Previewing men’s and women’s basketball

James Salazar 

Staff Writer 

With the college basketball season set to tip off next month, the USF men’s and women’s basketball teams have both released their schedules. 

Men’s Basketball

The men’s basketball will encounter a perennial thorn in their side, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, early on in their schedule. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS M. LEUNG/DONS ATHLETICS

The Dons ended the 2019-20 season with a top-75 ranking in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI), a poll that measures the strength of each program and predicts their performance going into the next season. The Dons also posted their fourth straight 20-win season during head coach Todd Golden’s inaugural season.  

Men’s basketball tips off Nov. 25 with non-conference play, as the Dons travel to Nebraska to play three games in a multiple-team event. At the time of print, the Louisiana State University Tigers are the Dons’ only confirmed opponent, with the other two matchups undecided. Originally, the Dons were scheduled to travel to Las Vegas to compete in the MGM Resorts Main Event tournament. However, the coronavirus pandemic nixed plans for this year’s event.

This season, the West Coast Conference (WCC) will continue implementing a modified 16-game schedule. Conference play begins Dec. 31 when the Dons host the University of San Diego Toreros. The Toreros are one of two conference opponents who the Dons will only face once this year; the other team, the nearby University of the Pacific Tigers, will square off with the Dons on Feb. 4 in Stockton. 

The Dons will face their perennial foe and WCC favorite, the Gonzaga University Bulldogs, twice on Jan. 2 and Feb. 13. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series against the Dons with an overall 63-22 win-loss record, with the Dons’ last victory coming all the way back in 2012. Last season, the Zags secured three victories against the Dons, sweeping the season series and eliminating the Dons in the postseason WCC tournament. 

January will continue to test the Dons as the team faces the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars on Jan. 16 and Jan. 30. Last season saw the two teams splitting their conference series, one game apiece. 

The Saint Mary’s College of California Gaels will come to the Hilltop Jan. 23 and host the Dons later in the season on Feb. 25. The Gaels defeated the Dons in both of last year’s matchups.

On Feb. 27, the regular season will draw to a close when the Dons take on the Santa Clara University Broncos.

Women’s Basketball

The women’s basketball team celebrates a victory against the BYU Cougars, courtesy of a fourth quarter buzzer-beater.  PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS M. LEUNG/DONS ATHLETICS

The USF women’s basketball team finished last season with a 12-19 overall win-loss record. Notably, the Dons ended their regular season on a three-game winning streak, racking up victories against the BYU Cougars, the Pacific Tigers, and the Saint Mary’s Gaels. 

The Dons’ season kicks off Nov. 25 as they travel to UC Berkeley to take on the California Golden Bears. Thanksgiving weekend will also see the team take on the Wolf Pack of the University of Nevada, Reno and the San Jose State University Spartans. Other non-conference games to flesh out December are still in the works. 

When it comes to conference play, the WCC has every women’s basketball team following an 18-game schedule, meaning that all member schools will play each other once at home and once on the road. 

The women’s basketball team begins conference play Dec. 28 as the Dons travel to Utah to take on the BYU Cougars. The two teams split last year’s regular-season series with the Dons’ win coming courtesy of junior Abby Rathbun, who nailed a fourth-quarter buzzer-beater to win the game by two points. 

Throughout the course of last season, the Dons faced the Santa Clara University Broncos three times, with two of their meetings going to overtime. The Broncos claimed two victories; one of which knocked the Dons out of the WCC postseason tournament. The two teams will write another chapter in their tooth and nail saga as they face each other on Jan. 23 and Feb. 25. 

USF women’s basketball will end their season on Feb. 27 with a marquee matchup against BYU. This game will be a rare doubleheader with the men’s basketball team.

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