San Diego (16-17) vs. Saint Mary's-CA (26-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 11:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,471) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: ESPN 2. Home Record: USD 10-6, SMC 16-1. Away Record: USD 4-9, SMC 9-2. Neutral Record: USD 2-2, SMC 1-2. Conference Record: USD 7-9, SMC 14-2. Series Record: Saint Mary's-CA leads, 40-35.
GAME NOTES: The Saint Mary's-CA Gaels begin the task of trying to repeat as the West Coast Conference Tournament champions as they go up against the San Diego Toreros in the semifinals of the 27th annual event at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Seemingly always in the shadow of mighty Gonzaga, now the top-ranked Bulldogs according to the most recent AP poll, the second-seeded Gaels have been holding their own in recent campaigns. Last season, SMC won the championship with a 78-74 overtime decision against Gonzaga, the second time in the last three seasons the Gaels have turned the trick.
Overall, Saint Mary's has won the title three times and has a record of 23-23 all-time in the event.
As for the sixth-seeded Toreros, their journey in this event began in the second round two nights ago when the team topped Pepperdine in a 62-59 decision. A day later San Diego came out on the right side of another three- point decision as it slipped by third-seeded BYU by a 72-69 score in order to move three games over .500 in the tournament all-time (26-23).
The Gaels won both meetings during the regular season, the first by 33 points at home, but the second in February was much tighter as USD fell by a final of only 74-64 at home. As a result, the Toreros now trail in the all-time series by a count of 40-35.
The winner of this meeting will be back in action on Monday night in the championship game versus the survivor of the Loyola Marymount/Gonzaga battle for the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Johnny Dee knocked down four free throws in the final 13 seconds to give San Diego just enough breathing room and capture the three-point win over the BYU Cougars in the quarterfinals of the WCC Tournament at Orleans Arena. Dee finished with a game-high 25 points for sixth-seeded San Diego, converting 8- of-11 at the free-throw line overall. Also scoring in double figures for the Toreros were Chris Anderson and Ken Rancifer with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Chris Manresa collected a game-high 10 rebounds as well.
Dee, the leading scorer in each of the last three games for the Toreros, is responsible for a team-best 14.9 ppg through a total of 33 contests, his productivity being aided significantly by his team-best 75 3-pointers and 88.4 percent accuracy at the charity stripe. Anderson (9.4 ppg) always has the potential to put up points, but his real strength is in his passing (179 assists) and defense (69 steals).
SMC has one of the most seasoned veterans in all of Division I basketball in Matthew Dellavedova. Not only is Dellavedova, who has extensive international experience, the school's all-time assists leaders, but he also became the all- time leading scorer in the 80-67 win over Santa Clara to close out the regular season. He may not be the most precise shooter on the squad, by Dellavedova is a floor leader like none other, pairing his team-best 16.5 ppg with 193 assists in 31 games. Gathering in their share of dishes from Dellavedova are Stephen Holt (11.8 ppg) and Beau Levesque (10.5 ppg), the latter being a huge spark off the bench who has knocked down 47.6 percent of his 3-point tries. In the paint, the Gaels lean heavily on Brad Waldow (9.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Mitchell Young (7.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg), who are always available to clean up and move bodies out of the lane in order to allow guys like Dellavedova to slice to the basket and create action.
Obviously the Toreros have to be excited about their upset win last night, but it did come right down to the wire and chances are SMC won't allow this meeting to be nearly as close.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saint Mary's-CA 76, San Diego 63
03/09 10:36:42 ET