Examining USF’s NCAA Tournament Chances
After winning their final two games of the season against Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount, the Dons will enter the West Coast Conference (WCC) Championships seeded at number three. Coming off of a season in which they exceeded expectations, San Francisco is poised to make a splash in the conference tournament. However, WCC powerhouses such as Brigham Young and Gonzaga stand in the way of USF winning a conference championship and earning a ticket to the big dance.
The Dons are seeded in front of fourth-seeded St. Mary’s even though the Gaels possess a 21-10 record that bests the Dons 20-10 mark. St. Mary’s may have a better overall record, but the Dons’ five-game winning streak helped them surpass St. Mary’s in the conference standings.
Ranked in front of USF is Brigham Young, which ended the regular season at 21-10. BYU is behind top-seeded Gonzaga, which went 15-3 in conference play and 25-6 overall. No WCC team is currently ranked top 25 in the NCAA, but Gonzaga has been in and out of the rankings throughout the season.
Gonzaga is currently the defending WCC Champion, and has won 15 of the last 17 conference championships. Grabbing the number one seed gives them a significant advantage, and they are favored to win this year as well.
The tournament will start on Thursday, Mar. 6 with the ninth-seeded Pacific Tigers facing the eighth-seeded Santa Clara Broncos, and the seventh-seeded Portland Pilots facing the tenth- seeded LMU Tigers. The winners of those games will move on to the quarter finals on Mar. 8, where they will be paired against Gonzaga and BYU.
The Dons will also make their first appearance of the tournament in the quarterfinals, where they will play the San Diego Toreros, who are the sixth seed. If they win that game, they will move on to the semifinals, where they will most likely face off against BYU.
San Francisco won both of its regular season games against the Toreros, who went just 7-11 in conference play. However, the Dons but had a much tougher time facing BYU. They dropped both of their games against them, losing by five the first time and seven the second.
Despite this, it is still possible that USF will be able to pull off an upset and beat BYU, which means that they would move on to the conference finals where they would almost certainly have to play Gonzaga for the title. Getting past these two squads will be no easy task for the Dons, but USF is playing its best basketball of the season at the right time, and they head into the tournament looking to notch their first conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998.