Never heard of CS-San Marcos? You're not alone. But for those unfamiliar with NAIA basketball, this is a program who has made some serious noise the past few years.
Last season, the Cougars went 32-2, were ranked #1 in the NAIA, and advanced to the elite 8 round of the NAIA Div I National Championship.
Coach Saia has actually faced the California Golden Bears a decade ago; he replaced Henry Bibby as USC's interim head coach in 2004. Now in his 4th year at the helm, he has a daunting rebuild ahead of him as only three players return from last year's record-breaking squad.
Although the faces may be new, the guard-oriented system should be the same. Coach Saia uses a three-guard line-up that looks to push the pace and run at every opportunity.
For those who missed it, here's our preview for the season.
After the last game, CGB Hoops Specialist Reef had these observations:
— Wallace going to the basket every single play is a great development. Not many people will be able to stop him straight up, and if he can learn to make good decisions passing the ball (something he displayed a bit last night), that’ll be a huge improvement over how we used him last year.
— Mathews, in particular, will benefit from an aggressive TWall. Mathews really knows how to move without the ball and has a knack for spacing and getting himself good scoring opportunities.
— Kravish is as good as I’ve seen him. With increased range out to the 3p line, and a bigtime basketball IQ, he’s going to be a beast in the high PnR which looks like we’re going to use as a staple set.
— The rest of our posts can be played straight up, or even ignored, which is a pretty big potential problem.
— We looked to push at every opportunity. Given our personnel, I think this is a good thing. We’re not real good at it yet, but I think we will be.
— As expected, the base D was straight-up man, with some aggressive help and recover in spots. Just a simple, meat and potatoes defense that Cuonzo demands be executed with high intensity. On the bright side, there are less decision points in this type of D, and decision making was not our strong suit last year. Of concern is our guys are not yet particularly adept at moving their feet.
— We played two posts for most of the game. In the postgame Cuonzo noted that it was nice that CSUEB had two posts, so I don’t know how much these lineup choices were influenced by personnel. I think it was in part the matchup, and in part because our biggest question going into the season is frontline depth (meaning he really wanted to see what we’ve got up there). So I’m not entirely sure whether we can tell from last night whether Cuonzo will make substantial use of a 1-4 (which appears to be clearly our most talented lineup, and potentially a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses). We’ll have to wait and see on that.
— Regarding our frontline depth, at this point I wouldn’t characterize any of our posts beyond Kravish as anything more than serviceable. It does look like he’s going to give CB, KO, and DT every opportunity to earn PT.
— Jabari’s skill set looks exactly the same as last year, which worries me a lot. Cuonzo complained about his lack of explosiveness, and I agree. On the bright side, he’s a lot more patient and he’s making a more concerted effort to get on the glass.
Keys to the Game:
One of the new habits Coach Martin is trying to instill is the intensity with which our players approach the game. This means running back on D and not getting caught up in the sloppiness of an up/down game. We made some basic execution mistakes on the break last game; this is a good opportunity to get those tightened up.
2) Loose Balls and Rebounds
We should be the bigger and more athletic team. If we don't out-rebound these guys by double-digits, it's on us for lack of effort.
3) Give them the Bird
During the last game, most of our players looked like they had taken a step forward. Curiously enough, Jabari Bird struggled against inferior athletes. Here's an opportunity to regain some confidence before the season opens.
TV: Pac-12 Network