Grand Canyon basketball to host NCAA runnerup San Diego State on Dec. 5

Grand Canyon University head coach Bryce Drew watches an NCAA Selection Show watch party at GCU Arena in Phoenix on March 12, 2023.
Grand Canyon University head coach Bryce Drew watches an NCAA Selection Show watch party at GCU Arena in Phoenix on March 12, 2023.

Grand Canyon's men's basketball team will have a chance to make a big splash Dec. 5 at home, when the Antelopes are set to play San Diego State, which made a wild run to the NCAA championship last season, before falling to Connecticut.

GCU announced its home non-conference schedule on Thursday.

This is the first time GCU will host a team that reached the Final Four the previous season.

"Since we've been here, it's definitely the most attractive schedule," GCU fourth-year coach Bryce Drew said in a school release. "We're playing quite a few really good teams. Obviously, San Diego State will be an incredible night here with a national runner-up, so that's pretty special."

GCU, coming off its second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years, will play a home exhibition Nov. 1 against Prescott's Embry-Riddle, before starting the regular season against Southeast Missouri State, which also made it to the dance last year.

Five of GCU's six regular-season home non-conference opponents either won a conference regular-season title, captured their conference tournament title or reached the conference tourney final.

One of those teams was Northern Arizona, which the Lopes will host on Nov. 12, a team that features former Phoenix Sunnyslope High star guard Oakland Fort and is led by former Mesa High coach Shane Burcar. NAU made a surprising run to the Big Sky Tournament final last season.

The Lopes will play neutral site games Nov. 17-19 at Glendale's Desert Diamond Arena against San Francisco and either South Carolina or DePaul in the Arizona Tip-Off.

On Nov. 25, GCU will play host to North Dakota State, which reached the Summit League tournament final last year for the fifth straight season and returns seven of its top eight scorers.

The Dec. 5 showdown with San Diego State features an Aztecs team coming off a Final Four appearance and going 32-7. The Aztecs had one of the best defenses in the nation last year and return Lamont Butler, who hit a buzzer-beating shot in the national semifinals. Former Seattle U guard Darrion Trammell, whom the Lopes have seen in the WAC, also returns to the SDSU backcourt.

Former Sunnyslope forward Elijah Saunders, who helped lead the Vikings to the state championship three seasons ago with Fort, returns home as part of the Aztecs.

GCU won at San Diego State 52-45 in 2015, and then beat the Aztecs at GCU Arena the following season, 76-72, behind DeWayne Russell and Oscar Frayer, who combined for 40 points.

Current San Diego State coach Brian Dutscher was an assistant coach at SDSU then. In his six years as head coach, SDSU has averaged 25 wins.

"It will be a great opportunity nationally to have more people hear about our program and our school," Drew said.

Drew has rebuilt his roster for a third straight offseason, but he'll return a strong nucleus in leading score Ray Harrison and forward Gabe McGlothan and with the return of point guard Jovan Blacksher Jr., who was out since Jan. 5 with a torn ACL that required surgery.

Former Chandler Valley Christian star guard Caleb Shaw, who made The Republic's All-Arizona team two years ago, transferred in from Northern Colorado State. He's a smart, athletic shooting guard who can get to the rim and shoot lights out.

Big man Duke Brennan transferred in from Arizona State.

Former Louisville big Sydney Curry, 6-foot-8, 270 pounds, also transferred in, along with former 6-9 Oregon forward Lok Wur.

Guards Collin Moore and Tyon Grant-Foster also should give the Lopes a lift after transferring from Georgia State and DePaul, respectively.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: GCU basketball to host NCAA runnerup San Diego State on Dec. 5