For the third time this season, CSUN will face an opponent from one of the six major college conferences as the Matadors open the 76 Classic against Virginia Tech Thursday afternoon at the Anaheim Convention Center.
This will be the first time in school history that Northridge (1-2) faces the Hokies (2-1) and a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
For Matador seniors Lenny Daniel and Rashaun McLemore, the game against Virginia Tech will be special, as they both resided in Richmond, Virginia.
During the offseason, the 6-foot-5 guard McLemore was eager about facing the ACC team from his home state, but his demeanor has changed.
After the victory against Vanguard Saturday, McLemore was all business, saying he wouldn’t take the game personally and simply “treat it like another game.”
For Daniel, who played against a few Hokies in high school, it’s another game to improve on after only scoring a combined two points against UCLA and Cal.
The 6-foot-8 forward said he isn’t trying to redeem himself against the major conference opponents in the 76 Classic.
“I’m excited to play (Virginia Tech) but last year I struggled too at the beginning of the year,” Daniel said. “I’m not going to say it’s the teams because we played some tough teams last year and I still wasn’t producing.”
Daniel was able to break out of his funk versus the Lions scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
“Sometimes the ball doesn’t go your way, but I’ve been in the gym the last couple of nights and my teammates have been doing a good job giving me the ball in the right places,” Daniel said. “I just need to make more shots and go into the (76 Classic) confident.”
Along with Northridge and Virginia Tech, the 76 Classic consist of DePaul (Big East), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Oklahoma State (Big 12), Stanford (Pac-10), Tulsa (Conference USA), and UNLV (Mountain West).
Murray State, Oklahoma State and UNLV competed in the NCAA Tournament last March.
CSUN will surely be an underdog during the Thanksgiving weekend tournament, but the Matadors aren’t concerned about what conferences their opponents represent.
“Competition is competition, only difference is they are from the ACC, Big 12 and other major conferences,” Daniel said. “We look at it as an opportunity to show everybody what we got and that we have a good team that can compete with anybody in the country.”
Senior point guard Dathan Lyles said basketball teams are all similar.
“They are no different from us, they put on the shoes and jerseys just like us and when that ball tips off we play,” Lyles said.
CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell will be familiar with Virginia Tech’s style of play since he use to work under Hokie head coach Seth Greenberg.
Braswell was an assistant coach for Greenberg at Long Beach State during the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons.
“This will be the first time I play against Seth. It will be interesting and fun,” Braswell said about Greenberg. “He has done a great job everywhere he’s been, so he is a great coach. I know he’s going to have his guys ready and I know it’s not going to be easy, it will be difficult.”
Greenberg, who is in his eighth season at Virginia Tech, has built the Hokies into a legit contender in the ACC. Last season the Hokies finished fourth in the ACC.
To start the season, the Hokies were ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Recently Virginia Tech, who was picked by the media to finish second in the ACC, has fallen out of the top 25 after losing to fourth-ranked Kansas State last week.
Depending on if CSUN loses or wins against the Hokies, they will face the winner or loser from the DePaul-Oklahoma State game Friday. CSUN’s third opponent Sunday will be determined after Friday’s results.