North Dakota State (0-0) at San Francisco (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 11th, 9:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: War Memorial Gym (4,500) -- San Francisco, California. Television: None. Home Record: NDSU 0-0, USF 0-0. Away Record: NDSU 0-0, USF 0-0. Neutral Record: NDSU 0-0, USF 0-0. Conference Record: NDSU 0-0, USF 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: North Dakota State and San Francisco will square off for the first-time ever when the Dons host the Bison in their Hilltop Challenge.
Saul Phillips' team was nothing more than mediocre last season, claiming just 14 victories, eight of which came in league play. It may be tough to reach even those numbers this year, as the team does not possess much leadership on the roster. Phillips has 53 wins since taking over at NDSU, but that total might not increase much in 2011-12.
The Dons claimed 19 victories this past season and two came against Santa Clara, but in the CIT Quarterfinals, the Dons season was ended at the hands of the Broncos. Still, it was a successful year for San Fran, which finished 10-4 in league play.
The Bison should have a tough time claiming victories because there is not a returning player that is a legitimate scoring threat. Eric Carlson is the leading returning scorer, but his 10.1 ppg average isn't likely to scare anyone. Marshall Bjorklund led the league in shooting percentage a year ago (.647), but he played fewer than 22 minutes per contest and finished with only 8.7 ppg. Taylor Braun (8.2 ppg) needs to be a bit more assertive as well and improve his 28.9 percent shooting from the field.
The Dons were a force in the WCC, and Rex Walters' squad is looking to improve on last year's success with the new season opening tonight. The backcourt is the strength of the Dons, as the team boasts one of the top duos in the league in Michael Williams and Rashad Green. Williams (14.7 ppg) is a defensive nightmare for opponents, with the ability to light it up from anywhere on the floor. Green is a versatile playmaker, with the skill set to both score (12.5 ppg) and rebound (5.8 rpg). Sophomore point guard Cody Doolin (7.7 ppg, 3.5 apg) looks to build off a surprisingly successful freshman campaign. Perris Blackwell (6-9, 240) will anchor the front line after averaging 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds as a sophomore.
These two schools look to be set up for two different type of seasons. The Bison do not have many options, while the Dons are a veteran club with strong leadership. San Fran should have no trouble beginning the season with a win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Fran 77, North Dakota State 56
11/11 10:35:42 ET