The Green Bay team the Coyotes will play tonight is likely one of the best teams to play at the Dome since the transition to Division I began. Certainly the NDSU and SDSU squads that have made appearances the last two years would also be included in that group, but as the favorite – albeit, slight favorite – to win a Horizon League title, Green Bay represents a particularly difficult matchup.
Of note so far is a three-point loss to Wisconsin. The Badgers, now ranked No. 4 in the AP poll, have beaten everyone. Their closest game was a 69-66 win over the Phoenix.
Across the front, Green Bay starts Forrest Gregg, Gale Gillingham, Fuzzy Thurston, Jerry Kramer and …. Nevermind.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the Coyotes handle 7-1 Alec Brown, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to Eastern Michigan earlier this week. Even at the Division I level, you just don’t see guys that tall too often anymore. There was a time when the 7-footers were very often the cornerstones of a lot of good college teams but they’ve been replaced by 6-9 guys for the most part.
Green Bay’s best player is Keifer Sykes, a 5-11 guard who averages 21.4 points a game. Much of the offense goes through this junior, who has won the Horizon League player of the week honor seven times.
Sykes, who is already over 1,000 points for his career, and Brown were a combined 14-of-18 from the field in a 72-57 win over USD last year in Green Bay. Trevor Gruis led USD with 18 points in that contest, hitting 8-of-11 from the field.
One of Green Bay’s assistant coaches is Jimmie Foster, a former Coyote player who graduated from USD in 2002. According to the Green Bay notes, he tore his Achilles at practice this week and won’t be making the trip.
That’s unfortunate if for no other reason than I could ask him about the time he knocked USD president Jim Abbott out of his chair while going for a loose basketball. A memorable Dome moment. Both Jims were OK on that deal. I remember getting a quote from Foster regarding the incident but I don’t think I got one from the president. I do remember thinking that if I was going to get run over by someone, Foster would not have been my first pick. He was about 6-4, 220 and he had quick feet.
In watching the Coyotes the last few games, it seems like we have a few things pretty well established. USD has three players in the starting lineup who, a great percentage of the time, are going to be productive no matter what team they’re facing.
Gruis, with the Kansas State game the most recent evidence, looks like he’s going to have the all-conference kind of a year most would predict of him as a senior who is a four-year starter. Brandon Bos, though he struggled with his shooting against Kansas State, is another who is going to be capable of taking – and making – a lot of tough shots this year. To that list I’d add Trey Norris, who has not appeared to be overwhelmed at all so far. It’s a safe bet to say you’re looking at someone who will get a lot of assists and very few turnovers. How many points he ends up scoring is not so clear, but he’s intimidated by defensive pressure.
The keys to measuring how good this team will ultimately be this year will be dependent on how well the other fellows play. If Tyler Flack and Adam Thoseby – who had 16 points against Kansas State – can become the kind of players other coaches have to start focusing on, USD could somehow, some way begin winning games that don’t go down to the last shot.
The margin for error has been incredibly small for this program since the transition began. It would be a real trip to see a team that occasionally wins games because they are just plain better than the other team.
Live chat of the game this evening will begin around 7 p.m. Go to www.argusleader.com