UC Riverside (0-0) at San Diego State (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Viejas Arena (12,414) -- San Diego, California. Television: None. Home Record: UCR 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Away Record: UCR 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Neutral Record: UCR 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Conference Record: UCR 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Series Record: San Diego State leads, 9-0.
GAME NOTES: The Highlanders of UC Riverside try to get the 2013-14 campaign off on the right foot tonight as they challenge the San Diego State Aztecs at Viejas Arena.
Now under the command of interim head coach Dennis Cutts, who took over after Jim Wooldridge was named the school's interim athletics director, the Highlanders are coming off a simply dreadful season in which they won a total of just six games, two of those coming against non-Division I programs. Riverside won only once in the final 13 outings, was a dismal 1-14 on the road and 3-15 versus the rest of the Big West Conference.
While UCR struggled mightily, the Aztecs posted their 18th 20-win campaign, the eight straight, as the squad produced a mark of 23-11 and was 9-7 against Mountain West Conference foes. After dropping the 2012-13 season opener to Syracuse aboard the USS Midway in San Diego, the Aztecs rattled off 11 consecutive wins. Unfortunately, the close of the campaign saw SDSU lose to New Mexico in the conference tournament and then bow versus Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA Tournament, following a 15-point victory over Oklahoma.
The Aztecs have not only never lost to UC Riverside in nine previous meetings, the team has also won 33 straight matchups versus opponents from the state of California heading into the season opener.
San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher, the longest-tenured man in his position in the MWC, has a mark of 5-0 versus UCR, winning by an average margin of 18.6 ppg.
In most cases, when a team brings back three starters from a previous campaign the outlook is generally positive, but still this is a Riverside group that defeated just four Division I opponents and averaged a mere 59.0 ppg. The good news, if there is such a thing for a weak team that is in transition, is that leading scorer Chris Patton is coming back after putting up 13.5 ppg and shooting 54.2 percent from the floor. However, Patton also shot just 64.2 percent at the free-throw line and was charged with almost twice as many turnovers (83) as assists (46).
Chris Harriel (10.6 ppg) also brings some scoring punch, although his mere 35.7 percent accuracy from the floor and 27.8 percent behind the 3-point line still hurt the Highlanders quite a bit. A part-time starter, Taylor Johns (6.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) brings some measure of defense to the Highlanders after delivering a team-best 26 blocked shots a year ago.
Coach Fisher brings back forward JJ O'Brien and guard Xavier Thames who were starters a year ago, not to mention reserve Skylar Spencer who has the potential to be a major contributor at the defensive end of the floor for the Aztecs. O'Brien is one of the unit's top returning scorers who put up 7.2 ppg, adding 4.5 rpg, as he shot 52.6 percent from the field, while Thames is the complete package with 9.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg and 2.4 apg even as he took a back seat to the exploits of the departed Jamaal Franklin.
The most important addition to the roster has to be Tulane transfer Josh Davis who is eligible to play immediately. Averaging a double-double (17.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg) for the Green Wave a year ago, Davis finished fourth in the country in double-doubles and should raise more than a few eyebrows with his move to the West Coast.
As long as coach Fisher doesn't use this meeting as a scrimmage, willing to shuttle in reserves once the score gets out of hand, the final result should be quite lopsided in favor of the Aztecs.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Diego State 84, UC Riverside 56
11/08 10:40:59 ET