It took a late season rally in which the Dons won five of their last seven regular season games and getting through four tiebreakers with San Diego, but USF earned the fifth seed in the West Coast Conference tournament, which begins today in Las Vegas.
USF will play their first game Thursday against the winner of today’s game between Loyola Marymount and Portland. They swept LMU and split two games with Portland this season, though coach Rex Walters said he has no preference which team comes out of the matchup.
“Both those games are difficult,” he said. “If we don’t play well, we’ll be home early. There’s no preference. I foresee difficult games in both of them.”
A late-season lineup change has played a part in USF’s resurgence, as freshman Mark Tollefsen of San Ramon worked his way into the starting frontcourt down the stretch. His presence alongside Cole Dickerson, who led the team in scoring at 14.9 points per game, has made the Dons’ starting five formidable.
Walters said Tollefsen’s productivity, even with limited minutes early in the year, has put him among the best freshmen Walters has coached at USF.
“He’s just really efficient. He got better defensively. He presents problems because of his length not because of his physique. … He also gives us a little bit more shot blocking.”
Walters expressed confidence that the Dons can beat any team in the tournament, despite the fact that Gonzaga didn’t lose a conference game all season and is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation.
At this point in the season, however, Walters said the fate of the team is in the hands of the players.
“At this part of the season,” he said, “I always say it’s kind of like you’re a high school kid who’s getting ready for college and he gets a car. You say, ‘Hey, here are the keys, where are you going to take us?’ When it comes right down to it, this is their part of the season, this is what they’ve been working for, and I want them to enjoy it, attack it and be together, and it’ll take care of itself.”
Walters will be in Las Vegas in time to watch today’s game between LMU and Portland, which tips off at 6 p.m., with the rest of the team following later tonight.
USF forward Cole Dickerson was named to the All-West Coast Conference team Tuesday after leading the Dons in scoring (14.9) and rebounding (9.4).
The junior from Washington State more than doubled his production from last season and helped to fill the void left for the Dons when their four leading scorers left after last season. “He’s a matchup difficulty,” head coach Rex Walters said of Dickerson. “Because he can shoot it, he can dribble it, he’s a good passer and he can post up, so he causes defensive problems for guys.”
Junior point guard Cody Doolin was named as an honorable mention for the second consecutive year after averaging 12.6 points and 5.6 assists per game.
Guards Tim Dirksen and Avry Holmes were named to the all-freshman team.
The teams are voted on by the nine head coaches in the WCC.