BY JEREMY HOECK
For a team trying to further distance itself from a 6-game losing streak (a 3-game winning streak since certainly helps), this weekend is a rather big one in terms of confidence for the USD men’s basketball team.
Two Summit League home games in the DakotaDome.
One against the cellar dweller and the next against a rising team that has cracked the mid-major top 25 poll.
It all starts Thursday night when the Coyotes (6-9, 1-0) host IUPUI (5-14, 0-2) at 7 p.m. That appears to be one of those games where if you do your job and play relatively clean, you should be able to come away with a win.
Than again, anything can happen in conference play.
The Jaguars, picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll, dropped their first two league games at home last weekend — by 16 to South Dakota State and by 23 to North Dakota State.
IUPUI’s only win since mid-December was a 62-point throttling of lower-level Judson. Otherwise it’s already been a rough season in Indianapolis. The Jaguars do boast the league’s second-leading scorer in Ian Chiles (17.1) and second-leading rebounder in Marcellus Barksdale (7.1), but don’t appear to be much of a threat.
USD’s opponent on Saturday afternoon, however, is playing like a contender.
Fort Wayne (14-5, 2-0) comes to Vermillion after a sweep last weekend of the other Dakota schools, 82-71 over NDSU and 82-75 over SDSU.
The Mastodons vaulted themselves to No. 23 in this week’s CollegeInsider mid-major top 25 poll, giving the Summit two ranked teams (NDSU dropped to No. 10).
You don’t want to assume anything, but a pair of solid performances by the Coyotes could have them 3-0 in league play — a nice feather in the cap for a program picked to finish seventh.
Coaches and players at USD have talked a lot lately about how important it is for them to be at home (what team wouldn’t say that?), but for the Coyotes, you could see why they believe that.
USD played nine of its first 12 games away from Vermillion.
Following this weekend’s games, the Coyotes will sneak away for two conference games on the road, only to then come back to Vermillion for three games.
So we’ll see just how much the home court helps USD this weekend.