San Diego vs. Portland Preview


We have some big games on the schedule for the opening day of WCC play on Saturday. The national attention will be on Gonzaga visiting BYU, but some other games have big implications including this one between the San Diego Toreros and Portland Pilots. Both of these teams had strong non-conference schedules, and both have aspirations of being breakout teams that make some noise. With both teams boasting a number of veterans that led them to major upsets last year including both teams defeating Gonzaga, how this games goes will say a lot about who is primed to challenge the contenders and who is just a pretender.



Alec Wintering

Bryce Pressley

Voldy Gerun

Bobby Sharp

Thomas Van Der Mars

There is still a question surrounding the projected starters for Portland. Senior Kevin Bailey has missed the past four games with Plantar Fasciitis and is questionable for the start of conference play. Depending on his health, he could get the start, come off the bench, or watch the game in street clothes. Don’t be surprised if Jason Todd gets the start over Bobby Sharp, or if Coach Reveno uses an ultra-big lineup with Voldy playing the 3, Riley Barker the 4, and van der Mars holding down the center. It’s a lineup that was used to start the UNLV game with fairly good results.

San Diego

Johnny Dee

Chris Anderson

Thomas Jacobs

Brett Bailey

Jito Kok

Plantar Fasciitis seems to be going around the WCC as a key player for the Toreros has also struggled with it this season. The Toreros have had a very consistent core four of starts Dee and Anderson along with the strong inside presence of Jacobs and Kok. But the fifth starter position, normally a wing position inhabited by Duda Sanadze, has been wide open due to Sanadze’s injury issues. Brett Bailey has gotten the majority of starts in his place, but he is not much more than a placeholder as San Diego rotates in a number of different players. So while the above lineup is what the Toreros should start with, expect to see lots of rotations as a good 6-7 other players will swap in and out with Dee, Anderson, and Kok being the only three players to see almost max minutes.



Portland is coming off two easy wins over Montana State and Lewis and Clark. The Pilots won the two games by a combined score of 158-109. Portland is a combined 4-2 in the month of December with the two losses coming in overtime to Oregon State and UNLV. The loss to the Rebels became even more frustrating after they handed Arizona their first loss of the season.

San Diego 

The Toreros are riding a 3 game winning streak having upset UC Santa Barbara before cruising to wins over New Orleans and NAIA San Diego Christian. This was after a three game losing streak against elite opponents including UCLA and San Diego State. Four of the five teams to beat USD this season reached the NCAA Tournament last year.



It’s all about point guard play in this one. Portland has been led this season by Sophomore guard Alec Wintering. He has been clutch throughout the season, but especially after Bailey went down with his injury. What has been impressive is how he is able to finish at the rim a lot better this season, and he has also been able to increase his assist average. Wintering will have a tough matchup against a veteran San Diego backcourt, but this could show the rest of the WCC how good Wintering really is.

Portland will try to get Van Der Mars and Voldy going early, and look for Bobby Sharp to get some plays run for him, as the Pilots really need Sharp to regain the form he was in last season when he made 40% from deep.

I wouldn’t quite say that Coach Reveno is on the hot seat, but its warm for sure. Expectations around the program are high for Portland to compete for a top 3 or 4 spot within the WCC, and for that to happen, they need to take care of talented teams like USD.

San Diego

As mentioned above, guard play will be big with two teams featuring quality backcourt players. Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson will have an easier time if Kevin Bailey is out of the Pilots lineup, but they will still have their hands full. This could be a high scoring affair as both sides will probably see a lot of points off a lot of shooting by their guards.

Down low, the bigs of USD will be challenged by one of the better frontcourts in the WCC highlighted by Thomas Van Der Mars. How he fares against the defense of Jito Kok, and how Gerun matches up with forward Thomas Jacobs will be very interesting to watch. If things are about equal with the backcourt shooting on Saturday, the matchups inside could decide the game.

Bill Grier is entering what is believed to be the final year of his contract, and it might be do or die time for him as the coach of the Toreros. After being a favorite breakout team for a number of years but not fulfilling that potential, the hope is that Grier can lead a talented team to big things before the graduation of key stars Dee and Anderson.


Portland has been known for playing in some wild games, and this one could get crazy with the talent and intriguing matchups on both sides. We could see a lot of back and forth with a close game right to the end and even some overtime if we’re lucky. The Toreros can be infamous for fading late however, and that plays to the advantage of the matchups for Portland. The shooting should be about equal and keep both teams in the game, but Van Der Mars and Gerun could be getting the best of the more timid Kok and smaller Jacobs in the final minutes.

The prediction is that the Pilots gets some big plays inside on rebounds and putbacks that decides a close game in the end. Holding a small lead, they hit their free throws and escape the Jenny Craig Pavilion with a solid win.