UC Davis (0-0) at Portland (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 10:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Chiles Center (4,852) -- Portland, Oregon. Television: None. Home Record: UC Davis 0-0, Portland 0-0. Away Record: UC Davis 0-0, Portland 0-0. Neutral Record: UC Davis 0-0, Portland 0-0. Conference Record: UC Davis 0-0, Portland 0-0. Series Record: Portland leads, 3-0.
GAMES NOTES: A pair of teams on the west coast that are looking to find their bearings as a new season begins will be matched up on Friday when the UC Davis Aggies and Portland Pilots play at the Chiles Center.
The Aggies are entering into head coach Jim Les's third season at the helm. The returns during the first two campaigns have not been overly impressive. However, last year was a big step in the right direction as the Aggies posted a 14-17 mark overall and a 9-9 record against the rest of the Big West Conference. The year featured a nine-win jump for the Aggies, who matched their program record for wins at the Division I level.
After a three-year run of unprecedented success coming into the decade, the Pilots have come crashing back to a harsh reality in the past two seasons. During that time Portland has managed to compile just 18 wins. Last year did see a slight increase at 11-21, which was a four-win improvement over the previous year's efforts.
In three all-time meetings between these squads, Portland has been the victor each time. That includes a 75-60 victory in the last meeting during the Athletes in Action Classic the Pilots hosted in 2010.
Corey Hawkins was an unbelievably impressive performer for the Aggies in his first year with the team. After coming over from Arizona State, Hawkins lit up the Big West to the tune of 20.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game last year. The multi-faceted guard was a huge reason that UC Davis had such a great deal of success on offense. As a team, the Aggies led the Big West and ranked 18th nationally in field-goal percentage (.473), while netting a healthy 71.3 points per game. A number of the players Hawkins teamed with also return, including fellow double-digit scorers Ryan Sypkens (14.1 pg) and J.T. Adenrele (12.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg). Josh Ritchart (7.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg), who was used primarily as a reserve, is also back in the fold.
The type of scoring production that UC Davis was able to put forth was not a luxury that Portland enjoyed last year. In all the Pilots netted just 61 points per game, while letting up nearly eight points more per game on defense. There is some belief that better play at the point could help and that is where freshman Alec Wintering comes in. Growing pains are to be expected but he will need to get through them quickly for Portland to really compete. Surrounding Wintering is a cast of characters that were big-time contributors last year. Ryan Nicholas (13.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg) is a solid frontcourt player that can step back and knock down 3-pointers, while Thomas van der Mars (7.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg) is a big body in the paint. Kevin Bailey (11.4 ppg) provides addition scoring punch, as should Tanner Riley (5.2 ppg).
If one of these teams looks better prepared to make the jump to contention this year it is clearly the Aggies. While the Pilots have experience, it still looks like a lot of work needs to be done. Meanwhile the Aggies have a scorer in Hawkins they can rely on as much as needed.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Davis 73, Portland 64
11/08 10:46:32 ET