WICHITA, Kan. — The Cal State Northridge basketball team and George Bush face similar challenges as they take to the trail in search of campaign success. At least, that's the feeling one gets when CSUN Coach Pete Cassidy maps out the strategy his Matadors will employ during their two-game Midwest swing that begins tonight against Wichita State and ends Monday at Kansas State.
"The challenge is not to wimp out or belly up," said Cassidy, whose team faces a pair of Division I opponents, both of whom qualified for the NCAA playoffs last season. "It's an emotional challenge and there can be tremendous growth if you go in with the right attitude."
CSUN defeated Cal Lutheran, 78-67, Tuesday in its opening game. Cassidy was pleased with some aspects of his team's play, but the Matadors' 35% shooting wasn't one of them.
"Thirty-five percent is 3% more than a dead man could shoot," Cassidy said. "We were overanxious at times in our shot selection. Hopefully, we'll outgrow that."
Wichita State, which will be playing its first game, will have the services of five of the eight top players who helped the Shockers to a 22-11 record in Eddie Fogler's first season as coach. Sasha Radunovich, a 6-9 junior center from Yugoslavia, was the team's best player down the stretch, averaging 18 points over the final eight games. Steve Grayer, a 6-8 junior forward, averaged 8.9 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Wichita State has won 14 consecutive games in Levitt Arena.
"I've seen tapes on them from last year and they're excellent," said Cassidy, who is in his 16th season with the Matadors. "They have size and strength and they play hard."
Kansas State, which is competing this weekend in the Sun Met Classic in Fresno, returns home to 37-year old Ahearn Field House to play the Matadors on Monday.
Kansas State was 22-11 last season under first-year Coach Lon Kruger. The Wildcats lost All-Big Eight Conference forward Norris Coleman to the NBA but there is still plenty of talent returning.
Mitch Richmond, a 6-5 senior guard, averaged 18.6 points a game last season. In Kansas State's postseason contests he scored 34 points and had 11 rebounds in an 82-79 win over Georgia, then followed with 19 points and 14 rebounds in an 80-61 loss to Nevada Las Vegas.
"There's no question we're overmatched," Cassidy said. "They're supposed to be better. That's what it says in the book, they're Division I."
Cassidy isn't discounting the possibility of an upset or two. He's just not relying heavily on that happening.
"I don't rule us out of anything," he said. "I just hope we play hard, play smart and not break our concentration for 40 minutes. If we do that and don't break, I'll be satisfied with the result."