An 0-2 day on Sunday and that’s a bit deflating after a big Saturday. A clear swing and a miss on Cincy as they were completely overmatched by Houston in the 2nd half of that game. No way around that one, I capped it wrong and didn’t give Houston enough credit, they really were excellent yesterday. The other loss was very frustrating as we have Iowa/Nebraska Under 150 and that was sailing under the whole way. At the 10 minute mark it was 54-43 which had us still 53 points under the total. Even with just 50 seconds left they were at 139 which is 11 points clear of 150. From there sure enough we were bombarded with late game fouls and the total went over. Throw that one in the ever growing pile of “capped it right, lost anyways.” Now we move to Monday and try to get this week started on the right foot, here’s what I have….
San Diego (+5): Right now outside of Gonzaga (obviously) you could argue San Diego is playing the best basketball in the WCC and that includes Saint Mary’s. In the conference tournament the Toreros have won their 3 games by an average of 20 points per game. Most recently they beat BYU by 23 on Saturday in a game they actually lead by 40 with 7 minutes to go. BYU closed the gap late when it didn’t matter, but make no mistake that was about as dominant as you can get from the San Diego side of things. Now they’ll try to keep their tournament dreams alive as they face Saint Mary’s. Even if they beat Saint Mary’s tonight it’ll be a massive challenge to beat Gonzaga tomorrow, but don’t tell this team that. San Diego is led by a group of Seniors that are playing like that really want to go dancing. Their top 4 players (Pineiro, Wright, Carter and Williams) are all Seniors and are playing very, very well. As we get into mid March having the luxury of throwing 4 Seniors out there who have seen it all is absolutely huge and not one that many teams have. We’ll get back to USD in a bit but let’s take a quick look at Saint Mary’s first. The Gaels are on the bubble and right now probably on the outside looking in. A popular narrative today and tonight will be how bad Saint Mary’s needs and wants this game if they want to go dancing. While yes that is true, trust me when I say that even though not on the bubble, USD wants this game every bit as badly as Saint Mary’s does. For Bennetts team it’s same old, same old. Snail slow but well run offensive sets that usually lead to open shot attempts. It’s boring to watch but year after year it works and here again this year they find themselves 20th in the nation in offensive efficiency. Defensively as usual however is their weakness. The season numbers have them 76th in efficiency but that’s buoyed by non conference numbers. In conference play they allowed roughly 1.01 PPP which is better than D1 average but far from anything special. They’ll be challenged tonight against a pretty solid USD offense. In the backcourt they are led by Carter and Wright who combine for about 29 points per game and form one of the best mid-major guard duos in the nation. The real challenge however will be dealing with Pinerio who is playing like he’s on a mission lately. On the season he’s averaging 19.2 points to go with 9.5 rebounds and he’s a very well rounded player. He can shoot the 3, he can beat you with his strength inside and on top of all that he shoots it at 82% from the FT line. The trio of he and the already mentioned backcourt duo of Carter and Wright combine for nearly 50 points a game and handle the heavy lifting when it comes to scoring. Throw in a glue guy like Williams at the 3 who is a strong 3 and D guy (Makes 3’s and plays strong defense) and there is a lot to like with this Toreros team. On the Saint Mary’s side it’s Ford and Kitts who do most of the damage. Both however will have their hands full as Ford will see mostly Wright who is a bit bigger and stronger, and Kitts will deal with Pineiro who is a bit quicker and despite giving away an inch and 10-15 pounds I think nearly just as strong. Those two matchups will be huge in this game and for as good as Ford and Kitts are Wright and Pineiro aren’t going to shy away from the challenge whatsoever. I have a ton of respect for Saint Mary’s and what Bennett has built there but this figures to be a war tonight. I won’t call for an outright USD win, but this is a game I really expect to come down to the final minutes. In such a game I’ll happily take my chances with a handful of points in my back pocket.