The Sacramento State and UC Davis men's basketball teams open the season tonight in decidedly different venues.
Sac State will host UC Merced at the Nest, the Hornets' 1,200-seat gym, at 7:05 p.m.
UC Davis is in Stillwater, Okla., to play Oklahoma State in the Cowboys' 13,611-seat Gallagher-Iba Arena. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. The building is referred to as the "Madison Square Garden of the Plains" and is where legendary coach and innovator Henry Iba guided two national championship teams.
The Nest isn't known as anything other than an outdated box where Sac State coach Brian Katz hopes to turn around the Hornets' fortunes and make what is a decided disadvantage, in terms of revenue generation and recruiting, into a positive, in terms of success and notoriety.
"If I had it (money), I'd write the check," Katz said of financing a new facility. "We seat 1,200, and we typically don't get that many. But 1,200 screaming fans can be absolutely devastating for opponents. We need to continue developing the program so we can draw 1,200 every game, and then what is perceived as a disadvantage will become an advantage."
Katz believes this season's team has a good chance of generating the buzz that comes with winning. The team thrashed visiting Simpson 88-55 in an exhibition game Oct. 30. Katz returns all five starters from a 2011-12 squad that finished 10-18 overall and 5-11 in the Big Sky Conference. Three of the Hornets' first four games are at home.
"We can't control things like facilities, and the administration is aware of the issue and trying to get something new," Katz said. "But what we can control is preparing and playing hard for 29 games this season, and that will create a product that people want to see."
Katz conceded that the gym, probably no better than half of the high school gyms in the area, is a deterrent to recruiting.
Then again, Katz isn't going head-to-head against Kentucky coach John Calipari for prep blue-chippers with Rupp Arena the deciding factor.
"(The gym) will never be an excuse for me or the players," Katz said. "The game is still two rims and a ball. There will be a winner and a loser."
Early signing for basketball recruits opens next week, and Katz said he has a verbal commitment from a highly sought-after local prep player. He expects the player to sign Wednesday morning.
"(The signing) will turn some heads," Katz said.
Aggies opener Oklahoma State and UC Davis have met one other time, and the Aggies would rather forget. UC Davis lost 85-41 and committed 25 turnovers on Dec. 18, 1993, also at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Aggies won both of their exhibition games this season, thumping UC Santa Cruz 82-50 on Nov. 1 and Menlo 97-76 on Tuesday.
Oklahoma State has won 37 consecutive home openers, dating to the 1975-76 season, and is 53-1 in home openers since the 1958-59 season.
At Gallagher-Iba Arena, the Cowboys are 71-3 in home openers.
Women's openers Sac State plays at 7 p.m. tonight at Long Beach State, while UC Davis hosts Pepperdine at 7.
Only the Aggies have played a game so far, a 78-46 win over Redlands.