“College Basketball-Roll the Ball Onto the Floor”
A new era at one place. A new season at the other. Both very important times as they open the college hoops season this weekend.
A new era at San Diego State, as Brian Dutcher replaces the iconic Steve Fisher.
A new season at the University of San Diego for coach Lamont Smith, where they are trying to stop the losing spree.
Important seasons for both schools, for very different reasons.
For the first time in a long time, there is no preseason rating in the polls for San Diego State, where 20-win seasons, even a (30-3) camp again, and annual March Madness invites were the norm.
Now Dutcher, who sat next to a great one in Fisher, for nearly two decades, gets to do it his way.
Now Smith, who has suffered thru two horrible seasons of losses, has his own team, loaded with a couple of years of recruits, needing wins maybe to save his job.
The Aztecs welcome in highly regarded USF-transfer guard Devin Watson, giving SDSU possibly the best threesome in any backcourt in the conference, and maybe even on the West Coast.
The Aztecs season will hinge though on consistent play, scoring and rebounding, from Malik Pope and quality minutes from transfer center Kam Rooks.
They know they will get quality performances from Watson, Trey Kell and Jeremy Hensley. They need a breakout season from some big man, whether that is the highly touted freshman Jalen McDaniels, or the afore-mentioned Pope, whose career has been like the stock-market, up and down. It might be unfair to call him an under achiever, but he surely is not what we hoped for when he first arrived.
Maybe a growth year from 3-point shooter Max Montana, or consistency from Missouri transfer Monti Gil-Caesar can make a difference, because the two transfers have been more disappointing that reliable contributors.
At USD, the horrors should be over.
It’s been painful to watch the program stagger in recent years. Smith’s teams were undermanned for two straight seasons. He had to sit and take it, and it included 3-of the worst beatings USD ever has ever suffered, at the likes of Gonzaga and BYU and St. Mary’s.
He’s recruited guards like Olin Carter, who can shoot, score and make plays. Now he has talent coming in, in droves.
Now for the first time, he has bulk, in 6’8-banger Alex Floresca from St-Louis…and 6-8 grinder Xavier Pineiro, grinder transfer from Portland State.
Finally tough guy Cam Neubauer, who had to do it all last year, has some muscle help alongside him.
Add in 3-young bigs, 6’10…6’11 and 7’…all likely to be cornerstones a year from now while learning about what the West Coast Conference is like this winter.
USD has players from Germany, Austria and Belarus on board too. Call it the Gonzaga plan. Now we wait to see if they can grow into the type of player Gonzaga has.
Dutcher’s team will be up-tempo and fast. They will play defense. Can they score enough if they have to go into set offenses? Can they get points from somebody besides those over-worked guards?.
Smith’s team will be much more physical to counter act what goes on in the conference. Can they stay out of foul trouble and stay in games?
Big years for both. SDSU cannot afford to slip into mediocrity. USD has to climb out of this horrible athletic abyss.
Roll that ball onto the floor. The Aztecs start tonight. The Toreros start on Sunday.