San Diego Toreros
Overall Rank: #61
Conference Rank: #3 WCC
2007-08: 22-14, 11-3, 3rd
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Throughout much of the 2007-2008 campaign, San Diego was inconsistent under first year head coach Bill Grier. But that inconsistency ended by March and the Toreros reached the NCAA Tournament by winning the conference tournament on their home floor. Once dancing, USD did not stop. The group upset Connecticut and nearly beat Western Kentucky to reach the Sweet Sixteen. With just about everybody back, the expectations are growing higher and higher.
The only loss of any great importance is that of Ray Murdock. But San Diego played without Murdock much of the year anyway and his absence will not change anything about the team that made noise in March. Little used Daniel Fleming and Joshua Miller are the only other departures.
With nobody leaving, Coach Grier does not really need any newcomers to make an impact. But he got one who will anyway. Roberto Mafra, a 6-9 center, spent some time at Southeastern Community College in Iowa and has the size and experience to be a force in the West Coast Conference. The Toreros lacked size last year and that was a big problem. With Mafra on the floor, that will not be an issue. The Brazilian has a surprising amount of athleticism and he will run the floor effectively. For now, most of his contributions will be on the defensive end where Mafra can block shots and grab rebounds. Matt Dorr and Devonier Braswell will not likely make a big impact this season, but they will at least give the team some more depth on the perimeter.
Who to Watch:
The Toreros have two stars in Brandon Johnson and Gyno Pomare who will once again lead the way. Johnson, a 6-0 guard, averaged 16.9 points and 3.5 assists. Johnson is a superb outside shooter and can even help out on the glass. Johnson will likely spend much of this year off-the-ball where he can concentrate on scoring. That would put Trumaine Johnson at the point after starting 16 games during his freshman campaign. Trumaine’s turnover numbers were a little high a year ago, but with a year in the program, that should not be a huge problem. Pomare is the inside scoring presence. Not only did he average 14.1 points per game last year, but he also led the squad in rebounding and blocked shots. As long as Brandon Johnson and Pomare are playing well, USD can beat just about anybody.
However, if the team wants to make another run into the NCAA Tournament, they will need help from the rest of the team. De’Jon Jackson, Chris Lewis and Devin Ginty are experienced perimeter players. It was Jackson who hit the big shot at the end of the Connecticut game and he could emerge as the team’s third big-time scoring threat. Rob Jones will start beside Pomare again this year. The 6-6 forward had a great freshman campaign averaging 9.0 points and 5.8 rebounds. He may be a little undersized, but he is a strong 230 pound forward and can do the dirty work around the basket. Nathan Lozeau and Clinton Houston did not make nearly as big of an impact as freshmen as Jones did, but both should be even more capable this year to play quality minutes off the bench. Considering how many freshmen played a big role on the team last year, there is no reason to think that San Diego will not be as good as they were last year. The problem is that USD would not have been an NCAA Tournament team in 2008 if it was not for their magical run through the conference tournament. Even if they are better this year, it still could take a win in the conference tournament to secure an NCAA berth.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Trumaine Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, 5.7 points per game
Brandon Johnson, Senior, Guard, 16.9 points per game
De’Jon Jackson, Junior, Guard, 7.6 points per game
Rob Jones, Sophomore, Forward, 9.0 points per game
Gyno Pomare, Senior, Forward, 14.1 points per game