Tonight, the seventh-ranked Purdue Boilermakers welcome the Cal State Northridge Matadors to Mackey Arena for the official season opener for both teams. On both sides of the court, new faces will feature prominently.
As has been discussed frequently in the preseason, Purdue's rotation will need to feature heavy contributions from its four-man scholarship freshman class. D.J. Byrd, Kelsey Barlow, Patrick Bade and the currently-injured Sandi Marcius will need to play big minutes to take heat off of the six returning veterans.
While Northridge cracked the NCAA Tournament field last season and played a very strong game against Memphis, five of their top six scorers departed.
In place of the graduated players, Northridge coach Bobby Braswell has managed to bring in three junior college transfers who averaged a combined 54.4 points per game for their respective schools last season. All three could potentially be in the starting lineup against Purdue.
6'8" forward Lenny Daniel averaged 17.5 points and eight rebounds for Coffeyville CC in Coffeyville, KS. 6'5" Kevin Menner recorded 19.3 and 7.9 for Saddleback CC in Mission Viejo, CA. Finally, 6'5" swingman Rashaun McLemore averaged 17.6 points a night for Frank Phillips College in Borger, TX.
Even Northridge's returnees don't have a lot of Division 1 miles on them. 6'8" forward Willie Galick, who is likely to start in the middle for the Matadors tonight, is the only returning player to appear in more than 25 games last season. He and point guard Mark Hill are the only two to average more than 20 minutes per game in last season's action.
Lewis Jackson's suspension deprives us of a great little-man matchup against the 5'11" Hill, but the bigger Keaton Grant may be even more able to slow Hill down.
Hill's backup, Vinnie McGhee, is another new face, transferring in from Sacramento State, where he averaged 12.1 points and 5.1 assists in winning Big Sky Freshman of the Year honors in 2007-08.
Like Purdue, Northridge doesn't have a lot in the way of size. Seven-footer Xavier Crawford, who averaged a whopping 5.6 minutes per game in 25 appearances last season, is the only Matador over 6'8". Galick's matchup with JaJuan Johnson could go a long way toward propelling Johnson into the top five of Purdue's career blocked shots list (he has 112, and needs three to pass Brandon Brantley).
While Purdue has to rely on youngsters to fill many of the complementary roles, CSUN will be expecting inexperienced D-1 players to play a large share of the minutes overall. It's for this reason that tonight's game may not be as big a trap as some might expect.
Forecast: Purdue 80, Cal State Northridge 61.
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