The USF men’s basketball team earned a No. 5 seed in the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas this week, and now all it has to do is wait to see which team it will play on Thursday.
The Dons (18-12, 8-8 WCC) await the winner of today’s game between Santa Clara (8-21, 0-16 WCC) and Portland (6-23, 3-13), and must win that matchup for a chance to face the cream of the WCC crop over the weekend. USF swept both of its possible opponents during the regular season, the closest contest coming in a 72-71 win at Portland.
After the Dons went just 1-7 against the top four teams in the conference during the regular season, USF coach Rex Walters said he felt like his team has something to prove against the elite clubs.
“Any team can win this thing,” he said. “The way the [tourney] is formatted, if you’re one of the top one or two seeds, it’s built for you, just because you’re rested and ready. There’s also something to be said if you’re playing at a high level and you can get some games under your belt. That can serve you as well as long as you have the legs to get to it.”
No. 3 BYU and No. 4 Loyola Marymount will not play until the first two rounds are over, and No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 1 St. Mary’s are already waiting in the semifinals. USF’s only win against those teams came in a thrilling 66-65 win at home against Gonzaga when senior guard Rashad Green scored the winning basket with 3.3 seconds left.
This will be the last chance for a conference crown for Green and fellow senior Angelo Caloiaro, who said that gives him extra motivation.
“This is what I’ve been working for all four years,” he said. “I want to win a championship here and this is my last chance.”
That doesn’t mean he’s worried, however.
“If we accomplish the goals we normally have before the game,” Caloiaro said, “we put ourselves in a really good chance to win. And most of the time we do, so if we stick to the game plan and execute, things hopefully will fall into place.”
The tournament winner will be crowned after Monday’s championship game and will get an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.