CU men's basketball preview: San Diego Toreros
MATCHUP: San Diego Toreros (7-2) at Colorado Buffaloes (7-2).
GAME TIME: Tuesday, 6 p.m., Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 850 AM.
COACHES: San Diego — Lamont Smith, 3rd year (29-41 at San Diego and overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 8th season (156-97, 212-163 overall).
LEADERS: San Diego — Scoring: F Isaiah Pineiro, Jr., 15.7 ppg; Rebounding: Pineiro, 6.3 rpg; Assists: G Isaiah Wright, Jr., 5.7 apg; Colorado — Scoring: G McKinley Wright, Fr., 15.7 ppg; Rebounding: G/F George King, Sr., 8.8 rpg; Assists: Wright, 4.2 apg.
NOTES: This is the beginning of a two-for-one series with San Diego. CU will visit the Toreros next season, with San Diego returning to Boulder in the 2019-20 season...This is only the fifth game between the programs, with the most recent meeting a CU victory on Jan. 7, 1992 in Boulder...Pineiro (Portland State) and Isaiah Wright (Utah) both regained their eligibility this season after sitting out transfer years last season. With the Utes, Isaiah Wright made one appearance against the Buffs during the 2015-16 season...CU reserve forward Alex Strating missed the Xavier trip due to an illness but returned to practice this week...The Buffs host South Dakota State on Friday and will take much of finals week off before meeting Iowa in Sioux Falls, S.
Bill Grier isn't the sole reason the University of San Diego is visiting Boulder for the first time in almost 26 years.
Still, the matchup will provide at least a small trip down memory lane for the second-year assistant with the Colorado men's basketball team.
Grier spent eight seasons as the head coach at San Diego, leading the Toreros' program to previously unseen heights during his tenure. His former team brings a veteran, road-tested club to the Coors Events Center Tuesday night for a nonconference battle.
"There's one guy I coached and one guy I recruited. I don't know any of the other ones," Grier said. "It's been three years. Lamont (Smith, San Diego's coach) and I are good friends. He played (at San Diego) when I was an assistant at Gonzaga."
Grier described his eight-year tenure in San Diego as "the good, the bad, and the ugly."
The good, quite clearly, was the Toreros' run to the 2008 West Coast Conference tournament championship. San Diego went on to defeat a fourth-seeded Connecticut team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the first tournament victory in the program's history.
The bad, and perhaps the ugly as well, was a point-shaving scandal that surrounded former San Diego star Brandon Johnson from games during the 2009-10 season. (Grier and the entire university were cleared of any wrongdoing in an NCAA investigation, finding Johnson to be the lone culprit within the program.)
Grier earned 117 wins in eight seasons at San Diego, serving one season as an assistant at Oklahoma State before joining head coach Tad Boyle's staff before last season following the departure of Rodney Billups to the University of Denver. San Diego senior Cameron Neubauer is the only Toreros player Grier coached, though he signed Alex Floresca and walk-on Hunter Summy before departing.
"I was never bitter about what happened. It's just part of this profession," Grier said. "Lamont and I have talked about this — it's a tough job. The academic standards are extremely high. The support is pretty low. It makes for a tough job. Obviously we had the tournament run, we had two lean years, and then we went through the point-shaving deal.
"I kind of felt towards the end we kind of got it going back the right way. It's just the way it is in this profession."
This year's version of the Toreros, the third under Smith, will bring a solid defense to the Coors Events Center. San Diego begins the week leading the nation in defensive 3-point percentage at .224 (34-for-152) and also ranks 15th in overall defensive field goal percentage at .373.
Boyle also was quick to note San Diego already has won three true road games — a feat that so far has eluded the Buffaloes in two attempts, including Saturday's 96-69 setback at No. 13 (now 10) Xavier.
"San Diego, very good team, veteran team, they run their stuff well," Boyle said. "They're a gap team. It's not like they're out denying and pressuring and all that stuff. We just have to run our stuff and execute our stuff.
"That's the biggest takeaway from Xavier is that Xavier is an execution team. Colorado right now is not an execution team. Holy cow, we're far from it. We were not good in any phase of the game. Offensively, we were pathetic."