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WCC WBB Preview: San Diego

it’s a fact: it’s the greatest city in the history of mankind, although scholars maintain the meaning of the town’s name has been lost to time

San Diego is a terrible place to grow up — hear me out!

With its lovely beaches, diverse geography, and awesome Mexican food, most places you’ll travel or move to can seem less than ideal upon initial arrival. However, it’s also a strange place because no one is really from there so you have this wonderful landscape and amenities inhabited by a population that isn’t really attached to it the way people from NYC or Seattle are attached to their hometowns. In my opinion, this shows itself primarily in our sports where the Chargers can walk without much resistance, the Padres can dump money into a team that flails about in mediocrity, and we lack any true historical success outside of the little known San Diego Sockers of the arena soccer league.

Historically, USD has kind of existed within that realm for some time. Despite consecutive 20 win seasons from 2011 to 2016, the Toreros haven’t had any real consistent success. In fact, the only thing consistent about this program is that they’ve only had two head coaches and Cindy Fisher has been with the team since the 05-06’ season.

Heading into this season, the Toreros were predicted to finish 5th in the WCC Preseason Coaches Poll after losing nearly 65% of their scoring from last season’s 19-14 (11-7) squad that finished third in the conference and their major incoming player being 22-23’ All-SWAC selection Dylan Horton. This turnover, along with Gonzaga’s stacked roster, resulted in USD not receiving a single player selected to the All WCC Preseason Team so there were a lot of question marks about how this team would perform in 23-24’.

At this stage, the Toreros sit at 4-9 with wins over Chapman (non-D1), Portland State (250 NET rank), Weber State (277 NET), and CSU Northridge (344 NET). It’s not all doom and gloom though as USD has played the third toughest non-conference schedule in the WCC, according the sports-reference, that has included Arizona, UNLV, USC, and Montana.

As a team, Cindy Fisher’s team averages 63.7 points per game while allowing just 66.5 to their opponents. They play a fairly up-tempo game with a pace ranking of 71 and look to generate their offense with two-pointers where they lead the WCC with 65.5% of their points coming from within the arc. Within that range, the Toreros shoot an average of 46.7 per game (35th nationally) and convert 45.5% (186th nationally) of their attempts. Similar to Pacific, USD also gets to the free throw line often with just over 17% of their points coming at the charity stripe where they convert an unfortunately low 69.6% of their attempts. Imagine if this team posted numbers like Gonzaga did there.

Defensively, the team’s allowed average opponent points of 66.5 seems a bit padded as they held Chapman to just 38 and Portland State to 43 while giving up 79 to Arizona, 93 to UNLV, 89 to USC, and 72 to Montana. However, they must be doing something right as their opponents are only averaging 41% overall and 44.4% from two which looks downright lovely compared to Gonzaga’s 44.3% overall and 50.6% from two. It’s not exactly clear how they’re generating this success since the type of numbers available at this level often fail to give an accurate picture as to why, but they do average 4.4 blocks per game (56th nationally) and generate 15.6 turnovers per game (119th nationally).

Sophomore guard, Veronica Sheffey, currently leads her team in scoring, 12.3 ppg, and assists, 5.3 apg. As expected with the numbers above, she’ll primarily do her damage within the arc where she’s making 49% of her nearly 9 attempts per game. Her assist numbers are even more impressive when taking into consideration that no other member of team averages more than 2 per game and she’s one of only three team members sporting a positive A/T ratio. While she does lead her team in usage rate at 24.3%, that’s still fairly low when compared to other teams and this does reflect in her assist rate registering at 39%. She’s registered 10+ points in all but five games this season, including a season-high 23 points against rival SDSU, so she should be a good test for our perimeter defense.

Behind Veronica in scoring are two players averaging 9.3 per game, senior forward Kasey Neubert and junior guard Kylie Horstmeyer. When looking at their offensive statistics, both players are remarkably similar when looking at the numbers as they feature similar usage rates, 16.3 and 16.5%, similar eFG%, 46.9 and 46%, similar assist rates, 8 and 9.1% and they’re listed as being 6’1” and 6’0”. The biggest difference between them looks to be where they will primarily operate as Kasey appears to be the team’s paint presence as indicated by her 9.2 rebounds per game including 3.6 on the offensive end.

So is San Diego’s record deflated by a tough non-conference schedule? Can they turn in a performance in 2024 that continue the success they found last year and build towards the future? Let’s read your opinions in the comment section!