Brianna Campbell / The Collegian
Fresno Stateâ€™s menâ€™s basketball team will face an opponent they havenâ€™t played in 35 years as they begin the season against the San Francisco State Gators tonight at the Save Mart Center.
The two teams havenâ€™t met since the 1974-75 season. The â€™Dogs won that matchup, 90-57, tying the series at 14-14.
The new generation Bulldogs have no experience against the Gators, so the players said they will have to prepare more extensively for tonightâ€™s game.
Bulldog forward Paul George said that he and his teammate have only been able to watch some game film on the Gators.
â€œWe havenâ€™t had the chance to get a glimpse on them but we have to be prepared,â€ George said. â€œWe canâ€™t take any team lightly.â€
The Bulldogs are coming into this season a more experienced team. Bulldog guard Brandon Sperling said the team is now more confident in its potential.
â€œEveryone understands the game better,â€ Sperling said. â€œWeâ€™re more confident and weâ€™re definitely an up-tempo team. Once you have a year playing under your belt, you become a more comfortable shooter, a more comfortable defender.â€
Experience will play a factor in the teamâ€™s success, since the players now have more knowledge on the pace and predictability of the game.
â€œWeâ€™ve definitely matured as a team and I do feel Iâ€™ve matured as a player,â€ George said. â€œOne of the lessons I learned from last season is the difference between making a good decision and a bad decision on the court.â€
One of the advantages of the Bulldogs this year is the return of one of their strongest players, Mychal Ladd. George described him as the determining factor of the team.
In their preseason game against Fresno Pacific, the sophomore guard scored 22 points and a block.
â€œMike is a strong player,â€ George said. â€œHeâ€™s definitely the X factor in our team and his performance will determine on how far we can go this season.â€
Womenâ€™s team is on the road
Tonight, the back-to-back Western Athletic Conference (WAC) champions will be taking on the back-to-back Big West champions to open up the 2009-10 season.
The Fresno State womenâ€™s basketball team will start off the season with an eight-game road trip, starting with their game at UC Santa Barbara tonight.
Assistant coach Brett Frank said since the Bulldogs won the WAC tournament last season, opponents will be putting in their best effort to bring tough competition.
The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos wonâ€™t be any different.
â€œPeople donâ€™t boo nobodies,â€ Frank said. â€œWe have been the team that had great success and as such, all the other teams will be giving us their best shots.â€
The Bulldogs lead the series against the Gauchos 19-8. The last time they faced each other was in 2008 and the Bulldogs won 71-45.
According to Frank, the teamâ€™s biggest strength this year is the return of all five starters.
This will be an advantage for the Bulldogs since the Gauchos are currently going through a transition phase with the departures of their five key players.
The Gauchosâ€™ current lineup consists mostly of freshmen, a disadvantage that will plague them when they face the seniors and juniors on the team.
Bulldogsâ€™ guard LaShay Fears said the team is confident going into this season as the WAC champions, but they still have to be fully prepared for their upcoming opponents.
â€œWe have a lot of competition ahead of us because we know weâ€™re the team to beat,â€ Fears said. â€œThat is why weâ€™ve got to come out hard and give it all weâ€™ve got.â€
Australian newcomer Rosie Moult, who recently made her Bulldog debut in their game against Fresno Pacific, said sheâ€™s still adjusting to the fast pace of American basketball, but sheâ€™s excited to be playing this season with a championship team.
â€œEveryone in the court is very competitive,â€ Moult said. â€œThere is pressure but it just pushes me harder to play up to their expectations.â€