from the field and averaged 9.5 points (which is well above his season average of 4.3. If Kok shoots well in Vegas, the Toreros will be that much harder to beat.
The Toreros other three starters are worth knowing. Christopher Anderson is a small, but extremely quick point guard who has improved his 3-point shot, Duda Sanadze is an on-again off-again scoring wing and Dennis Kramer is the team’s most gifted post.
What to Expect from the Toreros
San Diego’s season has been up-and-down, but it must be all up from here on out in order from them to win the WCC tournament. San Francisco is the Toreros first matchup in Vegas, a consistent team that defeated USD twice this season – granted the combined margin of victory in those two games was nine. The Dons won five straight games to end of season, and are one of the hottest teams in the entire tournament.
If the Toreros sneak past the Dons, their likely matchup in the next round would be BYU, another team that has found their stride. The Toreros upset the Cougars early in the season in Provo, but lost their season finale against them in San Diego.
With a challenging road ahead for the Toreros, it would be unfair to expect a deep run from them in the tournament. However, with the way they have been playing recently, it is not out of the question.