Okay, I am going to start off with this simple fact: Norte Dame de Namur is a D-2 team expected to finish near the bottom of their conference this season. Now that we have that out of the way, the University of San Francisco Dons played so well on Opening Night that preseason hopes that the Green & Gold can make it to the NCAA tournament could come to fruition. There is some serious depth on the USF squad and a healthy campaign can lead to a dangerous team that opponents would dread to play in the postseason.
The Dons started the game with a plethora of three’s thanks to some aggressive shooting. Rex Walters kept the substitutions frequent through out the game and even allowed both walk-on players with some late minutes. Every available player on the team found some minutes. USF eventually won the game to a final score of 95-57. This was San Francisco’s first Opening Night win since the 2010-2011 season. Here are some further instant impressions from Opening Night:
Gold Glove Winner: Matt Glover’s long awaited debut went wonderfully. Glover finished the game with 12 points and an impressive showing on defense. Glover plays a physical game which starts at tip-off and continues till the last buzzer sounds. Glover gives the immediate impression of a team leader who teaches by example. I am really looking forward to watch Matt play all season.
Not Just a Dunker: Mark Tollefsen started tonight’s game and led the Dons in scoring with 15 points. Mark won the Hilltop HoopSFest dunking contest in October, but Tollefsen’s physique as a thin player was a concern going into the season. The jury is still out on Tolly, but Opening Night was a solid start for a potential star in the WCC.
Not Time To Panic: Senior Cody Doolin started his 100th game as a San Francisco Don on Opening Night. Doolin played a total of 20 minutes but finished the contest without recording a bucket. Cody did however lead the Dons with seven assists during the first game of the season. Cody has been steadily increasing his points per game since freshman year. At the end of the 2012-2013 season, Cody finished with 12.2 PPG. I don’t expect Opening Night’s performance to start a poor scoring trend for Doolin.
Time to Panic: There was one other player who could not score one point during the game – Tao Xu. I pointed out on the Notre Dame de Namur preview that Tao should be able to find some points against a significantly weaker NDNU squad. Xu disappointed many fans with his scoreless night and poor performance. If Tao is going to improve his confidence at his position, he needs to find some motivation in the form of success. This may be harder for Tao then initially expected.
Welcome to the Hilltop: Corey Hilliard also made his Hilltop debut on Opening Night. There were multiple times that Hilliard dazzled the over powered Argonauts with his ball handling skills. Corey did seem a bit excited resulting in minor mistakes and poor shots. Corey finished the game with 8 points and shot just over 30% from the floor. With some more experience at War Memorial Gym, Hilliard will settle down and prove to be a great JUCO pick-up.
Kruize Control: I was able to watch Kruize Pinkins, another JUCO addition, participate in the SF Pro-Am during the summer. During the Pro-Am, Kruize was a great scorer specializing his mid-range shooting abilities. On Opening Night, he illustrated that he will also improve the Dons on the boards. In combination with Cole Dickerson, the Dons should rack up more rebounds and move out of the cellar as the worst rebounding team in the WCC.
Looking Ahead: USF’s next game is on Wednesday night against Cleveland State. Cleveland State tipped off their 2013-2014 season on Saturday night when they 73-69. Once the Dons take on a D-1 team, fans will have a better idea of what to expect durin7g the rest of the non-conference schedule.
Keeping in touch with more games from November 8th, Dons fans should take a closer look at the Pacific at Nevada match up. Pacific pulled off the win in the final minute over the Wolfpack. USF will take on both of these opponents later this year. In fact, two days after USF takes on Cleveland State, Nevada will come to the Hilltop to try to take a win from the Dons for the second straight year.
Lastly, The Oregon Ducks tipped off their season in Korea versus Georgetown. Before the Ducks traveled internationally, they released information that two of their players will be suspended for the first nine games of the season. This suspension WILL include the game against the Dons on November 24th. No. 19th ranked Oregon defeated Georgetown in Korea yesterday with a score of 82-75.