Breaking Down San Diego’s Non-Conference Schedule


The University of San Diego has released their full men’s basketball schedule for the 2014-15 season. While last season featured many highs and lows, milestones like an upset of Gonzaga and multiple postseason tournament wins were signs that the Toreros are trending in the right direction. With most of their starters returning complemented by some solid incoming freshmen, there is potential for the Toreros to make some noise this season.

There is good and bad news for USD when it comes to the non-conference schedule. It is one of the most challenging non-conference schedules the team has had in recent years, which could be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the non-conference slate is full of road games and tough opponents, meaning the Toreros could head into West Coast Conference play with a less than stellar record.

On the other hand, the team should be well tested and could perform very well in the WCC thanks to the toughness they will have built during non-conference play. And if they can actually knock off an marquee opponent or two, they could be in line for a very successful year. With the core of players the Toreros have assembled, opening some eyes around the conference and the country is not out of the question.

With a grueling seven of their eleven non-conference games on the road or at neutral sites, the goal for the Toreros will be to get as much as experience as possible with any upset wins being mostly a bonus. The goal is to be as seasoned and ready as possible for a WCC schedule that has some room for a dark horse team like USD to emerge as a contender.

LMU Classic

Mar 14, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Boise State Broncos guard Derrick Marks (2) dribbles against New Mexico Lobos guard Deshawn Delaney (33) in the first half of the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference college basketball tournament at the Thomas and Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State

November 14, 2014

Conference: Mountain West

Last Season: 21-13 (8-9 Mountain West)

The Toreros last faced Boise State in back to back years in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. The Toreros squeaked out a close road win against the Broncos in the first meeting but fell to them the next year in the Jenny Craig Pavilion. The Broncos are coming off a strong season with 21 wins, and the only thing that kept them from a better record and possibly a postseason bid was an under .500 record in the very strong Mountain West Conference.

However the Broncos were stellar against their top conference foes hanging tough with all the major teams. In addition to picking up upset wins over UNLV and New Mexico, the Broncos had two losses to San Diego State by just one basket. They also came three points from upsetting New Mexico again in the Mountain West Tournament semifinals. Clearly the Broncos have the talent to hang with high-level teams, and they will pose quite a challenge for the Toreros in their season opener.

The Broncos are losing three key players from their 2013-14 squad however, so there may be some adjustments being tried out and new players being given a look in this early game. If the Toreros can take advantage of the fact that they won’t be facing the same early season problem with almost their entire roster returning, this is a winnable game that could look very good down the road if the Broncos have another good season in the Mountain West.

LMU Classic

Dec 21, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Southeast Missouri State Redhawks guard Antonius Cleveland (4) dunks the ball against the Memphis Tigers during the second half at FedExForum. Memphis Tigers beat the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks 77 – 65. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

SE Missouri State

November 15, 2014

Conference: Ohio Valley

Last Season: 18-14 (8-8 Ohio Valley)

The Redhawks had an up and down season finishing in the middle of a very average Ohio Valley Conference. Their highlights came in two competitive losses to Ohio Valley Champion and NCAA Tournament participant Eastern Kentucky including an impressive one point loss on the road.

The Redhawks lose two key players from last years squad including an All-OVC First Team performer in Tyler Stone. The team does boast a lot of height which could prove a challenge for the Toreros.

But overall the Toreros have more talent and a more seasoned group of veterans who should be able to use their experience playing in a stronger conference to knock off the Redhawks.

If the Toreros cannot get the win against Boise State, it will be imperative that they pull out a win against this beatable opponent to leave the LMU Classic with at least one victory.

Florida A&M

Dec 19, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; South Florida Bulls forward Victor Rudd (2) drives to the basket as Florida A&M Rattlers forward Trey Kellum (25) defends during the second half at USF Sun Dome. South Florida Bulls defeated the Florida A&M Rattlers 73-70. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

November 19, 2014

Conference: MEAC

Last Season: 14-18 (8-9 MEAC)

The Rattlers had a below average season overall, but they improved upon their eight wins in 2012-13 and were competitive in the MEAC including an upset win over eventual MEAC Champion and NCAA Tournament participant North Carolina Central.

It wasn’t enough for the administration however as they fired their Head Coach after bringing in a new President and Athletic Director this year. New Head Coach Bryon Samuels brings an impressive resume of coaching experience including SEC coaching experience and a previous stint in the MEAC. The Rattlers had some good non-conference experience last year with marquee opponents Princeton, Florida Gulf Coast, and Rutgers in their non-conference schedule.

But getting off to a fast start in the new year with a new coach and having to travel out to California doesn’t bode well for a team in transition. Not to mention they lose a whopping seven seniors from last years team. With the Toreros likely having a good crowd behind them in their home opener, there’s good reason to believe that this should be a win for the Toreros.

If things go terribly on the road at the LMU Classic, the Toreros should be motivated by returning home and bounce back with a win.

Wooden Legacy

Mar 20, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Western Michigan Broncos forward Connar Tava (2) drives to the basket against Syracuse Orange in the second half of a men

Western Michigan

November 24, 2014

Conference: MAC

Last Season: 23-10 (14-4 MAC)

MAC Tournament Champions

NCAA Tournament First Round

The Toreros and Broncos are both competing in the Wooden Legacy in Los Angeles, but they have scheduled an opening game that is considered part of the Wooden Legacy but is not bracketed and won’t factor into the tournament results.

It is a real game however and will take place down the road from Los Angeles in the Jenny Craig Pavilion. Bringing marquee opponents to San Diego has been tough in recent years for the Toreros, and this is easily the biggest non-conference home game of the year.

The Broncos are coming off a spectacular season that saw them put up the third most wins in school history, win the MAC Championship, and reach the NCAA Tournament. This will be the first real test for the Toreros as many key players from the Broncos run last year are returning highlighted by David Brown.

After being named a finalist for the Lou Henson Award given to the top mid-major player in college basketball last season, Brown returns as a graduate student and will anchor the Broncos.

Pulling out a win against this team will be extremely tough for the Toreros, but they have hung with NCAA Tournament quality teams before. How USD performs here will say a lot about what direction their season is heading. Even a competitive loss would be a very positive sign, but a very high quality win is also not out of the question.

Wooden Legacy

Mar 14, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Xavier Musketeers center Matt Stainbrook (40) drives to the basket against Creighton Bluejays forward Ethan Wragge (34) during the first half in the semifinals of the Big East college basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jim O


November 27, 2014

Conference: Big East

Last Season: 21-13 (10-8 Big East)

NCAA Tournament First Round

The Wooden Legacy kicks off for real on the campus of Cal State Fullerton as the Toreros open tournament play against Xavier. For the Toreros it doesn’t get much tougher than an early season game against a Big East power.

The Musketeers had a pretty average year in the Big East, but an average year in the Big East is still very impressive as evident by their run to the Big East Tournament semifinals and selection as an at-large big to the NCAA Tournament.

This will be one of less than a handful of major upset opportunities the Toreros will have to put them on the map. The good news for the Toreros is that the Musketeers lost Semaj Christon to the NBA, the top scorer in the Big East. The bad news is they do return with 6-10 center Matt Stainbrook, the second leading rebounder in the Big East.

The Toreros probably don’t have the tools to stop Stainbrook, and a win here is very unlikely. Hanging tough with the Musketeers however would go a long way to building their reputation, similar to how close losses to San Diego State and New Mexico last year got people talking.

This is even more true considering the game will be nationally broadcast on ESPN 2, a rare opportunity for national exposure for the Toreros. Hanging tough in this game would be a huge early season boost and confidence builder.

Wooden Legacy


Dec 11, 2013; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Princeton Tigers forward Spencer Weisz (10) drives to the basket during the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

November 28, 2014

Conference: Ivy League/
Conference USA

Last Season: 21-9 (8-7 Ivy League)/
23-11 (12-4 Conference USA)

CBI Tournament Second Round/
CBI Tournament First Round

The Toreros will face Princeton or UTEP in the second round of the Wooden Legacy depending on first round results. With a loss to Xavier likely, the Toreros will probably face the loser of the Princeton vs. UTEP game in a consolation game the next day.

Who the Toreros should prepare more for is a tough call. Princeton is traditionally a strong team, although they are coming off a below average year. Despite the 21-9 overall record, the Tigers were a very pedestrian 8-6 in Ivy League play and settled for a berth in the CBI Postseason Tournament.

This is a lower tier tournament on the same level as the CIT Tournament the Toreros played in last year.  Princeton defeated Tulane before falling in the second round to Fresno State. We got a good snapshot of how the Tigers perform against WCC schools as they blew out Pacific before falling to Portland in a non-conference tournament last year.

The Tigers lost their only All-Ivy League selection from last season, but they do return Ivy League Rookie of the Year Spencer Weisz. He set a freshman record for rebounds in a season, but he is small for a forward. He shouldn’t be anything the Toreros can’t handle, and this is certainly a winnable game that would look very good if the Tigers have another competitive season in the Ivy League.

Nov 29, 2013; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; UTEP Miners forward Vince Hunter (32) dunks during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, UTEP had a near identical season to Princeton. The Miners fell early in the Conference USA Tournament, but their robust 14-4 conference record helped them receive a berth in the CBI Tournament.

They fell in the first round to Fresno State who then went on to beat Prinecton. The Miners strong conference record was likely helped by their very tough non-conference schedule.

They played close with Kansas and also got very solid wins over Tennessee, Colorado State, and Washington State. UTEP may represent the tougher opponent for USD as they are a team on the rise and return two of their key players including Conference USA Freshman of the Year Vince Hunter.

The Miners also boast some big men that could cause problems for the Toreros. Like Princeton it’s a winnable game, but Torero fans should fear the matchup problems a team like UTEP could create and hope for a date with Princeton.

Wooden Legacy

Mar 6, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies forward Shawn Kemp, Jr., (40) dunks the ball against the UCLA Bruins during the first half at Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports


November 30, 2014

Depending on earlier results, the Toreros could be playing for the Wooden Legacy Championship or in a lower consolation game. As a result, they could see any one of the remaining teams in the field here: Western Michigan, Long Beach State, San Jose State, or Washington. Western Michigan would represent another shot at a quality opponent after facing them less than a week prior.

Long Beach State is coming off a sub .500 year, but they are always a contender in the Big West opponent having gone 10-6 in conference play. The Toreros should win against the 49ers, but a poor performance would certainly open the door for a resilient team like Long Beach State.

San Jose State is coming off an abysmal year with just seven wins and a 1-17 record in the very tough Mountain West. If the Toreros struggle early in the tournament, they can at least look forward to what should be an easy win against a poor Spartans team in the consolation rounds.

Washington had a very average year by their standards finishing 9-9 in the Pac-12, but coming from a major conference they would certainly pose a test for the Toreros. This is a team that will yearly have very understandable losses to powerhouses like UCLA and Arizona, so even if they are in a down year it’s a marquee matchup for the Toreros.

Like when they play Xavier, facing the Huskies would be a great chance for the Toreros to show their skill on the national stage. They would gladly take a hard fought, close loss here. But since the Huskies will more than likely do better than the Toreros, this matchup is unlikely.

Washington will probably be competing for the tournament title with Xavier, while the Toreros will be hoping to have picked up at least one win entering their final game of the tournament schedule.

@ San Diego State

Dec 5, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego State Aztecs forward Winston Shepard (13) battles for a loose ball during the second half against the San Diego Toreros at Jenny Craig Pavillion. The Aztecs won 65-64. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

December 4, 2014

Conference: Mountain West

Last Season: 31-5 (16-2 Mountain West)

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

The Toreros could probably use a break after what should be a very tough Wooden Legacy schedule, but they don’t get one as less than a week later they travel across town to face rival San Diego State.

The Aztecs had another fantastic year last season posting just five losses, but the Toreros played a barn burner against them at the Jenny Craig Pavilion and were actually able to put up a potential game winning shot at the buzzer. While the Aztecs lost some talent including star Xavier Thames, they are fully reloaded with recruits and return a number of key players.

Combine that with a hostile environment where the Toreros have not played well in recent years and you have the odds stacked against them. This one could easily turn into a blowout loss, so the goal should be to prove the close loss last year was no fluke by going on the road and proving to the city of San Diego and the nation that this a two team city.


Mar 27, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Norman Powell (4) lays the ball up past Florida Gators center Patric Young (4) during the first half in the semifinals of the south regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

December 7, 2014

Conference: Pac-12

Last Season: 28-9 (12-6 Pac-12)

Pac-12 Tournament Champions

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Finally a break for the Toreros? On the contrary, the schedule gets even more brutal. Just days after facing the Aztecs, the Toreros must travel back to Los Angeles to face another elite opponent in the UCLA Bruins.

Facing elite opponents like this back-to-back will be the ultimate test for the Toreros, and it’s something most of the roster has never experienced outside of times when Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and BYU have come on the schedule in two or three consecutive games during conference play.

The Bruins are coming off a typically strong season including a surprise run to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship that was highlighted by an upset of Arizona. The team took that momentum into the NCAA Tournament rattling off two wins before running into Florida in the Sweet 16.

With marquee coaching hire Steve Alford heading into his second season leading the Bruins, they should only grow more dangerous.  The good news for the Toreros is that the Bruins were decimated in the NBA draft losing three players who were take in the first round.

Unfortunately it’s still UCLA, and they will still trot out a lineup that could blow out the Toreros. Combine that with it being a road game in a tough environment and coming off a grueling set of road games, and the hope here is that the Toreros can keep it respectable. And by respectable, I mean anything under a 25 point loss.

The Toreros have the talent to hang with anyone, they just cannot afford to let this one get out of hand because it easily could. It’s no knock on the Toreros, but with the timing of this game and quality of the opponent it’s going to be a tough time.

@ UC Santa Barbara

Nov 12, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UC Santa Barbera Gauchos forward Alan Williams (15) shoots against defending UNLV Runnin

December 11, 2014

Conference: Big West

Last Season: 21-9 (12-4 Big West)

STILL no relief for the Toreros! After the murderer’s row of road games, the Toreros must face one more hurdle. By now fatigue could be an issue having faced so many elite opponents in the preceding couple weeks.

Their reward? A trip to play one of the best mid-major teams in California in the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. The Gauchos had a very strong regular season but fell apart in the postseason falling to Cal Poly in the quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament as the Mustangs started their miracle run to the NCAA Tournament.

The shock of the upset made for an interesting postseason situation as the Gauchos declined their postseason invitations opting to not play any postseason games.

The Gauchos probably feel they should have achieved much more after a breakout regular season, so they will enter this year with a chip on their shoulder and an extremely good lineup highlighted by the return of Alan Williams, the Big West Player of the Year. Williams led the nation in rebounding last year, and he showed why in a game against the Toreros.

The Toreros had shut Williams down in the first half of a game at the Jenny Craig Pavilion last year holding him scoreless, but he came alive in the second half to lead the Gauchos to a comfortable 72-61 win. The Toreros cannot expect the same easy time they had with Williams last year, and this Gauchos will be heavily favored here.

Combine that with the fact that the Toreros will be tired and the Gauchos will be well seasoned already having played games versus Kansas and Florida Gulf Coast, and it has the makings of a game that could get out of hand. Fortunately the Toreros have always shown resilience against tough opponents, and knowing they had the Gauchos on the ropes last year should keep them confident.

It’s one that could go either way as the Toreros could pull out a win or lose by 20 points. How they are playing at that time will say a lot about how they will fare in this one.

New Orleans

Dec 28, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; New Orleans Privateers forward Terrance Syon (14) drives to the basket against Michigan State Spartans forward Gavin Schilling (34) during the 2nd half of a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. MSU won 101-48. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

December 13, 2014

Conference: Southland

Last Season: 11-15 (8-10 Southland)

Finally the Toreros get some relief and a return to their home court. After almost three weeks without a home game, the Toreros finally return home and get an easier opponent as a bonus.

If the Toreros don’t face a sub .500 team in their third game of the Wooden Legacy, this will mark the first time since November 19th the Toreros are not playing a team that was well above .500 last season. The only decent win last year for the Privateers came in a one basket victory over UTEP, and they did manage to stay within 10 points of Sam Houston State which was no small feat as the Bearkats went undefeated in Southland play on their way to a 32-3 season and an NCAA Tournament berth.

The Privateers lost their only All-Southland selection, and they have an extremely young team featuring seven freshmen. The only thing that should keep the Toreros from a win here is if the long road schedule against tough opponents has completely sapped their energy.

This game is just two days after the trip to UC Santa Barbara, so it’s possible that could a concern. But the Toreros should have the depth and talent for that not be a problem.

San Diego Christian

Nov 20, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Christian Hawks forward Trevor English (23) looks to pass the ball during the second half against the San Diego State Aztecs at Viejas Arena. The Aztecs won 93-41.Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

December 21, 2014

Conference: GSAC (NAIA)

Last Season: 8-16 (4-10 GSAC)

Finally after all that, the Toreros get their much needed break. The team gets a full week off after the New Orleans game, and they come back to a very easy matchup in San Diego Christian.

The Hawks recorded just eight wins playing in the NAIA, an independent athletic association considered a level below NCAA Division Two. Their inexperience at the top level was evident at the Toreros blew them out 82-47 in a game last year.

After a week off, the Toreros should be able to enjoy another blowout victory here. It’s a close to a sure win as the Toreros will get all season, and it could be a nice confidence booster entering WCC play.

The Toreros will be embarking on a very exciting non-conference schedule. Even if they are beaten down by the multiple elite opponents on their schedule, the important thing will be the experience they will gain.

Like most years, the Toreros are not in a position to build much of an at-large resume for a postseason tournament. So the value of this non-conference slate is facing elite opponents to be well prepared for the challenges of the WCC schedule.

They will certainly be well prepared, and if they pick up an upset win or two along the way we could be in for one impressive season. The important thing is that the opportunity is there, and they will certainly have every chance to make a name for themselves.