Dec. 11, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Like most Division I college basketball coaches, Dick Davey constructs a schedule for his team that will provide the best chance to improve as the season progresses.
Part of that maturation process are benchmark games that give the program a snapshot of where their progress lies at that particular time.
If there was ever a preseason benchmark week for this year's Bronco basketball program, this is it.
Santa Clara plays consecutive road games at arguably two of the country's most difficult venues for opposing teams this week. The Broncos travel to Eugene, Ore. for a Tuesday night 7 p.m. contest against the University of Oregon at McArthur Court then to Chapel Hill, N.C. for a Saturday night 5 p.m. (Pacific) game against defending national champion North Carolina in the Dean Smith Center.
Tickets to each of Santa Clara's WCC games are on sale now by calling 408/554-4660 or clicking here.
The Broncos enter Tuesday's game with a 4-2 record after defeating Cal Poly by a score of 73-58 Saturday night at the Leavey Center. Travis Niesen surpassed the 20-point mark for the fifth successive game with a 21-point, 10-rebound effort. Freshman Calvin Johnson, who joined 6'-11" classmate John Bryant in the starting lineup, poured-in a career-high 25 points and shot 6-for-10 from behind the three-point arc.
Niesen is SCU's leading scorer, averaging 22.2 points per game. The Mission Viejo, Calif. native is also averaging a team-high 6.8 rebounds and 1.33 steals per game and is shooting 47 percent from the field.
Johnson is second on the team with a 10.3 per game scoring average and is shooting 50 percent on 15-for-30 from three-point range. Brody Angley is the team leader in assists with 4.0 per game and has a 2.2 assist/turnover ratio.
Oregon enters Tuesday's game with a 4-3 overall record and a three-game losing streak after dropping an 89-59 decision against the University of Illinois Saturday in the Pape' Jam at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. The Ducks also dropped a one point, 76-75 decision at Vanderbilt and a 71-57 contest at home against Georgetown.
Coached by former Saint Mary's College mentor and Stanford assistant Ernie Kent, the Ducks opened the season with blowout wins over Savannah State (83-23), Bowie State (80-55), Pacific (84-62) and Rice (84-60) - all at home.
Sophomore guard Malik Hairston leads Oregon in scoring with a 15.3 per game average, while backcourt mate Bryce Taylor is the only other scorer in double-figures with an 11.1 mark. Another sophomore, forward Marty Luenen is the team's rebounding leader with an 8.1 average.
Oregon has featured a starting lineup of four sophomores and a junior in each of its seven games this season.
McArthur Court has a reputation as one of the most daunting arenas in all of college basketball. Known as "the Pit," it has been described as one of the toughest arenas in the country for opposing teams to play in. The student section, known as the "Pit Crew," sits courtside and leads a crowd of 9,087 in a unique and antiquated structure has the fans literally on top of the court.
The second oldest on-campus arena still in use, McArthur Court saw its first game on January 14, 1927, a 38-10 Oregon victory over Willamette University.
North Carolina is in the midst of a 10-day break prior to hosting Santa Clara on Saturday and has a 5-1 record and top-25 national ranking. The Tar Heels will be looking for a certain amount of revenge for last year's 77-66 loss to the Broncos in its season opener in the Pete Newell Challenge in Oakland.
UNC did not lose another non-conference game during the season en route to a 33-4 record and the school's fourth national championship in its 96 seasons.
Head coach Roy Williams has started three freshmen in each of North Carolina's six games this season, led by 6'-9" forward Tyler Hansbrough's 16.3 points per game. Junior David Noel is close behind with a 14.5 scoring average and is tied with the freshman for the team's rebounding lead with a 7.5 per game average.
After starting the season 4-0, North Carolina dropped a four point, 68-64 home decision to Illinois before winning at Kentucky (83-79) and at home against Saint Louis (75-63).
The Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center, usually called simply the Dean Smith Center and popularly referred to as the Dean Dome, is a multi-purpose arena that opened in 1986. It is named after former UNC coach Dean Smith, who coached at North Carolina from 1961 to 1997. Smith originally did not want the arena named after him, but was persuaded by the UNC administration and the arena's backers that the drive to fund the building could fail if they did not use his name. The arena originally seated 21,444. Seating adjustments brought capacity to 21,572 in 1992 and 21,750 in 2000. The largest crowd to see a game in the Dean Dome was on February 5, 1998, when 22,050 watched the Tar Heels defeat Duke.
The arena was built to allow more fans to attend Tar Heel basketball games than could fit in then 21-year-old, 10,000-seat Carmichael Auditorium. The Tar Heels have been among the nation's attendance leaders ever since the arena opened. The arena is much more spread-out than Carmichael, making the seats seem far from the floor. However, no seat is more than 150 feet from the floor.