Louisiana Tech (0-0) at Saint Mary's (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 11:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McKeon Pavilion (3,500) -- Moraga, California. Television: None. Home Record: Louisiana Tech 0-0, SMC 0-0. Away Record: Louisiana Tech 0-0, SMC 0-0. Neutral Record: Louisiana Tech 0-0, SMC 0-0. Conference Record: Louisiana Tech 0-0, SMC 0-0. Series Record: Louisiana Tech leads, 1-0.
GAMES NOTES: A pair of teams that combined for 55 wins a year ago will clash on Friday night at McKeon Pavilion when the Saint Mary's Gaels bring in the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs for a non-conference bout.
The 2012-13 season was certainly a huge success for Louisiana Tech which piled up 27 wins, grabbed a share of the Western Athletic Conference title, spent some time in the national rankings and made a postseason appearance in the NIT. The trick this season will be replicating the efforts in a new conference as the Bulldogs are transitioning into Conference USA this year. It is within that new league that the Bulldogs will be attempting to put forth a strong enough effort to warrant their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1991. Having four starters back from a team that led the WAC in scoring will certainly go a long way towards accomplishing the goal.
For a team that is coming off a 28-win season, its sixth straight year of at least 25 wins, Saint Mary's certainly isn't entering this campaign with a ton of optimism. The team was put on probation for four years in the offseason. Though there was no postseason ban, the Gaels still have a negative specter hanging over there heads. Making matters worse is the loss of star guard Matthew Dellavedova, who graduated last year. His experience, steady hand at the point and ability to come up big in key moments will be nearly impossible to replace. Clearly the work is cut out for head coach Randy Bennett in his 13th year as he tries to get the Gaels to a third straight NCAA Tournament and sixth during his tenure in Moraga.
The first and only meeting between these teams took place in 1989 when they squared off in Tokyo as part of the Fenix Ball Tournament. Louisiana Tech took home a 69-55 victory in the contest.
Last year the Bulldogs were one of the most trigger happy teams in the country. Although they shot at just a 32.1 percent clip from 3-point range, the Bulldogs had the 12th-most attempts in the country, while leading the WAC in 3-point field goals made (253). All those shots helped power the Bulldogs to 72.6 points per game, which was tops in the WAC. The scoring was also helped by a balanced attack, as the Bulldogs had seven different players score at least five points per game. Most of those contributors are back, including Raheem Appleby (14.9 ppg), who was the only double-figure scorer on the team. Appleby will get help in the backcourt from Kenneth Smith (6.8 ppg, 5.0 apg), who is a skilled passer that led the team in minutes and starts. Michale Kyser (5.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.7 bpg) is a major defensive presence down low with his ability to protect the rim.
Led by Dellavedova (15.8 ppg, 6.4 apg), the Gaels scored a healthy 74.6 points per game on 46.9 percent shooting last year. There are still a number of key pieces returning, but the Gaels desperately need someone to step in and fill the role that Dellavedova served. Stephen Holt (11.6 ppg) is the most likely candidate to do so. Holt was the second scoring option last year and will now play with the ball in his hands a lot more. Jordan Page (6.4 ppg) will also be called on the produce more effectively in the backcourt, although he is more of a question mark coming off an ACL tear. A lot is expected of junior college scoring machine Kerry Carter. The frontcourt doesn't look much different than it did last year but the Gaels could certainly use some improved production. Brad Waldow (10.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg) was solid but needs to be great and Beau Levesque (10.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg) needs to clean the boards better for a 6-foot-7 forward.
Both of these teams showed great skill in scoring last year. The Bulldogs should yet again be a dominant offensive team, especially with some improved marksmanship from 3-point range. With Dellavedova gone the Gaels may take a few games to find their footing. The Bulldogs will take advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 76, Saint Mary's 74
11/08 10:46:02 ET