It’s Mike Dunlap’s first season at the helm, and he and the athletic department has assembled a doozy for LMU’s non-conference schedule.
The new look Lions will face numerous quality opponents, including three from the Pac-12 conference. Here is a breakdown of all of those aforementioned opponents, and what the Lions can expect from each of their games before WCC play tips-off.
Nov. 14 – Southeast Missouri State (LMU Classic)
Last Season: 18-14 (8-8 Ohio Valley).
After heading south to San Diego for the USD classic last season, the Lions will host the Toreros, along with SE Missouri State and Boise State in a two-day showcase called the ‘LMU Classic.’ The Lions first game is against the Southeast Missouri State.
Southeast Missouri State, which is nicknamed the Redhawks, play in the Ohio Valley Conference, where they finished second in the West division last season. The Redhawks return their second leading scorer
Although LMU might have trouble with Southeast Missouri State’s high-powered offense – the Redhawks were fifth in the country is points per game with 81.9 – LMU will certainly savor the experience of playing an up-tempo squad, and will have a solid chance of defeating them at Gersten Pavilion.
Nov. 15 – Boise State
Last season: 21-13 (9-9 Mountain West).
In the second game of the LMU classic, the Lions will take on the up and coming Boise State Broncos.
Although the Broncos were underwhelming last season, they will pose a tough test for Lions regardless. The Broncos return a ton of offensive firepower with Derrick Marks (14.9 PPG) and Anthony Drmic (15.9 PPG), as well as Igor Hadziomerovic and Mikey Thompson as a role players. However Ryan Watkins, the Broncos leading rebounder (10.6 RPG), Jeff Elorriaga (44.7 3P%) and Thomas Bropleh have graduated, hurting the teams overall depth.
It will still take an almost perfect game for the Lions to comfortably defeat Boise State, as they are well coached and talented to boot.
Nov. 20 – At Arizona State
Last Season: 21-12 (10-8 Pac-12). NCAA Tournament First Round.
Among the returners, Shaquielle McKissic (9.0 PPG and 5.4 RPG last season) will likely be the biggest contributor. On top of that, Arizona State brings in some talented newcomers, particularly freshmen point guard Tra Holder and junior college transfer Savon Goodman.
While it will be a steep task to knock off the Sun Devils, especially on the road, the Lions scheduled ASU at the perfect time as the program is going through a transition period.
Nov. 23 – San Diego Christian
Last Season: 8-16 (4-10 GSAC). NAIA.
LMU will host the Hawks, an NAIA opponent that is familiar with the WCC. San Diego Christian played Pepperdine, San Diego and Santa Clara last season as well.
Nov. 26 – UC Riverside
Last Season: 10-21 (5-11 Big West).
After a very challenging start to the season, LMU will play some relatively easier opponents on its own home court.
UC Riverside, who struggled in the Big West last season, will travel to Westchester in hopes of taking down the Lions. The Highlanders will be without their leading scorer and second leading rebounder Chris Patton (13.0 PPG and 5.8 RPG), as well as their second leading scorer Sam Finley, who transferred from the program. However, Taylor Johns, the team’s leading rebounder (7.8 PRG), and Nick Gruninger, the team’s leader in assists (2.3 APG), return to form the team’s nucleus.
Due to the Highlanders dearth of scoring returning from last season, a shootout would almost certainly favor the Lions. Nonetheless, the results of this game will be a decent indicator on how the Lions will fare in the WCC this season. If the Lions handily defeat UC Riverside, Mike Dunlap and company can worry much less. If LMU struggles or loses against the Highlanders, the team could be in for a tough time in WCC play.
Nov. 29 – UC Irvine
Last Season: 23-12 (13-3 Big West). NIT First Round.
In back-to-back games against Big West opponents, the Lions will receive quite the challenge from the Anteaters of UC Irvine.
The Anteaters were a win in the Big West Championship game away from making the NCAA tournament, but fell to Cal Poly in the aforementioned contest and settled for the NIT. As an 8-seed in the NIT, the Anteaters were handily defeated by SMU 68-54. The Anteaters were among the top Mid-Major teams last season, and will be a steep challenge for the Lions this season.
To make matters worse for LMU, UC Irvine returns almost all its key players from last season. The team’s leading scorer from last season, Luke Nelson (11.8 PPG), returns as a sophomore, along with 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye. Will Davis II, who was second on the team in scoring and first in rebounding last season (11.0 PPG and 6.4 RPG), will be a senior this season, and the team’s leading distributor Alex Young (4.6 APG) returns for his junior season.
With the amount of talent coming back for the Anteaters this season, the Lions might have a tough time with the Anteaters. However, this game will be very important for the Lions moving forward in the non-conference season, and Head Coach Mike Dunlap will need to make sure his players are prepared for an absolute dogfight with UC Irvine.
Dec. 3 – At USC
Last Season: 11-21 (2-16 Pac-12).
LMU will travel about half an hour to take on its inner-city “rivals” the USC Trojans.
Although USC struggled last season in its first season under Andy Enfield, the Trojans are still growing and should be better this season. However, it still might take a while for the Trojans to make a splash in the Pac-12, with its top four scorers – Byron Wesley, Pe’Shon Howard, Omar Oraby and JT Terrell – all departed from the program. That means they must rely on Nikola Jovanovic and Julian Jacobs, who will both take on bigger roles this season, along with UNLV transfer Katin Reinhardt. In addition to the aforementioned players, USC brings in a solid recruiting class – headlined by point guard Jordan McLaughlin and former LMU signee and four-star recruit Elijah Stewart – which will certainly make an impact its first season at USC.
Dec. 13 – At Northern Arizona
Last Season: 15-17 (12-8 Big Sky).
The Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona fielded a solid team last season, and is projected to field an even better one this season.
The Lumberjacks return just about everyone this season, aside from Max Jacobsen (12.3 PPG), who graduated. The team’s leading scorer – Quinton Upshur (15.3 PPG), leading rebounder – Gaellen Bewernick (5.6 RPG) – and leading distributor – Kris Yanku (2.6 APG). Along with the aforementioned trio, the Lumberjacks bring back Aaseem Dixon (11.2 PPG), Ako Kaluna, Jordyn Martin and Len Springs, all players who logged considerable minutes for Northern Arizona last season.
With most of its rotation players returning for another season, defeating Northern Arizona will be a very tough task for the young Lions.
Dec. 17 – At Stanford
Last Season: 23-13 (10-8 Pac-12). NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
In the team’s last game before the Diamond Head Classic in Hawai’i, the Lions will receive possibly its toughest test of the season to date.
The Stanford Cardinal, an up and coming team in the Pac-12 hosts LMU in mid-December. Although the team lost its leading rebounders Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell, Chasson Randle (18.8 PPG), Anthony Brown (12.1 PPG) and Stefan Nastic (7.4 PPG) return to Palo Alto for another season. On top of that, the Cardinal hauled in an impressive recruiting class this past season, with floor general Robert Cartwright, sharpshooter Dorian Pickins, big man Michael Humphries and McDonald’s All-American Reid Travis coming into the fold this upcoming season.
Nov. 22 – Wichita State (Diamond Head Classic)
Last Season: 35-1 (18-0 Missouri Valley). NCAA Second Round.
In the first round of the Diamond Head Classic, the Lions drew the hardest team in the field: Wichita State.
The Shockers, who won 35 straight games last season before falling to one of the best No. 8 seeds in the history of March Madness, Kentucky, will be stocked with great amounts of talent for yet another season.
Cleantony Early has moved on to the NBA, but the Wheat Shockers return Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton, all double-digit scorers last season. There is no denying that Wichita State’s backcourt will be one of the strongest in the country next season, but they have some questions in the frontcourt with Early’s absence. If the Lions want a shot of winning against the Shockers, they need to take advantage of the paint with Petr Herman, Patson Siame and Godwin Okonji, among others.
Nov. 23 – Nebraska or Hawai’i (Diamond Head Classic)
Nebraska Last Season: 19-13 (11-7 Big Ten). NCAA First Round.
Hawai’i Last Season: 20-11 (9-7 Big West).
If the Lions pull off the upset against Wichita State, it will likely take on Tim Miles and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Nebraska was a surprise team in college basketball last season, and the Cornhuskers will look to build off some of that momentum and make a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament. With Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway returning for their junior seasons, and Tai Webster and Walter Pitchford sliding into their respective roles on the team, the Cornhuskers should be solid once again. The only thing holding the Cornhuskers back is depth, which they hopefully sure up with transfer Moses Ayegba and a solid freshmen class headlined by center Jacob Hammond.
The more likely opponent for the Lions in Honolulu is the host school Hawaii, who defeated Saint Mary’s last season in the same tournament. The Warriors lost Keith Shamburger (transferred to Missouri) and Christian Stanhardinger (graduated), but retain big man – with an even bigger afro – Isaac Fotu and guard Garrett Nevels. This is a winnable game for the Lions, but it might be more challenging with the Warriors playing in front of its home crowd.
Nov. 24 – George Washington, Ohio, DePaul or Colorado (Diamond Head Classic)
George Washington Last Season: 24-9 (11-5 A-10). NCAA First Round.
Ohio Last Season: 25-12 (11-7 MAC). CIT Quarterfinals.
Colorado Last Season: 23-12 (10-8 Pac-12). NCAA First Round.
DePaul Last Season: 12-21 (3-15 Big East).
In the final round of the Diamond Head Classic, the Lions will be faced with a number of quality options for its last opponent.
If the Lions advance into the winner’s bracket after defeating Wichita State, their most likely opponent would either be Colorado or George Washington. The Buffaloes are well coached by frontman Tad Boyle, and will be well off with Josh Scott, Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson running the show after Spencer Dinwiddie’s departure. George Washington lost clutch scorer and Indiana transfer Maurice Creek to graduation, but Kethan Savage (12.7 PPG) and Patricio Garino (12.1 PPG) will be a nice duo as juniors for the Colonials.
If the Lions drop to the loser’s bracket following a loss to Wichita State – the most likely route for the Lions in Honolulu, LMU will likely take on either DePaul or Ohio. The Blue Demons of DePaul have been a bottom feeder in the Big East, might be even worse this season without Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young. Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton IV will need to help take the reins after the aforementioned players departures. Ohio, who won 25 games last season, return Maurice Ndour (13.8 PPG) and will be a tough test for any team they come across in the Diamond Head Classic.