There’s that old saying about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.
That’s partially true with SDSU and USD in basketball.
Both have made the move to Division I and the Coyotes are almost fully clear of the “transition status” that weighed down SDSU for a period in the last decade. Coming back to play an old foe — one with so much history — makes the opportunity unique.
“We haven’t been in touch with what they have done and I’m sure they haven’t been watching what we’re doing. I never looked down the road to see what they were doing or what they were changing,” Nagy said.
The state of affairs is not quite as rosy as it was just a week ago for the Jackrabbits men. After a pounding at the hands of Oral Roberts to knock SDSU from the tier of the conference undefeated, the Jacks are headed back to square one.
“We have two conference home games this week and especially after that bad loss down in Tulsa, we have to come in here and play hard,” said Tony Fiegen, who grew up in nearby Madison.
SDSU’s women’s basketball team won’t focus on the Coyotes until after they play on Saturday against UMKC. Even then, the prospects of playing the in-state foe are appetizing.
“We’re looking forward to that men’s game and we’re fortunate to play in it as well. USD is playing great and it will be a great game in a fun atmosphere,” SDSU women’s basketball coach Aaron Johnston said.
For many of the players that were able to witness the previous games in the series, the atmosphere that came along with the matchups are still memorable.
“You knew about them and you kind of planned your schedule around them,” Brookings native Brayden Carlson said of the USD series. “You just wanted to be a part of the seven or eight-thousand people that were here on a Thursday or Saturday night.”
“I attended a lot of those games and the atmosphere and the intensity is great because of the crowds that those games draw. We need to be able to take that energy and infuse it into our play,” Fiegen said.
Carlson said plenty of people have reminded him about this weekend that has been approaching on the calendar.
“For the community and the coaches that have been around it longer like Coach Nagy and [assistant coach Austin] Hansen, I think we all definitely realize the magnitude of the game,” he said. “And those guys who haven’t been around as long are starting to realize how big this game is to people.”
The women recently met with USD at Frost Arena, with the Coyotes coming to Brookings on Feb. 15, 2010. SDSU won the game, 67-48 in front of 5,246 people and the environment this week will likely be similar.
“That rivalry goes back and it’s really nice to have it back in men’s and women’s basketball,” Johnston said.
For Nagy, he wants the fans and the players to keep the games in perspective.
“It’s important to our program and it’s important to their program and to the athletic departments because there is a lot of money involved and pride and all of those things. But at the end of the day, it’s a basketball game.”