Southern University (0-0) at (12) Gonzaga (0-0)
Friday, November 12th, 9:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: McCarthey Athletic Center (6,000) -- Spokane, Washington. Television: Local. Home Record: Southern 0-0, Gonzaga 0-0. Away Record: Southern 0-0, Gonzaga 0-0. Neutral Record: Southern 0-0, Gonzaga 0-0. Conference Record: Southern 0-0, Gonzaga 0-0.
GAME NOTES: The 12th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs begin their 2010-11 season this evening, as they welcome the Southern University Jaguars to Spokane for a showdown at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Mark Few's Bulldogs once again captured the West Coast Conference title, their 10th straight conference crown, finishing the season at 27-7, including a 12-2 mark in-conference. The team was rewarded with its 12th straight NCAA Tournament bid and with a talented roster yet again, a 13th bid is certainly expected.
The Jaguars have made a steady decline under head coach Rob Spivery. Last season, Southern finished a dismal 5-25, including a miserable 3-15 record in the SWAC. The team does have some young players worth getting excited about, but a monumental leap in terms of victories isn't expected in 2010-11.
The Jaguars only won five games last season, so a step forward is certainly not out of the realm of possibility this year. However, anything more than a minor jump in the standings is asking a ton from this squad. Coach Spivery returns Quinton Doggett and Julius Ingram, two forwards who enjoyed moments of success last year. Clearly with the best two returning players being forwards the strength of this year's team will come from the frontcourt. Doggett was not overpowering last year, and while his offensive efforts might be streaky at times, his lack of success on the glass is inexcusable (3.9 rpg), and that is something coach Spivery will want his junior to improve on this season. As for Ingram, he is the better offensive player of the two, and while he only posted 7.3 ppg a year ago, he should be primed to make a jump into the double- figure neighborhood. Jameel Grace and Brandon White saw minor time on the floor last season and their roles are likely to increase significantly this time around.
The Bulldogs lost some depth from last season's squad, including the team's top scorer in Matt Bouldin (15.6 ppg). To make matters worse, Mark Few's offensive gameplan ran through Bouldin and without a reliable point guard to pick up where he left off, Gonzaga will certainly have a trying season along the perimeter. Junior Demetri Goodson (6.4 ppg) will inherit the job by default, but his offensive game needs to improve dramatically. Senior Steven Gray (13.6 ppg) knows how to score though and his versatility will certainly come in handy. Others will need to step up, including freshmen Keegan Hyland, Mathis Monninghoff and Mathis Keita. The frontcourt is a strength however, led by super sophomore Elias Harris. The 6-8 youngster made an immediate impact last season with 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He will definitely be in the mix for WCC Player of the Year. Junior seven-footer Robert Sacre (10.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg) needs to be more physical on the boards to maximize his potential.
The Jaguars open the season against one of the best teams in the country. Even without a major contributor from last year's squad, Gonzaga has more than enough to dispose of Southern in the opener.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Gonzaga 81, Southern 53
11/12 10:37:34 ET