November 28, 2007 – The Vikings celebrate their first win at the Chiles Center 78-73 on their way to the NCAA tournament while the Pilots experience an awful 9-22 season. November 18, 2008 – Though not expected to do much this season, the Pilots come to the Stott Center a very legitimate threat off their home upset of the Washington Huskies. Though both teams would like to win, the game isnâ€™t key to eitherâ€™s season. Therefore, the Vikings need it more to build confidence on the home court.
PSU: Jamie Jones UP: Kramer Knutson/Luke Sikma
Knutson started 30 of 31 games for the Pilots last season, averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds. Saturday nightâ€™s 10 point 4 rebound performance indicates that those numbers might improve this year. Jones was very solid, going for a double-double (13 points, 13 boards) in the opener. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he should be able to excel in this match-up. However, if he has to play tough defense on a player like Sikma, his offensive production may suffer.
PSU: Kyle Coston UP: Robin Smeulders
Tyrell had a huge game at the Chiles Center last year, draining five 3 point baskets and pulling down 7 rebounds. Smeulders, the new Pilot star, was limited to 3 points and 4 rebounds in 22 minutes. This yearâ€™s match-up sees a slightly different set of circumstances, as Smeulders wonâ€™t have to contend with Morrison inside, and Coston replacing Mara in the starting lineup. The only way I see the Vikings duplicating last seasonâ€™s success against Smeulders is if they can find a way to get him into foul trouble.
PSU: Phil Nelson UP: Ethan Niedermeyer
What should we expect from Phil Nelson after the Rice game? A marked improvement. Nelson shot the ball much better in the exhibition, and should get a lot more fast break opportunities in a game against a team that focuses less on defense and controlling the pace. He is matched-up against Ethan Niedermeyer, a player that has improved each year in every meaningful category. His skill may be close to on par, but he canâ€™t compete with Nelson from an athleticism standpoint. If the Viks can get out and run a lot in this one, Nelson could really exploit this match-up.
PSU: Andre Murray/Dominic Waters UP: Nik Raivio
Raivio put together a very solid game against the Vikings last year, scoring 20 points on 8-15 shooting. Andre Murray and Dominic Waters will try to change that outcome on Tuesday. Based on their efforts against Rice, one might contend that is a possibility. However, the Viks will have to overcome the height advantage that Raivio will have at 6â€™4â€. Another factor is Murrayâ€™s ability to stay in the game after logging only 9 minutes in Houston.
PSU: Jeremiah Dominguez UP: T.J. Campbell
Just when you think youâ€™ve seen everything from Dominguez, he produces something amazing. It happened on Saturday when he carried the Vikings to victory. He slammed the door on Riceâ€™s late comeback attempt with a step-back three ball with just over a minute to go. What can he do to surprise us now? Weâ€™ll just have to watch on Tuesday night. Campbell is an interesting match-up, because Dominguez usually goes up against players that are around 6 feet tall. At 5â€™9â€ Campbell possesses a similar skill set to that of Dominguez in that he is a strong outside shooter, a good passer, and gets a lot of steals. If he or Ito can produce anything against Dominguez, Iâ€™m sure the Pilots fans will be happy.
One big question mark is Luke Sikma, who completely dominated the Vikings on the inside last year with 12 points and 14 boards, but has gradually seen a role reduction since that point. If Sikma can find some way to rekindle that magic, it will go a long way towards keeping this one close, especially if Smeulders and Knutson have as much trouble as they did in last yearâ€™s contest. Jared Stohl and Taishi Ito may see some meaningful minutes for the Pilots if the Viking guards can overwhelm Pilot defenders like they did the Owls. Even with Sikma available for the Pilots, I have to side with the Vikings on this one. With players like Mara, Waters, and Thomas, who all possess extreme versatility, they can really allow any of the starters significant time away and not miss a beat.
Iâ€™m hesitant about picking this one because the Pilots look like a much better team than the one who the Vikings beat last season. The Vikings three most important players from last yearâ€™s contest are also out of the starting lineup. (Mara, Huff, Morrison) However, if the Viks can shut down Smeulders or Raivio, it could also be a rout. Iâ€™m going to go with the Viks in a fast-paced battle that mimics last yearâ€™s cross-town clash.
PSU: 85 UP: 80