San Francisco at Pacific
A.C. Spanos Center - Stockton, CA
10:00 PM ESTTonight we have two western teams on the road back to respectability -- one's trail, however, is a little longer than the other. San Francisco, the center of the WCC's Jesuit triad, will always have a better NCAA Tournament record that Gonzaga (currently 24-14 against the Zags' 12-11) because of a stretch in the 1950's that yielded 11 consecutive bracket victories as well as one of the greatest players in basketball history. There were regular appearances in the 1970's during the years Bob Gaillard coached there, but the Dons haven't been back since 1998 and haven't won an NCAA game since 1979. Last year, once-proud USF temporarily hired Eddie Sutton so he could reach a meaningless milestone.
Pacific is less than a half-decade removed from a run of two straight Round of 32 appearances, which could have easily been three if not for a double-overtime loss to Boston College in 2006 marked with some odd calls. Bob Thomason, who's led the team for two decades and has earned Big West Coach of the Year honors five times, lost a key senior core and dealt with a sexual assault investigation
into four players that ripped apart the roster.IT couldn't have come at a worse time, as the program was bak on the upswing, following up a 12-win NCAA followup with a strong 21-10 campaign in 2007-08.
What's left of the Big West's Tigers has done quite well in spite of the circumstances, with a 3-3 record including a nice eight-point win at Nevada
during Feast Week. There are no double-figure scorers on the team, but there are a number of young midsize players who can hit high-percentage shots -- and the defense has been solid, allowing 64.3 ppg. USF, on the other hand, came close
against USC but still boasts a 6-3 nonconference mark. USD hasn't won more than 17 in one season for the past decade, but 18 is a realistic goal for new coach Rex Walters if junior Dion Lowhorn (21.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg) keeps producing and the young guards like Kwame Vaughn
keep developing. Tune in to see two mid-level teams in their respective conferences who stand to be much better in 2009-10. Get in on the ground floor.Basketball State Preview/Box