USD basketball releases 2015-16 schedule

Noah Hilton | Contributor

Calling all basketball fans, it’s time to mark your calendars. Just days after the excitement of the football team’s much anticipated matchup against crosstown rival San Diego State, the athletic department made headlines again.

The University of San Diego men’s basketball team created a buzz by releasing their schedule for the upcoming season. This season will mark the beginning of new head coach Lamont Smith’s career at his alma mater.

It turns out that Smith will have more than a few games under his belt before his team plays a meaningful game in front of their home crowd.

After opening the season at home on Nov. 7 with an exhibition against lightly regarded Cal Tech of Division 3, the team will be sure to rack up frequent flyer miles by spending the next month on the road.

After playing at University of Southern California, Western Michigan, and Cal State Fullerton, the team will travel to Anchorage, Alaska for the GCI Great Alaska Shootout.

This tournament in Anchorage will feature teams such as the Toledo Rockets, San Jose State Spartans, and Drexel Dragons.

The University of North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs and Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, two teams that have combined for three NCAA Tournament appearances in the last five seasons, will also be taking part in the festivities. 

The team will finally play its home opener on Dec. 2 against Bethesda, a small NCCAA school from Anaheim.  The game should serve as a good final tune-up before the team’s annual rivalry game against San Diego State on Dec. 5.

This year, the game will be played at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.

The team will follow that up with three home contests against Denver, UC Davis, and Cal State Northridge before opening up its conference schedule on New Year’s Eve at Pacific.

Over the first few months of 2016, the Toreros will face the usual suspects of the West Coast Conference. In an interview this summer with CBS Sports, head coach Lamont Smith spoke about his players’ approach to the challenges of the WCC.

“You come here, you’ve got a Division I scholarship, you want to beat Gonzaga, you want to beat BYU,” Smith said. “If we can get some mojo going, I believe people will come out and support us.”

Of the 14 games to be played at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, three in particular stand out as can’t miss events.  On Jan. 28, the Toreros will look to avenge last year’s WCC tournament loss with a home win over Pepperdine, and will hope to replicate last season’s upset victory over BYU in a Feb. 18 game.

This collision with the Cougars is scheduled to be televised on ESPNU.  Finally, the seniors of the team, Duda Sanadze and Jito Kok, will play their final home games on Senior Day against Portland on Feb. 27.

Of course, to contend for a conference title, the team will need to come up big in games against perennial powers Gonzaga and St. Mary’s as well. The Toreros will host both of those decorated programs in February.

This season will mark many new beginnings for USD basketball. The departures of school record-holders Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson create an opportunity for a new pair of guards to get their time in starting roles.

The unusually busy travel schedule has enough mileage to match the school’s well-traveled football team, and a former Torero will be in charge of it all as new head coach.

The feeling around the JCP is that this could be the start of something big, and fans won’t want to miss a minute of the action.