Who are the Dons?

Leading scorer Cole Dickerson (USA Today)

Prior to LSU's first-round NIT game at San Francisco on Wednesday night, TSD's Ben Love digs deep to figure out just who the Dons are in 2013-14.

By now we all know the news – LSU (19-13, 9-9) will continue its season tomorrow night in the first round of the single-elimination NIT at San Francisco (21-11, 13-5).

But before the Tigers travel to War Memorial Gymnasium for a 9 p.m. CT tip-off Wednesday (broadcast on ESPNU), just who are these Dons from the West Coast Conference?

TSD examines.

STARTING LINEUP, ROTATION

G Avry Holmes (6-2, 196, So.) – 12.6 ppg, 3.0 apg, 1.0 spg
G Matt Glover (6-5, 212, Jr.) – 8.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.3 apg
F Kruize Pinkins (6-7, 230, Jr.) – 12.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 52.4% FGs
F Mark Tollefsen (6-9, 215, So.) – 10.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 53.5% FGs
F Cole Dickerson (6-7, 227, Sr.) – 14.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 51.4% FGs

G Tim Derksen (6-3, 202, So.) – 8.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 53.3% FGs
G Chris Adams (6-4, 194, Jr.) – 3.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.0 apg

- USF really only goes about seven deep, but the Dons do occasionally throw single-digit minutes in the direction of sophomore forward Matt Christiansen (6-9, 235), who averages less than a point and a rebound per outing. The past two games, both in the WCC Tournament, Christiansen logged three and eight minutes, respectively. It's also worth noting that Derksen and Adams see significant time off the bench, with the former averaging 22.8 minutes per game and the latter 19.9 mpg for the season.

BY THE NUMBERS

(Numbers in parentheses are NCAA rankings)

Overall Record: 21-11, 13-5
Home Record: 13-5
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Points Per Game: 75.2 (69th)
Points Allowed Per Game: 71.4 (217th)
Assists Per Game: 14.5 (60th)
Rebounds Per Game: 35.5 (138th)
Offensive Rebounds Per Game: 11.2 (148th)
Team FG Percentage: 47.5 (28th)
Team FT Percentage: 64.9 (321st)
Team 3-PT Percentage: 37.1 (65th)
Blocks Per Game: 2.6 (287th)
Steals Per Game: 5.4 (261st)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.7 (108th)

- A few quick things that stick out: USF is a very strong shooting team from the field and isn't bad from beyond the arc either. A whopping four players in the Dons' regular rotation have season-long field-goal percentages of better than 51.3%. However, similar to LSU, San Francisco is poor from the charity stripe. Worse actually, as USF shoots 64.9% compared to 66.9% from the Tigers … The Dons aren't terribly active on the defensive end, averaging a non-inspiring 5.4 steals per game and an abysmal 2.6 blocks per game, roughly 0.6 swats a game less than what Jordan Mickey does by himself … Finally, and most intriguing, is how statistically similar USF is to LSU in the most important categories – points scored and allowed. San Francisco averages 75.2 points while conceding 71.4 points while LSU scores an average of 75.1 points and gives up 71.3 points. Safe to say both teams put more of a premium on offense.

STORY OF THE USF SEASON

The most interesting part of the Dons' 2013-14 campaign pertains to a player who started the season with USF but is no longer with the team. Standout point guard Cody Doolin, who attended the same Austin, Tex., high school as Drew Brees (Westlake), played only four games before parting ways with the program. Doolin, who had started all 103 games he'd played in during his USF career, reportedly received the brunt of a Nov. 19 practice altercation with a teammate. Three months later, on Feb. 21, he announced he'd be transferring to UNLV.

Statistics alone show that was a painful loss for head coach Rex Walters as Doolin was averaging 13.0 points, 7.0 assists, 1.8 steals and shooting 42.9% from three before departing this season. He also ranks second on San Francisco's all-time assist list and third in steals.

The Dons, which began the season 2-2 after a four-game home-stand, shook off Doolin's exit fairly well by winning three of the next four, with the only loss coming to No. 17 Oregon in Eugene. USF entered conference play at 7-5, falling to Illinois State and at St. John's after the run-in with the Pac-12 Ducks.

Walters' crew hung tough throughout WCC action but couldn't quite knock off the league's upper crust. Four of San Francisco's five regular-season conference losses came at the hands of Gonzaga and BYU, both in the NCAA Tournament. The fifth and final setback came at St. Mary's.

Finishing conference play at 13-5 landed USF with the same record as BYU heading into the WCC Tournament, where the two met in the semifinals in Las Vegas. The Dons lost a hard-fought battle in overtime, 79-77, relegating them to NIT fate while BYU went on to lose the final to Gonzaga but still make the Big Dance.

In his sixth season leading the program, Walters, who played at Kansas under Roy Williams, has guided the Dons to 97-91 overall record, 48-44 in conference games. USF played in the CIT in 2010-11 and the CBI in 2011-12. This is San Francisco's first trip to the NIT under Walters, not coincidental considering this is his best team on the West Coast – in terms of overall and conference records.


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