I always forget San Diego Christian College’s moniker, which is silly because we play these human traffic cones from Santee every single year as an early season appetizer. I’m pretty sure it’s a majestic bird of some kind, right? The San Diego Christian Embezzling Buzzards? That seems right.
Aw hell, I’ll just Google tonight’s game so I can know for sure.
Right. The, uh, San Diego Christian Gray Crests. Got it.
Wait, what’s this?
The Blue … Hose? No, that does not seem correct at all. That’s a reason to visit a urologist, not the name of an NAIA hoops squadron.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe we will ever know SDCC’s true mascot, which is OK. Just call them the Washington Generals of East County. Or, if you’re looking for another dated reference …
What I’m trying to say, friends, is that the opponent for the start of the Brian Dutcher Era at San Diego State was quite bad at basketball! So bad that the Aztecs opened their season with a 91-52 win despite looking neither crisp nor particularly interested.
SDSU’s players can be forgiven if the adrenaline was not exactly coursing tonight. SDCC looked the part of the Game 1 patsy – a motley assortment of oddly shaped and lightly talented players. They started one dude taller than 6-4 (he was 6-5) and his last name was Short.
That is not a dumb joke I made up, that is a true fact that you can look up in the box score.
SDSU put the hammer down early, outscoring SDCC 14-0 in the first 2:30 of play. Eight of those points were Malik Pope’s, who drained a jumper, two layups and a dunk.
Pope (MY PICK FOR TEAM MVP) was outstanding, looking every bit a player primed for the monstrous senior season as all the reports out of practice have hinted at. He scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds while barely breaking a sweat in 18 minutes on the court. It was against a bunch of 6-2 rec league dudes, but still.
Freshman forward Matt Mitchell also passed the eye test in the opener. At 6-6, 230 he sure doesn’t look like a true freshman, and he isn’t being treated like one either. Mitchell earned the start in his first collegiate game over seasoned vets Jeremy Hemsley and Max Montana. Despite going 1-of-8 from the field, he contributed in other ways, getting to the line twice pulling down 8 rebounds.
Hemsley responded to falling out of the starting five as you’d hope he would, coming off the bench for 10 points, 6 assists and 3 steals in 22 minutes. We even got to see him on the floor with Devin Watson a little bit, which is both super intriguing and also super confusing for anyone 20 rows up or higher, given their similar height, build, game and hairstyle (Note: Jeremy is the one with the beard).
Sophomore forward Nolan Narain also had a promising night, chipping in 9 and 7 in 19 minutes. The super-sad-opponent caveat certainly applies here, but Narain’s confidence and aggressiveness in the paint was intriguing.
If Narain’s progress is not just an SDCC-created mirage, that’s a big development. It would certainly be nice to have a true big man you can rely on as an option for the 20-25 minutes per game Kameron Rooks won’t be out there.
Bobby Hurley’s Arizona State Sun Devils — definitely not the Buzzards or Gray Crests or Blue Hose — loom on Tuesday in Tempe. ASU, if you’ll recall, ran the Aztecs out of Viejas Arena last season. They also have multiple players taller than 6-4.
We shall know quite a bit more about the new-look Aztecs come Wednesday morning.