Nov. 15, 2009
TEMPE, Ariz. - With aspirations of a trip to New York City hovering over the minds of all four participants in this year's Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off, the Cal State Northridge Matadors (0-1) want to carry the momentum created in the final half of their previous game with them to Wells Fargo Arena this week.
With a total of 16 teams participating in the nationwide, the Matadors will face the tournament's seventh-seed, the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs Monday evening and face either the fourth-seeded Arizona State Sun Devils or Texas State Bobcats (TSU) the following day.
Matador basketball fans can listed to Alan Zinsmeister broadcast all the action both on Monday and Tuesday live on GoMatadors.com as he will begin his commentary ten minutes prior to the tip-off of each game.
Live statistics will also be available through GameTracker for both evenings of competition; if the Matadors are victorious in their first game against TCU then the team will compete on ESPN2 in their second nationally-televised game of the season the following evening.
Visit www.GoMatadors.com for all the latest, up-to-the-minute information on everything taking place at the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off.
The winners of each of the games played on Monday will compete against one another in the Championship game of the West Bracket to see who will compete at Madison Square Garden in next week's Semifinal and Championship rounds against the winners of the other three seeds.
Other notable teams competing in their respective regionals include the Duke Blue Devils, UCONN Huskies, and LSU Tigers.
The Matadors opened the 2009-10 season on a challenging note last Friday as they traveled to West Lafayette, Indiana to face the seventh-ranked team in the nation in the Purdue Boilermakers.
With Purdue's starting five returning intact, CSUN knew how challenging the game could potentially become.
Even though last year's Big-10 Tournament champions connected on eight of their first nine possessions against the Matadors to take an early lead, Northridge refused to quit and ended up out-rebounding their opponents while outscoring the home squad by ten points and shot over 50% in the second half.
Junior forward Kevin Menner led all Matadors in scoring with his 18 points and was one of three Matadors who finished the game with a double-digit figure in points scored.
Junior forward Michael Lizarraga had an outstanding game himself as he ended up tying his personal career-high with five points scored and set a new personal mark having competed for twelve minutes against the Boilermakers.
Newcomer Lenny Daniel also had a solid game of his own as he finished his regular-season debut as a Matadors with five rebounds and six points. But it was senior forward Vincent Cordell who crashed the glass and collected a team-high seven rebounds.
It is the momentum created from their solid team play in the second half back at Mackey Arena that the Matadors brought with them to the Wells Fargo Arena, located on the campus of Arizona State University, as they look to earn their first victory of the season and compete in another nationally-televised game.
Looking to send CSUN to the consolation bracket of the West region is TCU as they enter tournament play as the #7 seed and look to earn their second straight victory of the season.
Last season, TCU finished in seventh place and were predicted to finish in seventh-place once again in the most recent Mountain West Conference preseason poll.
In their season opener, the Horned Frogs defeated their Mid-America Christian at home by a score of 79-65.
Representing the NAIA, Mid-America Christian gave the Horned Frogs all they can handle for a majority of the first half, but once TCU gained the lead in the final minutes of the first half, they would not relinquish their advantage.
With six lettermen returning for head coach Jim Christian, the Frogs also return three double-digit scorers in seniors Zvonko Buljan, Edvinas Ruzgas, and sophomore Ronnie Moss.
Buljan was selected Mountain West Newcomer of the Year last season due to his 12.3 PPG and 7.8 RPG averages last season.
Ruzgas was the most deadly shooter from behind the arc last year as he averaged 10.0 PPG himself thanks to his team-high 58 buckets from long-range.
In addition to finishing as the top true freshman scoring leader in the Mountain West Conference, Moss became the first TCU freshman since Corey Santee to average double-digits in scoring as he finished his rookie campaign averaging 10.0 PPG.
Northridge will finish regional action Tuesday evening against Texas State or Arizona State, the regional host.
In the first game of the post-James Harden era, ASU earned their sixth-largest margin of victory with an 87-35 performance against Western Illinois last week.
Coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1980-81 and its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003, head coach Herb Sendek will look for his entire team to fill the 18-point void that was created this season when forward James Hardin decided to forgo his amateur status, entered the 2009 NBA Draft and was selected with the third overall pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
For the Sun Devils to continue their successes on the court, Sendek will rely on his trio of returners, senior point guard Derek Glasser and juniors Ty Abbot and Rihards Kuksiks as the team's fortunes this season will most likely be mirrored by their collective performances.
On pace to become the school's career assist leader, Glasser averaged 4.9 APG in addition to his 8.8 PPG average.
Abbott and Kuksiks are the Sun Devil's most lethat long-range threats; the former connected on 121 three-point shots in his 69 games played throughout his collegiate career while the latter finished with the eight-highest three-point percentage (44.3) in the nation.
As the #4 seed in this tournament, whomever faces ASU during the initial days of competition will also have to deal with the home-court advantage the Sun Devils also possess.
Just like TCU and ASU, Texas State was victorious in their season-opening game last Friday when the Bobcats defeated Division-III representatives Howard Payne at home by a final score of 102-67.
Leading Howard Payne by eight at the half, TSU more than doubled the offensive performance of their opponents in the second half, outscoring the visiting Yellowjackets by a 51-24 margin to wrap-up their first win of the season.
Seven players return to the TSU squad this season for head coach Doug Davalos and will be expected to raise their respective performances on the court this season as the other half of their team will be comprised of newcomers.
Three new assistant coaches join the Bobcat staff the season; starting forwards Cameron Johnson (9.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG), John Rybak (10.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG), and guard Ryan White (team-high 79.6% FT Pct.) hope to make their inaugural season at TSU a successful and memorable campaign.