Coming off a couple good wins, the San Diego Toreros get a final tuneup before conference play as they host NAIA San Diego Christian on Sunday at 1pm in the Jenny Craig Pavilion. After a very tough non-conference slate, this will be a chance to give the whole roster some playing time and rest key players as they prepare for their WCC opener against Portland next Saturday.
The Hawks are an NAIA level team also from San Diego. The NAIA is an independent athletic organization considered a rung below the NCAA Division 2 level. They are currently 5-5 on the year, but they deserve credit for always playing a tough schedule full of Division 1 opponents. They have already had losses to Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount, and they will face powerful San Diego State next week. The Hawks regularly make their way around the city of San Diego facing opponents to get experience. Local opponents this year include the Toreros, San Diego State, and Division 2 Point Loma Nazarene.
November 28, 2014; Fullerton, CA, USA; San Diego Toreros guard Johnny Dee (1) moves the ball up court against Princeton Tigers during the first half at Titan Gym. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
That being said, the Hawks are not a strong team even at the NAIA level. Last year they wen 8-16 including just 4-10 in conference play. They l0st a of of talent from that team including three of their four double-digit scorers. Their top returner is Trevor English, a versatile Forward who was first on the team in steals and second in assists and rebounds last season while putting up 11.9 points per game.
English appears to be struggling with an injury or some other issue as he hasn’t done much this year. He has only appeared in half of the Hawks’ games and averaged just 5 points in those contests. Right now they are leaning on Peter Beale-Wirsing and Daniel Nielsen who are their only two double-digit scorers right now. Beale-Wirsing is looking like a star averaging 12.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game after being a key role player and part-time starter last season. The big 6-8 Forward will be the biggest concern for the Toreros. But he’s nothing the bigs like Brandon Perry and Jito Kok can’t handle.
The only major thing to watch for the Toreros besides avoiding injuries in a non-key game is Johnny Dee. He is now just 46 points away from the school’s career scoring record, and he should pour in plenty of points against the Hawks. The starters should have lots of time off in the second half so he won’t have the minutes to have a huge game and get the record, but he will move much closer. If he hits his average of 20.5 points per game in this game and against Portland, he should be on the cusp of the record and could get it against the Pilots. At worst he should get it sometime during the game after that against Gonzaga. Not bad for a former walk-on player who has become one of the best shooters in the nation.
This one won’t be close. The Hawks are hanging tougher with teams than they did last year, and they might have a better record as they are over halfway to their entire win total from last season already. But even an elite NAIA team should be no match for a Division 1 team, and that will be the case. The Toreros should lead comfortably by halftime and their reserves will get plenty of playing time in a blowout during the second half.
SAN DIEGO TOREROS – 78
SAN DIEGO CHRISTIAN HAWKS – 52
Realistically, this is a learning experience for the Hawks. It’s the reason why they play all these games against Division One opponents. They want to be as seasoned as possible for their conference schedule. In fact, this game counts as an exhibition for San Diego Christian as do all games against D-1 opponents. Last year the Toreros destroyed the Hawks 82-46 in a game where all but two Toreros on the active roster recorded at least one point.