Since I can't seem to narrow down TV coverage for this one I'll be tuning towards the radio and gametracker for Friday night's Paradise Jam opener. Since this tournament is striving to become a Maui East I am surprised they haven't worked out better TV coverage. Ah well. In all honestly I don't think we need to be glued to our TV sets for the opener. Even with LewJack and Sandi Marcius both being hurt we have little trouble with the Jackrabbits. Meeting Boston College in round 2 could be a different story.
To be accompanied by Michael Jackson's JAM video this week.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Conference: Summit League
2009-10 Record: 2-0
2008-09 Record: 13-20 (upset Oral Roberts in Summit League Tournament)
Blog Representation: SDSUFans.com (warning: this is a very user unfriendly site, but it is an SDSU blog. I searched that hard for you!)
SDSU may be a little better this season, as they have started 2-0. One victory is over non-D1 Mayville State, whom they crushed 89-56. The opening season victory is a decent one though over Mountain West Conference member Wyoming 77-61. The Cowboys were a 19-14 team a season ago that made one of the postseason tournaments, so an easy Jackrabbit victory does turn some heads. This is just the second season of full Division 1 eligibility for SDSU.
SDSU features a balanced scoring attack led by senior guard Garrett Callahan. Callahan averages 12.5 points per game and is a 3-point shooting threat having hit 3 of 9 from long range so far. He is actually down a bit from last season's 15.8 ppg average, but obviously the season is very young. His most telling statistic from last season was a 42.7% clip from long range. He is also an accurate free throw shooter when he gets to the line.
6'6" senior forward Kai Williams is next in scoring at 12.5 per game. His average is weighted by a 17 point performance in the opener at Wyoming. Williams has been a double-digit scorer in all four seasons at SDSU except last season when he dipped to 9.8ppg. He is a tough rebounder that can also step out and shoot the three. This makes him a versatile weapon, like a poor man's Robbie Hummel. It is interesting that he is only playing about half as many minutes this season as he has averaged in his career, yet his numbers are similar.
Anthony Cordova (11ppg) and Clint Sargent (18ppg) give the Jackrabbits four double figures scorers, showing their offensive versatility. Both are juniors, making SDSU a team that is dominated by upperclassmen. Sargent did not play against Mayville State after hitting five 3-pointers as Wyoming. Cordova has nice size at 6'7" 245lbs.
South Dakota State will live and die by the 3-pointer against us. They hit 11 of 21 against Wyoming to build a big lead early. Michael Palarca paces the offense by distributing the ball well at 6 assists per game. We can also expect to see Giffan Callahan (Garrett's younger brother), Nate Wolters, Dale Moss, and Josh Cassaday in a nine man rotation. The younger Callahan has shown a talent for rebounding at 5.5 per contest.
This is not a team that should dominate us on the glass. Their tallest player, 6'10" Mark Engen, is a senior that barely plays. Most of the team is between 6'4" and 6'7", but they lack the sheer physicality that we have as a Big Ten team. We should absolutely be able to dominate the interior and focus on defending from the perimeter. I can see this game being close only if SDSU gets insanely hot from outside and starts raining threes. On paper they are about equal with Cal State Northridge, and we had little trouble with the Matadors. Purdue 85, South Dakota State 57
2009-10 Record: 1-0 (They play St. Francis tonight and St. Joseph's in round 1)
2008-09 Record: 22-12 (lost to USC 72-55 in round one of NCAA Tournament)
Blog Representation: Eagle in Atlanta, BC Interruption
Our round two opponent will likely be our first true test of the season. The same was true last year, as we squeezed out a 71-64 win over the Eagles at Madison Square Garden in the preseason NIT semi-finals. Joe Trapani had 14 points and eight rebounds against and he is back. 6'10 center Josh Southern (9 points, 11 rebounds) is also back. We are basically facing most of a team walked into North Carolina last season and won. They also beat Duke, but lost WTF games against Harvard and St. Louis.
It is hard to guess how well the Eagles will respond this season. Cory Raji and Rakim Sanders are returning starters that were suspended for the opener against Dartmouth and tonight's game against St. Francis. They must also replace leading scorer Tyrese Rice who graduated. Rice had a great game against us in New York, so missing him will not help their chances. This is still a young team that features just one senior in Tyler Roche. Roche only went for 30 against Dartmouth, but we are not Dartmouth.
We should have a better idea of what to expect from BC once they get everyone back from suspension. This is still not a team we can take lightly, however. I seem to remember North Carolina having a pretty good season last year and BC beat them seven in their own house. Still, they followed up that monster win with a loss to Harvard three days later. That tells me that consistency will be a major issue with them.
To win again we have to make sure they don't dominate the paint. Southern, Trapani, and Roche could give us some matchup problems in the paint if all three are playing. We have to keep them off the offensive glass and limit second chance points. We did a pretty good job of that last year, but we have to keep it up. Sanders and Raji are capable scorers that can create their own shot as well. This will be the first true test of our team defense.
Saint Joseph's Hawks
Conference: Atlantic 10
2009-10 Record: 1-0 (Holy Cross tonight and Boston college in round 1)
2008-09 Record: 17-15 (no postseason)
Blog Representation: None
I expect to play Boston College in round 2, but here is a brief preview of St. Joseph's anyway. St. Joseph's was one of the many teams that had a dominating win over Indiana last year, beating the Hoosiers 80-54 in the Maui Invitational. This means they are not strangers to big preseason tournaments, so this should be interesting. So far this season they have a 77-67 overtime win over Drexel.
Forward Idris Hilliard had a breakout game in the opener with 16 points and seven rebounds. He was also 10 of 11 from the line, so we don't want to foul him. Guard Darrin Govins was the leading scorer with 23 points on 6 of 17 shooting. He is a smaller shooting guard at 6'1", but he can score from anywhere on the floor. Garrett Williamson and Carl Jones were double figures scorers with 11 and 13 points, respectively. Overall St. Joe's hit 33 of 42 free throws against the Dragons, so we have to keept hem off the line.
Honestly, I am preparing to face Boston College in round two. St. Joseph's is well coached and they play in a surprisingly tough Atlantic 10 conference, but the Eagles are the better team. It would take an upset for St. Joe's to get past them, and if they do I don't think they have two int hem to get past us. They don't have much size outside of 6'11" center Todd O'Brien, so if we can neutralize him we should own the interior. I certainly trust our perimeter defense to stop anyone in the country from there.