South Dakota State (0-0) at San Diego (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Jenny Craig Pavilion (5,100) -- San Diego, California. Television: None. Home Record: South Dakota State 0-0, USD 0-0. Away Record: South Dakota State 0-0, USD 0-0. Neutral Record: South Dakota State 0-0, USD 0-0. Conference Record: South Dakota State 0-0, USD 0-0. Series Record: First- ever meeting.
GAMES NOTES: In the second half of the opening day of the USD Classic, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits will tangle with tournament host San Diego in a non-conference brawl at Jenny Craig Pavilion.
In a way, South Dakota State is starting from scratch following one of the best two-year stretches of any mid-major squad in recent memory. Led by third- team All-American Nate Wolters, the Jackrabbits took home the Summit League crown and earned their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance last year. Wolters is now trying to cut it in the NBA so there is clearly a large hole missing for the Jackrabbits, who many had penciled in for an upset of eventual National title runner up Michigan on their NCAA Tournament brackets last year. Talented forward Jordan Dykstra could make Wolters' departure less of a blow if his production gets a boost.
Another losing season for the Toreros ended on a semi-positive note as they were able to capture two wins in the West Coast Conference Tournament to match their best win total since 2009. Still, 16 wins isn't exactly a number that will keep a coach employed and right now Bill Grier is beginning to feel the heat. The Toreros were an NCAA Tournament team in Grier's first year but since then they haven't even been close. The backcourt is fully stocked this season with Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson both in the mix, but the frontcourt will be a work in progress after the departure of Chris Manresa and Ken Rancifer. European transplant Duda Sanadze has a great deal of hype surrounding him and could be the difference.
Familiarity is not a luxury afforded to either of these teams as Friday marks the first ever matchup between them.
Wolters (22.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.8 apg) did it all for the Jackrabbits. Having a talent like him was a rare advantage for any team and now South Dakota State must face life without him. All is not lost though, as Dykstra (12.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg) is a more than capable scorer on the low block as well as a skilled rebounder. Brayden Carlson (9.1 ppg, 2.5 apg) played well as a complementary performer in the backcourt. Carlson scored 20 points in the team's loss to Michigan, so he has the ability to turn into a top-end scorer. His scoring average has also increased in each of his three previous seasons. Chad White (9.9 ppg) is another guard that was a strong complementary scorer. Improvement from him would also be a big addition for the Jackrabbits, who were one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country last year. In all they scored 73.4 points per game while leading the Summit League in assists (14.5 pg) and field goal percentage (.470).
There is a lot of work to be done on the offensive end of the floor for San Diego. Although the Toreros scored just under 70 points per game, that mark was not nearly good enough to compete with the number of talented squads in the WCC. Dee (15.0 ppg) is the primary scorer for the Toreros, at least based off of last year's team. Dee is known for his ability to knock down shots from 3-point range but his numbers dipped in that area last year. Dee netted just 37.7 percent from beyond the arc after hitting 42.2 percent in 2011-12. Feeding Dee the ball is Anderson (9.4 ppg, 5.7 apg, 2.1 spg), who can score when needed, but is much more valuable for his passing and defense. Sanadze could really add some scoring punch for San Diego. The 6-foot-5 wing from Georgia posted more than 17 points per game in 2012, while playing overseas. How he adjusts to American basketball will be crucial for the Toreros, who are developing a number of new frontcourt players.
Losing Wolters is not something any team can just move beyond right away. The Jackrabbits have skill but so do the Toreros, who are also lucky enough to have the type of guard play that might push them to a solid start to the campaign.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Diego 74, South Dakota State 70
11/08 10:46:19 ET