Pepperdine (0-0) at Cal State Northridge (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, Nov. 9, 10:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Matador Gymnasium (1,600) -- Northridge, California. Television: None. Home Record: Pepperdine 0-0, CS Northridge 0-0. Away Record: Pepperdine 0-0, CS Northridge 0-0. Neutral Record: Pepperdine 0-0, CS Northridge 0-0. Conference Record: PEpperdine 0-0, CS Northridge 0-0. Series Record: Pepperdine leads, 8-7.
GAME NOTES: In a West Coast swing, two teams trying to drastically change their identities will square off in a regular-season opener, as the Pepperdine Waves come calling on the Cal State Northridge Matadors.
Pepperdine struggled to get wins last season which isn't anything new for the Waves as they have had seven straight losing seasons with four of those featuring less than 10 wins. Pepperdine did reach 10 wins exactly last season. What was new for Pepperdine was the man at the end of the bench, with Marty Wilson making his debut. The back end of the schedule last season was particularly brutal for Pepperdine, with the Waves dropping 12 of their last 15 games.
The free fall for Cal State Northridge hit rock bottom last season, or the hope is that it won't go any deeper. The Matadors finished 7-21 overall and just 3-13 in Big West Conference play. With such a poor effort on the season CS-Northridge wasn't even good enough to earn a bid to the conference tournament. Obviously Bobby Braswell is going to have to make some big changes in his 17th season if the Matadors hope to begin the slowly climb back into contention.
In the last four times these teams have met Northridge has come out on top, including a 73-70 victory last season. Overall, Pepperdine has the upper hand with a slim 8-7 edge in the series.
Improving on offense will be a top priority for Wilson this season. That effort will get a real shot in the arm with the return of Lorne Jackson, who was lost for most of last season with a torn ACL. Jackson adds scoring (13.2 ppg in 2011) and will also be able to run the point and distribute. Even with Jackson back on the floor the Waves really need to find more sources for offense after Pepperdine scored only 59.3 points per game last season. That number was near the bottom of not only the conference but the nation overall (327th of 344 teams at the Division I level). Efficient shooting (39.6 percent) from the floor was also not a strong point for the Waves. Jordan Baker (9.0 ppg) and Caleb Willis (6.1 ppg) will join Jackson in the backcourt. Willis started in all 29 games last season, while Baker got 17 starts but was one of five different players to average more than 26 minutes per game. Willis and Baker are the only two that return to the roster. That leaves a gaping void in the frontcourt with the departure of Taylor Darby (12.3 ppg) and Corbine Moore (10.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg). There to fill in will be sophomores Manny Ochenje (6-9, 205) and Jan Maehlen (7-0, 300) who have size but not much in terms of experience. UCLA-transplant Brendan Lane didn't have much success with the Bruins but will get a chance with the Waves.
There is really only one direction for CS Northridge to go and that is up. That type of upward movement could be sped up if Stephan Hicks keeps up the pace he was on last season. Hicks (15.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg) was named Big West Freshman of the Year last season and has already ascended to the elite ranks in the conference. Hicks won't be the only player that much will be expected of. Josh Greene (12.4 ppg, 2.8 apg) can score and move the ball. In the post Stephen Maxwell (8.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is not an overly powerful inside presence but can score well and attack the boards.
A new season means new hope and right now that is all either team has. Northridge has a nice trio to build around in Hicks, Greene and Maxwell and that should be plenty at home against a Waves' team that is lacking a lot in terms of experience.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cal State Northridge 68, Pepperdine 55
11/09 10:34:56 ET