Vandy braces for dangerous CSU-Northridge team

VandyMania's VeeMan gives an in-depth breakdown of Vanderbilt next opponent, the Cal State-Northridge Matadors. Northridge has all five starters back and is picked by many experts to finish at the top of the Big West Conference. <P><i>Tipoff is Tuesday at 7 p.m. CST. Ticket information: 322-GOLD. Radio: 104.5 FM</i> <i>

The Vanderbilt Commodores won their second game of the year Sunday evening, trouncing the Tennessee State Tigers 87-65. And for the second time, the victory came more easily than expected, largely due to fourteen Vanderbilt three-pointers. Seven different players connected from outside as the team breezed to a 43-29 halftime lead, and then maintained a comfortable second half margin. Mario Moore fired in 19 points and Jason Holwerda 17 to lead the way. Everything went the Commodores way except for rebounding, the Tigers winning the battle of the boards 34-25.

The California State at Northridge Matadors are the second opponent for Vanderbilt in the Las Vegas Invitational (the Tennessee State game was also part of it). The Invitational has exempt status, and Vanderbilt will play four games in it, two in Nashville and two in Las Vegas, thereby getting to play 30 regular season games instead of the usual 27. This will be the first meeting between the two schools in men's basketball.

Cal State Northridge is located in southern California and years ago the school was called "San Fernando Valley State." It is a member of the Big West Conference, and had a record of 14-16 last season (7-11 in conference play). With all five starters returning this year, the Matadors are among the favorites to win the conference title. Bobby Braswell, the head coach of Northridge, has held the position for nine years, and has an aggregate record of 125-110.

Northridge has played one game this season, losing 82-72 at Oklahoma, after leading 35-34 at halftime. The Matadors extended the Sooners to the limit, and it took a rally of nine consecutive points to give Oklahoma the lead to keep with less than three minutes remaining.

The star for Northridge is 6-6 senior Ian Boylan. He averaged 14.5 ppg and nearly four rebounds last season, and is probably the best player in the BWC. He can shoot the three (37.8%), go to the basket, and hits 80% of his numerous free throws. His running mate at the other wing, 6-5 freshman Calvin Chitwood, made eight of nine shots from the field against Oklahoma, and topped the team in scoring with 19. These two players will likely receive the defensive attentions of the two best defensive players for the Commodores, Jason Holwerda and Corey Smith.

The Matadors are well-stocked with mid-sized players. 6-6 senior Eto Onyenegecha was the second leading scorer last season (13.0 ppg), but did not start against Oklahoma. Also available are highly regarded 6-5 freshman Jonathan Heard, 6-5 sophomore Terrell Jones (3.3 ppg last season), and 6-4 freshman Ryan Walton.

Northridge's biggest player is 6-10 Thomas Shewmake, a powerful 265 lbs sophomore, and a coming star. He averaged 8.9 ppg and 6.6 rebounds in his first season, and has to stay out of foul trouble because there isn't much size to back him up under the basket. Most of his help will come from 6-8 Sal Vance, a JUCO transfer from Skyline College. 6-8 Austin Waggoner got into 25 games as a freshman and averaged 0.8 ppg.

6-1 senior Davin White is the point guard and a good scorer (12.7 ppg and 36.0% from three-point territory in 2003-04). However his assist to turnover ratio was only 1.1 and Boylan actually had considerably more assists than he did. 6-2 senior Joseph Frazier is the shooting guard and scored 12.2 ppg, making 38.1% of his threes. 5-10 junior Bakari Altheimer, who is a transfer from Santa Clara where he averaged 10.2 ppg as a sophomore starter, is likely to soon edge his way into the starting lineup. He is very fast and quick, and will probably prove to be a better playmaker than White. Two freshmen, 6-3 Greg Okwudibonye and 6-1 Robert Locke, are two other backcourt players of promise.

In summary, Northridge has good depth except that they have only one really big man. They were able to stay on the boards with Oklahoma (29-31), but rebounding could be an Achilles heel and defense was the main concern before the season began. They have plenty of firepower and Boylan is the focus of the offense. Obviously they are an experienced team.

For Vanderbilt, the keys to victory are to dominate the backboards and not let any of the several Matador scoring threats go on a big tear. Another hot-shooting performance wouldn't hurt. This looks to be the most dangerous opponent that the Commodores will face among their first three. The prediction is for a tougher test than either Toledo or Tennessee State provided, but Vanderbilt should win by seven to twelve points. Top Stories