Bill Walton can get really off topic while calling basketball games. But on Tuesday night in Boulder, Walton spent most of the game talking about the San Diego Toreros.
San Diego took down the Pac-12’s Colorado Buffaloes 69-59 to improve to 8-2 on the season. The Toreros won just 13 games last season, and now they’re off to the best start in program history. They opened this season at No. 187 in KenPom’s rankings and now sit at No. 121, and are projected to finish with 20 wins.
Quite a turnaround in Lamont Smith’s third season.
It’s time to be like Bill Walton and talk about these Toreros. A pair of high-level transfers named Isaiah and a surprisingly strong defense have made a world of difference for this USD squad. Both of those were on display against the Buffaloes.
Portland State transfer Isaiah Pineiro (15.7 PPG) leads the team in scoring, but on Tuesday it was Utah transfer Isaiah Wright (13 PPG) who led the way with 20 points. Pineiro added in 10 points and seven rebounds.
Coming into the season, many expected shooting guard Olin Carter (12.6 PPG) to lead the Toreros. Carter had a solid sophomore campaign last season, and earned preseason all-WCC honors this year. But through 10 games he’s been the Toreros third best player, which isn’t a knock on Carter, but rather an illustration of the dramatic turnaround this program has made.
Bring in a couple of big transfers and make a turnaround, that makes sense. It’s easy to buy into, but I’ve got to admit that I hadn’t bought into the defensive turnaround until Tuesday night. USD is ranked No. 54 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. Colorado’s not exactly a good offensive team but is a Pac-12 team, at home, with Pac-12 athletes, at home.
And USD absolutely shut them down.
Colorado shot a miserable 25.9 percent from the field as the Toreros looked amazingly connected on defense. And while they only forced nine turnovers, the Toreros were getting their hands in passing lanes and deflecting balls left and right.
This isn’t surprising, considering USD ranks No. 2 in the nation in effective field goal percentage defense (39.6%) and No. 1 in three-point percentage defense (21.8%).
The Buffaloes made just three of 18 shots from distance. With nothing falling, coach Tad Boyle changed his strategy and had Colorado bang the ball inside. The Buffs drew some fouls using that strategy. and had Boyle not changed his plan, his team would’ve been completely blown out.
Colorado scored 59 total points, 28 of which came from the charity stripe.
The Toreros are good. They just picked up their fourth true road win of the season, so maybe they’re really good. It’s time to start paying attention to the Toreros.