MEN’s BASKETBALL: Tops open tomorrow

Danny Schoenbaechler

The Darrin Horn era is set to begin on Friday, but this season may be more defined by three seniors.

The new coach brings in a new style and more fiery demeanor, but the senior class will determine how well this season goes.

Mike Wells has been around the Hill for more than four years, and this is his year to shine. Wells is joined by two seniors who didn’t play last year, Todor Pandov and Nigel Dixon.

After injuring his knee in the first game, Pandov was lost for the rest of last season, and Dixon was sitting out a year after transferring from Florida State.

Now a guard, a forward and a center hold the fate of this Topper squad.

Friday’s season opener will give Western a quick taste of what big-time basketball is like.

The Toppers open at 7 p.m. Friday at Auburn, a team who crashed the Sweet 16 last March.

Auburn also boasts a huge front line, unlike any Sun Belt Conference team Dixon will face this year.

But he isn’t intimidated.

“I played in the ACC for three years,” Dixon said. “I’m used to it.”

The Atlantic Coast Conference is one of the most revered basketball conferences in the land, but so is the Southeastern Conference.

“I think it’s great to have them right away,” Horn said.

The Tigers’ front line includes 6-feet-10-inch center Kyle David, 6-feet-8-inch Brandon Robinson and 6-feet-7-inch Marco Killingsworth.

At 6 feet, 11 inches and 320 pounds, Dixon can bang with any big man in the nation, and Pandov’s 6-feet-9-inch, 230-pound frame is adequate.

The biggest match-up appears to be at the traditional small forward spot. Robinson will probably be forced to check either Wells or sophomore Anthony Winchester. Winchester is listed at 6 feet, 4 inches and Wells is 6 feet, 3 inches.

Horn expects the size discrepancy to be a major factor in the outcome.

“The fact that Nigel Dixon is a force inside and we have perimeter guys that can play makes us hard to match with,” Horn said.

The game is just one of a tough early season schedule for the Toppers.

Western will next play Virginia Commonwealth, Mississippi State and Louisville in one of the toughest early season schedules in recent memory.

Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]