Friday, January 31, 2014

Another preview of Saturday's game

Mark A. Cox game previews the SJSU - New Mexico matchup.

Kirk practiced on Friday

A Friday tweet from Geoff Grammer: "No word on Lobo C Alex Kirk playing Saturday vs San Jose St, but he returned to practice Friday. They'll see how it feels in the morning."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Interesting look at USU's troubles in league

Utah State is finding the Mountain West Conference a zebra of oh so different stripes from the Western Athletic Conference as John Oglesby details, looking at each Aggie conference loss.

Ranking the MWC coaches

Andrew Murawa ranks the Mountain West Conference coaches:
Any time you get around to comparing one coach to another, it’s a shaky situation. Isn’t the real decision about who is the better coach decided on the court? Sure, one coach may have more talent than another, but then again, isn’t pulling in talent part of the job description? So, prior to unveiling my rankings of the coaches in the Mountain West, lets offer up some criteria. For the most part, recruiting is excluded from this analysis. The question that we’ll attempt to answer instead is this: Pick any random team in the country — you don’t know its roster or its strengths and weaknesses — which Mountain West coach would give you the best chance over this and the next couple of seasons to get the most out of those players and leave the program in the best possible place at the end?
Well, here’s one man’s take, feel free to disagree.
- See more at:
Any time you get around to comparing one coach to another, it’s a shaky situation. Isn’t the real decision about who is the better coach decided on the court? Sure, one coach may have more talent than another, but then again, isn’t pulling in talent part of the job description? So, prior to unveiling my rankings of the coaches in the Mountain West, lets offer up some criteria. For the most part, recruiting is excluded from this analysis. The question that we’ll attempt to answer instead is this: Pick any random team in the country — you don’t know its roster or its strengths and weaknesses — which Mountain West coach would give you the best chance over this and the next couple of seasons to get the most out of those players and leave the program in the best possible place at the end?
Well, here’s one man’s take, feel free to disagree.
- See more at:
Any time you get around to comparing one coach to another, it’s a shaky situation. Isn’t the real decision about who is the better coach decided on the court? Sure, one coach may have more talent than another, but then again, isn’t pulling in talent part of the job description? So, prior to unveiling my rankings of the coaches in the Mountain West, lets offer up some criteria. For the most part, recruiting is excluded from this analysis. The question that we’ll attempt to answer instead is this: Pick any random team in the country — you don’t know its roster or its strengths and weaknesses — which Mountain West coach would give you the best chance over this and the next couple of seasons to get the most out of those players and leave the program in the best possible place at the end?

Well, here’s one man’s take, feel free to disagree...
Head here for the remainder of an exercise that is akin to nailing jello to the wall.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's The Pit on Saturday

Opposing teams don't win in The Pit (37 feet below street level), home of the New Mexico Lobos and the location of Saturday's night's game for San Jose State University.

But the Spartans played Coach Craig Neal's team tough a short while ago at home and New Mexico center Alex Kirk may be sidelined. Click here for that game report.

However, the Lobos are coming off a 78-65 triumph over host Utah State -- this without Kirk due to a foot ailment -- so don't look at them as a wounded crew. That game report can be read here.

Because, as Jon Rothstein recently tweeted: "Would have a hard time believing that New Mexico's Cameron Bairstow isn't worthy of All-American consideration. Not a lot of PF's better."

Barstow is averaging 20.4 points plus 6.9 rebounds while point Kendall Williams is posting 18.0 points an outing with a total of 107 assists.

But that's it for consistent impact players or stars if you will.

Hugh Greenwood, Cleveland Thomas, Deshawn Delaney, Cullen Neal and Obij Aget are peripheral talents, guys who can make solid contributions but not necessarily every night out.

As is being repeated, Coach Neal's guys are not going to physically wear down an opponent. That gives SJSU a chance. But anyone currently residing at 16-4 overall, 7-1 in conference play is definitely solid and the Spartans are lacking in weapons and consistency.

Plus, 15,400 fans will be at their loudest and not on the side of San Jose State University.

UNLV wins easily

UNLV arrived at Walt McPherson Court on an upswing of sorts, with a sense of gelling as a team. If that wasn't cemented Wednesday night, if was at least reinforced as the Running Rebels took down the Spartans 70-46. San Jose State University managed 25 points in the first 20 minutes, then just 21 in the second half. The initial period had Coach Wojcik's guys finishing with an impressive 18 points in the paint and a measly pair of turnovers.

Roscoe Smith had 12 points plus 15 boards for the Sin City-ites while big man Khem Birch was quiet except for six blocked shots.

The Spartans shot 29% for the game, 3-21 from long distance and took a paltry 11 free throw attempts -- all nails in the proverbial coffin, as well as being out-rebounded 40-31.

SJSU junior forward Jaleel Williams finished with 16 points and nine rebounds -- both numbers team-leading on the night -- but his wasn't really a strong performance despite its approach to a double-double.

Like other teams San Jose State University has faced, UNLV was not a dominator and could have been taken with the right opponent team composition. But that isn't this season's Spartans who are finding advanced scouting and preparation in league play is so much more on-target. The Washington Square-ites are simply too young right now, not strong enough upfront and overall. The promising looking attempts at going to the hoop are more often than not becoming Hail Mary attempts as defenders rotate and converge.

It's a learning season.

Rashad Muhammad with some press

Matty Youmans looks at Rashad Muhammad who apparently chose from among SJSU, Utah State and Wyoming.

Listen to Andy Glockner on MWC basketball

Andy Glockner talks about Mountain West Conference hoops:

Transfers & the MWC

Dan Hinxman digs into the effects of transfer into the Mountain West Conference.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

UNLV is the Wednesday home opponent

The Runnin' Rebels of UNLV were having their xollective heart questioned earlier this season but, of late, all seems fairly copacetic in Sin City college hoops.

There was that 21-point homecourt loss to UC Santa Barbara followed by two quick defeats in conference to Air Force and then Nevada.

But Coach Dave Rice's guys followed up by beating New Mexico by three in The Pit plus hanging a 20 point loss on visiting Utah State.

But on Saturday, it took overtime before Fresno State was downed by a bucket so was that an anomaly or a regression?

Regarding personnel, there are no players of Larry Johnson's or Stacey Augmon's calibre calling Vegas home -- no behemoths or speedburners --but lots of promise dots the current Rebel roster.

* 6-foot-9 Khem Birch is the third leading scorer at 11.3 points (50% shooting) but the best shotblocker by far with 71 rejections and #2 in rebounding with 9.5.

* Roscoe Smith at 6-foot-8 is tops in the boards in the country with 12.2 alongside 12.0 points an outing and 54% shooting. He possesses 13 double-doubles in 2013-14.

* 6-foot-5 Bryce Jean-Smith is the best scorer with 14.4 points per game but quite streaky at 42% and 25% respectively. His 63/29 assist-to-turnover ratio is best on the team.

Each is a junior and a transfer from Pittsburgh, Connecticut and USC respectively.

* 6-foot-1 senior Kevin Olekaibe at 10.2 points each night has moved over from Fresno State with 125 of his 183 shots being beyond the arc attempts and a 37% connectivity rate.

UNLV is allowing opponents to shoot 39% overall and just 27% on treys while connecting on just 32% themselves from long distance. Let's see what San Jose State University can manage on treys.

You will not be witnessing the Jerry Tarkanian teams of yesteryear. These Rebels can be taken down.

Thoughts on SJSU hoops

* To have a successful team, one of the integral components is possessing enough of the players winning their position on a nightly basis. For the current SJSU crew, that's possibly two when the stars are in alignment. Although he's been muzzled of late, Rashad Muhammad has that capability. It's also within Jalen James too but more as potential at this point. Once in a great while, Jaleel Williams bursts out but that doesn't happen on a consistent enough basis. Next season, redshirt guard Jordan Baker will carry that trait if he has shown the requisite improvement. Also add Jeremiah Ingram to the list, giving the Spartans the opportunity to win at the power forward spot although he isn't any sort of physical behemoth who will bulldoze opponents out of the way.

* Go big or go home -- for the obvious impaired, a big is desperately needed. At this point, just someone who is a rebounder/defender and capable of offensive putbacks would be acceptable but a well-rounded man in the middle, someone who demands defensive attention, would help create better looks offensively for the others.

* What has started, at least to a degree, is the landing of talent with the potential of getting better. For far too long in recruiting, it has been what you see is what you generally get the next year and the next year and the next year... Player improvement was a missing element. So getting guys who haven't peaked AND who will do what is necessary for annual betterment must became the norm.

* Connected to the point above is also the matter of landing Mountain West Conference level recruits possessing the capability or eventual capacity of competing with who and what other teams are bringing in for replenishment. In some cases, this must include beating out other MWC teams for this or that prospect whether that be in California or elsewhere..

The best student section in the MWC

From Mark Ziegler who covered the Sam Diego State - Utah State game on Saturday:
The best student section in the Mountain West no longer belongs to San Diego State, or New Mexico or Colorado State or UNLV or any of the old guard. It’s Utah State, no contest.

There have been rumblings this season about “The Hurd” students losing their fastball, but the 4,000-strong Mountain West newcomers flat brought it Saturday. They were loud. They were organized. They were creative. They were relentless. They were venomous. They were infectious.

“My first trip in here: incredible atmosphere,” Coach Steve Fisher said. “This is an atmosphere that everyone in America should witness. I was immensely impressed how they stayed engaged and involved, and without question it helps their team. It’s a big reason why they win about 90 percent of their games here...”

Idaho Statesman game summary

Dave Southern/Idaho Statesman serves up a game summary of the Boise State win yesterday over SJSU.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

BSU 76, SJSU 55

Boise State put this one to bed early on, leading 46-28 at the half and there weren't necessarily bright spots for the Spartans to write home about. Let's take 24 free throw attempts (and 18 made), a decent effort on the boards, Boise State shooting 43% but that's about it. 12 turnovers looks okay but 10 took place in the first 20 minutes.

For the hosts, center Ryan Watkins put up another double-double (18 points, 16 rebounds) as BSU's lone inside big is making a run for All-MWC consideration with his perked-up play of late. But no other plus BSU performances were on display.

A telling note: "The Spartans went without a field goal in the second half from the 13:45 mark all the way until there were just 35 seconds left in the game."

The downsides:

Rashad Muhammad was shut out in 17 minutes of play.

Three assists on 16 baskets were credited to SJSU alongside 36% overall shooting.

In a way (although most would argue with this), the game was actually winnable if San Jose State University had brought their best game but credit must be given to the Broncos for preventing that possibility.

Can there be a positive takeaway for SJSU? Yes, if it's a continued learning of the practice and effort individually and collectively that is mandatory in order to have a chance for a victory in the Mountain West Conference.

Can you go home again?

Dave Southern, the Boise State athletics beat reporter for the Idaho Statesman, writes about Coach Wojcik's return to Idaho.

Friday, January 24, 2014

It's at Boise State on Saturday afternoon 3:05 p.m.

Call it a Homecoming Game for Coach Wojcik as he is taking on Leon Rice, his former boss. Also, call Boise State (13-6, 3-3, 8-2 at home) a team that can and will match three-point shots with the Spartans.

The leading Bronco scorer is 6-foot-6 Aussie Anthony Drmic and the junior possesses a very quick release on his shot. The top scorer at 18.1 points per game, he is shooting 46%, 34% and 78% respectively.

6-foot-3 junior Derrick Marks just gets better every season. In 2013-14, he's averaging just below 16 points an outing, with 44%, 26% and 81% accuracy.

These two guys are generally the one-two punch in scoring and statistically are #2 and #1 in getting to the foul line.

Each will generally get their points so the key is reducing their efficiency rates, at least to some degree. Drmic isn't deadly from outside and Marks much worse as their numbers indicate so defensive choices may be made regarding that aspect.

What the Broncos do is play intelligently and unselfishly, using multiple screens to get open looks at the basket.

Ryan Watkins is sort of a silent partner on the squad if such is applicable to someone 6-foot-8 and averaging a double-double (10.8 points/10.4 rebounds). He's not necessarily imposing but teams tend to forget about him, focusing on others and that's when Watkins can go to work offensively plus on the offensive boards as his rebounding split is 93 offensively to 104 defensively.

6-foot-2 Jeff Elioraga is a designated three-point shooter (47%) and former walk-on. Catch-and-shoot is his method of operation and 97 of his 107 shooting attempts have been from long distance. He's another who benefits from all the defensive attention the others generate.

Another talent out of Oz, Nick Duncan is a 6-foot-8 freshman who started last game in order to match up with New Mexico's Cameron Bairstow. His early claim to fame is a shooting range that extends beyond the arc despite his size -- he's shooting 53% from distance.

6-foot-3 Mikey Thompson comes off the bench and brings offensive firepower at 8.9 points a night. The sophomore is shooting 47% overall and is far more effective within 15-feet on in plus he has the ability to generate getting to the foul line.

Boise State plays small but still possess a 36-30 rebounding advantage each game as well being +50 in steals.

Here's an odd set of stats: the Broncos have scored 730 points to date in the first 20 minutes of games, allowing opponents just 586. But it's much, much closer in the second half of matchups at 771-730. Let's see if that plays out tomorrow.

Worth noting is Igor Hadziomerovic, a third Australian (by way of Serbia). But the 6-foot-4 junior is experiencing a down season at 4.8 points per contest.

Coach Wojcik know the Boise players and their tendencies. Can that be advantaged?

Another Aztec - Spartan game report

Juan Reyes/Spartan Daily game reports the San Diego State - San Jose State University Wednesday matchup.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chris Murray on the MWC so far

Chris Murray takes a gander at the doings in the Mountain West Conference a third of the way through the league schedule.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Aztecs prevail 75-50

You knew it was coming but the arrival time wasn't posted. That being a San Diego State points run. Eventually it arrived -- in the second half -- and that was that as the Aztecs topped San Jose State University 75-50 tonight. Coach Dave Wojcik's squad pulled within five twice but became stuck on 30 points for an interminably long time -- 17:34 to 12:37 -- and that's when the game slipped away.

The score was a tepid 29-19 at the half but that picked up in the second 20 minutes. However, the shooting numbers for both teams were abysmal: 39%, 15% and 64% for the victors, 33%, 26% and 53% for the Spartans. 39-17 was the differential in free throw attempts.

Xavier Thames (the guard out of Sacramento) led the Aztecs with 15 points while Devante Wilson paced the Washington Square crew with 14.

Two other San Diego Staters are from the Sacramento area and that helped bolster attendance to the best anyone could recall at 4,117.

For the second straight game, freshman Rashad Muhammad was negated. It was 1-7 tonight with five points in 21 minutes preceded by 0-7, two points in 26 minutes versus Wyoming.

It was that kind of night: Aztec center Skylar Spencer entered the matchup shooting 8-18 on the season (17 games) concerning free throws. He earned six visits to the charity stripe tonight and sank four of them. Spencer also went 4-4 from the field.

SJSU attempted but 19 threes on the evening.

Brad Best game reports.

Murray ranks the MWC teams

Chris Murray serves up his Mountain West Conference team rankings for this week.

Morrill wants MWC tourney moved

From Kyle Goon:
Stew Morrill hasn't hid his grumbling about non-neutral tournament sites - pretty much ever. Even last March, before the Aggies joined the Mountain West, Morrill was saying he didn't think there was a good reason the conference tournament is played at Thomas and Mack Center.

He reiterated that belief Monday, teeing off on a question about whether experience playing on UNLV's homecourt could help the team prepare for the Mountain West tournament in two months.

"I'd rather just play the Mountain West Tournament on a neutral site. That will always grate on me. I don't think anyone would feel like experiencing the Spectrum would be a good deal if they had to come back here for the tournament."

The Mountain West contract with Thomas and Mack runs through 2016. For now, it doesn't seem that Morrill's complaints - which are shared by Steve Fisher, notably - will get much changed.
So where else would you as a fan want to go in March?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Muhammad is missing

Rashad Muhammad does not make the MidMajorMadness list of top freshman or even the Others Considered category.

Let's sic Representative Darrell Issa on them right away -- we need a congressional investigation. Benghaziiiiiiiiiii!!!

Actually, the Mountain West Conference isn't listed on the masthead of the MidMajorMadness site. But the West Coast Conference qualifies. So that is probably the reason for Muhammad's exclusion, strange as it is.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Pete Thamel on the MWC

Interesting quote from Pete Thamel about the decline of the Mountain West Conference:
One reason the Mountain West has flopped so badly this season is that UNLV has fallen flat. The Rebels epitomize one of the league’s problems — it lacks high-end bench coaching. Outside of Colorado State’s Larry Eustachy, Wyoming’s Larry Shyatt and Utah State’s Stew Morrill, the Mountain West is short on sideline top-notch sideline tacticians.

San Diego State on Wednesday

A treat is in store for Spartan fans regardless of the outcome Wednesday night. Yes, that's a challengeable premise but it's because San Diego State is coming to Walt McPherson Court and it will be enjoyable to witness a defense-first team plus one that plays very unselfishly.

Currently ranked #7 in the nation by the Associated Press and USA TODAY, the 16-1 Aztecs were supposed by be down some from last season but a frontcourt transfer and the improved health of a point guard have Coach Steve Fisher's squad rolling. A homecourt loss to #1 Arizona is the lone blemish thus far.

What's fascinating is that San Diego State hasn't blown out opponents, 'just' beat them, with scores such as 86-80 versus Creighton, 65-64 at San Diego, 69-66 over Boise State, a 79-72 grounding of Air Force, 68-60 in a takedown of Fresno State and a 63-52 shutdown of UNLV. The best victory is a 61-57 at Kansas triumph, one that nobody predicted.

So yes, San Diego State has outscored opponents but not via any sort of offensive explosions. They don't allow open shots which will be part of this fascinating matchup considering the Spartan propensity for crossing midcourt and letting it fly.

A key statistic: the San Diego crew is shooting 44% on the season while allow a 35% connection rate to opponents. The former is not all that impressive but the latter is amazing. It's 40% to 26% on threes. 

The backcourt leader is 6-foot-3 senior Xavier Thames, a senior out of Sacramento and a transfer from Washington State after his sophomore season. He is averaging 17.0 points per game while connecting on 43% of his overall shot attempts and 47% from long distance. 6-foot-8 sophomore Winston Sheppard is at 13.1 points an outing with half his rebounds coming offensively. He has the making of the next star of this group. 6-foot-7 JJ O'Brien scores 9.4 points per contest with 48% overall accuracy. 6-foot-8 Tulane transfer Josh Davis owns the boards at 11.5 each time out and in the middle is 6-foot-10 Skylar Spencer who has swatted away 44 shots.

Redshirt frosh 6-foot-6 backcourter Matt Shrigley is coming on after a slow start as the designated three-point shooter off the bench (two thirds of his attempts are from beyond the arc) with 6-foot-7 junior wing Dwayne Polee as one who really, really likes to shoot the ball with not much dribbling as he has attempted just 13 shots from the foul line. 

It's a 41 to 35 on the boards differential in favor of the Aztecs.

San Diego State is also a very athletic, agile bunch.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The dip of the MWC

Nicole Auerbach covers the dropoff in the Mountain West Conference national ranking this season. For some teams, it was expected, for other not so much.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Wyoming prevails 67-56

The sense all along was that Wyoming was going to win this game and that became the reality with the final score of 67-56 but San Jose State University left another fine impression in its initial Mountain West Conference go-around.

This time it was D.J. Brown's turn to lead and he finished with 18 points, including 4-8 from long distance. Frontcourter Chris Cunningham finished with 10 points and six boards and Devante Wilson totaled 13 points. Rashad Muhammad didn't connect from the floor and finished with two points as SJSU shot 37% overall and garnered just four points from the Spartan bench.

It was a case of too much Larry Nance Jr. (how did they get him to come out of Ohio to Laramie?) as he concluded with 18 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots in 40 minutes of court time. Second-leading Cowboy scorer Riley Grabau missed each of his six three-point attempts but it was fellow guard Josh Adams stepping up and springing for 16 points plus seven assists (just one turnover). he had been close to 50/50 in assists-to-turnovers entering the matchup.

Wyoming doubled up the Spartans in the paint, scoring 34 points to 16 and posted a shutout with fastbreak scoring at 14-0.

This was another learning opportunity as Coach Larry Shyatt's guy played very physical. The Spartan youth know they must get bigger and stronger in order to turn around these final scores in MWC play.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The best players in the MWC

Chris Murray has posted his list of the top 15 talents in the Mountain West Conference. No SJSU player made an appearance...yet. Not sure if any of these guys will make a dent in the Big Show.

Durkin on the Spartans

Robert Gagliardi posted a Q-and-A with Jimmy Durkin about Spartan basketball and the SJSU - Wyoming matchup.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

At Wyoming on Saturday

You would think it would be difficult to recruit basketball players to Wyoming but veteran Coach Larry Shyatt has belied the brutal winters of Laramie and brought together a solid roster. Most of his guys are from very cold area hometowns (at least in winter) but two are from Miami so there must be an intriguing tale to be told about the signing on of that pair.

He has 6-foot-8 Larry Nance Jr., whose father played for the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers for 13 years. The younger Nance hit the game-winning shot in the Cowboys recent 52-50 victory over and at Boise State. He is the leading scorer at 15.7 points per game and the junior owns six double-doubles on the season. Nance also tops his team in rebounding (9.1), blocked shots (29) and steals (23).

At 11.6 points an outing, 6-foot-2 junior guard Riley Grabau is the shooter from distance as 77 of his 106 shot attempts have been treys, with 52% accuracy.

6-foot-2 Josh Adams is the third Cowboy scoring in double figures with 11.3 points per contest and 47% accuracy.

6-foot-3 Nathan Sobey and 6-foot-9 Derek Cooke round out the starting five. The latter is second in boardplay at 6.6 each night.

So how is 10-6 (8-2 at home) Shyatt & Company doing it?

By shooting and defending well plus getting to the foul line.

Coach Shyatt's crew is lording it over opponents in shooting 49% overall and allowing 39% accuracy, 38% to 31% from long distance. The Cowboys are also +104 in free throw attempts.

One downside is being -29 in turnovers. The sophomore Adams, in particular, is 38-41 in assist-to-turnover ratio.

The Spartans are facing a squad that lost by three at Nevada and then another three versus New Mexico at home before the road victory in Boise.

The matchup has a 1:00 p.m. game time Saturday.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

AF 77, SJSU 62

The Spartans led by two at the half, 35-33, but Air Force posted a 44-35 point differential in the second 20 minutes to win at home 77-62. Little (relatively speaking at 6-foot-2) Tre' Coggins led with 27 points and 6-foot-9 teammate Marek Olesinski finished with 19 points, with both shooting 5-8 from long distance.

The Falcons won the rebounding battle 34-21 and shot 57%, 46% and 79% respectively. However, they did commit 23 turnovers.

With 12 points, Rashad Muhammad as usual led San Jose State University in scoring  but shot 3-12 overall while Chris Cunningham and Jaleel Williams each totaled 11 points. The Washington Square-ites committed 23 fouls to 16 for the hosts.

Air Force beat reporter Brent Briggeman/The Gazette game reports.

Next up for the Spartans is Wyoming on Saturday.

By the way, New Mexico lost in The Pit tonight, 76-73, to UNLV. Maybe the Lobos aren't as vaunted this season as many prognosticated or maybe it was a blip.

Two features on players SJSU will face tonight

Here's a feature on the Air Force's leading scorer, Tre' Coggins.

Here's one on the Falcons' trey-shooting big, Marek Olesinski.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Geoff Grammer on the Spartans

In Geoff Grammer's Mountain West Conference notebook, he writes of SJSU:
The schedule doesn’t ease up for the 0-4 San Jose State Spartans, but that is a scrappy team and I’d be shocked if they don’t pick off a few teams along the way.

Coach Dave Wojcik said even if the results aren’t yet there, he likes where his team is headed, especially after giving two-time defending league champion UNM all they wanted on Saturday night.

“We’re getting tougher, and that’s what I care about,” Wojcik said. “We’re getting mentally tougher. That’s my biggest thing, you have to be mentally tough to handle situations. Whether you go up 10, whether it’s a tight game like we had, we need a stop, we need a rebound, we’re getting better at that.”

Boise State's offense

Here's a very interesting explanation of Boise State's offensive style -- the home of the trigger, gunner, pitcher, pusher and crash.

Another SJSU - Air Force preview

Rick @ Falcon review (is this guy a dedicated fan or what?) offers up his preview of the SJSU - Air Force matchup.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Air Force on Wednesday

San Jose State University heads into Colorado Springs to face Air Force ( 8-7, 2-2) Wednesday evening.

The Falcons are coming off a 79-72 home loss to San Diego State in which 6-foot-2 guard Tre' Coggins scored 29 points (five treys) against a topnotch defense. As Aztec Coach Steve Fisher said, "He can beat you off the bounce and if you back off him he can beat you shooting from a distance." Coggins is averaging 17.8 point in 36 minutes per game in the 2013-14 season, shooting 50%, 46% and 81% while also leading with 16 steals.

Coach Dave Pilipovich's guys led 31-27 after the initial 20 minutes and won the battle of the boards 39-30 despite a size disadvantage.

Two other Falcons are also averaging in double figures: 6-foot-4 guard Max Yon at 13.9 points per outing (33 minutes a game) and 6-foot-9 Marik Olesinski with 11.9 (30 minutes a game). The latter is also grabbing a third-on-the-team 5.4 rebounds per contest.

At 28 minutes  a contest, Justin Hammonds brings a nightly 9.4 points plus 5.5 boards at 6-foot-6 with 6-foot-4 Kamryn Williams tops in rebounding at 6.8 each time out alongside 9.0 points (also 28 minutes a game).

A total of ten Falcon players average double figures in playing time.

Air Force plays the so-called Princeton style of offense, with a lot of movement away from the ball, multiple backdoor cuts as well as great patience in waiting for and seizing advantage of any defensive lapse. Opponents gets antsy playing 30 or so seconds of defense each possession -- all it takes is one player unable to simultaneously watch the ball and his opponent or a futile gamble for a steal.

As a team, AF is shooting 47% on the season while allowing opponents to connect at a 43% rate, 37% to 33% from long distance. Team rebounding is about even with opponents but the Falcons have committed 24 more turnovers on the season.

This is a team that lost at UC Davis 80-74 and also fell at home to Jackson State. In Mountain West Conference action, Air Force owns a 73-72 win at home versus Utah State plus a 75-68 victory over host UNLV versus the loss to San Diego State and a 71-65 defeat at Fresno State.

Inside power won't be a factor here because there is none (it also surprisingly wasn't versus New Mexico either but that's a different story).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rashad Muhammad and Jalen James

Everyone can agree that Rashad Muhammad is the top player in Coach Dave Wojcik's initial recruiting class. His numbers scream this (17.3 point per game, 47% on treys, the most free throws attempted on the team).

However, it's important to keep in mind that Muhammad's offensive role is heavily predicated on catching and shooting. That's not to be simplistic, just a generalization. It's also not a dimensional lament because he is securing points, period. His height and lankiness allows him to get looks at the basket that most of the other Spartans cannot replicate, with possibly Jaleel Williams excepted although he is at 32% on three-point connectivity).

Now Jalen James on the other hand has much more heavy lifting to do because he plays the point. It's a role of initiating the offense, moving the ball around and trying to get the ball into the hands of a teammate who has an opportunity and hopefully an advantage for a shot attempt. As expected, James tops SJSU is in assists and turnovers (plus is third on the team in rebounding). To a degree, some of James' positives on the court aren't necessarily being recorded in the stat book but that's the nature of the beast for his position. Yes, more dribble-drive penetration needs to be forthcoming from him but that also must be synchronized with a true center who James can work with on entry passes which will produce more in-the-paint baskets, and thus assists.

So some of what James is bringing to the court isn't necessarily being statistically recorded but it's what coaches see as they watch games and video.

No, it would be incorrect to equate the contributions so far of Muhammad and James. But the team isn't yet designed to showcase the latter. As Sinatra sang. "the best is yet to come."

Geoff Grammer impressed

From Albuquerque newspaper/New Mexico athletics beat reporter Geoff Grammer on SJSU: "I thought it'd take them a few years just to approach the middle of the pack in the MWC. They may be there next season."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

It's New Mexico 69-65

Maybe New Mexico plays better in The Pit. Maybe Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow had off nights. Maybe Lobo Coach Craig Neal looks like a lawyer on television (that one, to mix sports metaphors, came out of left field).

But what is known is that San Jose State University took one of the three best Mountain West Conference teams right down to the wire tonight before coming up short 69-65 at Walt McPherson Court.

Bairstow finished with 15 points and five boards and Kirk posted nine and seven plus a trio of turnovers as their teammates seemed to neglect them throughout too much of the game. But then again, neither showed all that much back-to-the-basket game, at least tonight, or assertiveness. It was too often a settling for face the basket jump shots.

Jaleel Williams led the Spartans with a career high 24 points, jab-stepping his way to six three-point makes throughout the game. Rashad Muhammad didn't shoot all that well (and made some tough shots), finishing with 16 points. It actually was Isaac Thornton Night as the freshman totaled 11 rebounds, five points, four assists and a pair of steals in 22 minutes of court time.

Yes, the better team won but it didn't play all that well and SJSU deserves some credit for producing that performance.


* If you didn't look all that closely Lobo Hugh Greenwood appeared like the ghost of Justin Graham.

* Call the Spartan players anything you wish but don't use the word bashful. Some of the three-pointers attempted -- hoisted might be a more apt term -- looked mighty forced but then Coach Dave Wojcik doesn't really have a brawny big man to toss the ball to in the paint and the plethora of freshman are still finding their way in developing separation on dribble-drives.

New Mexico is the Saturday night opponent

One of the big boys of the conference, New Mexico, hits Walt McPherson Court Saturday night to take on San Jose State University. The Lobos are coming off a three-point overtime victory at Wyoming in which all three Cowboy guards scored in double figures so keep a watch on how Coach Craig Neal's backcourters perform against their Spartan opposites.

New Mexico sports a pair of bigs in Alex Kirk and Aussie Cameron Bairstow (how did he not end up in Moraga?), 7-foot-0, 245 and 6-foot-11, 240 respectively.

They and 6-foot-4 senior point Kendall Williams are the Lobo talents that beat opponents.

Kirk brings 14.6 and 9.5 scoring and rebounding averages into the game, plus 42 blocked shots. Bairstow is at 20.4 points plus 7.4 rebounds each time out while shooting 56% and 76% respectively. Williams is tops in assists with 71, steals with 25 and is scoring 18.2 points per contest.

Defending in the paint is going to be a major SJSU problem, what with the lack of height and depth so expect the Lobos to zero right in on that element.

Backcourter High Greenwood, another baller from Oz and freshman guard Cullen Neal, the son of the head coach, are more ancillary talents at this point -- helpful but not mainstays.

Greenwood is the top out-on-the-floor defender but also with a 32/9 assist-to-turnover ratio while Neal is scoring 8.4 a night, shooting 43% from three-point range with half of his attempts being from long distance.

New Mexico is holding opponents to 40% overall shooting and has ventured to the foul line 138 more time than opponents but is in a deficit with long distance accuracy: 32% to 35%.

The Lobos thus far have lost on a neutral court to Massachusetts, at home to New Mexico State and on the road at Kansas. Can SJSU enter make that a quartet?

Another preview of tonight's game

Mark A. Cox previews the San Jose State University - New Mexico matchup.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Colorado State by a deuce

It was a clash of the Rams and the Spartans on Walt McPherson Court tonight with the former departing holding a 66-64 victory. The matchup was close throughout as Coach Larry Eustachy's guys nailed 8-10 free throws near the end to get back into the lead and hold it.

As expected, CSU leading scorer J.J. Avila led the way totaling 21 points (although he shot just 6-20 overall) plus 14 boards, split seven and seven. Daniel Bejarano totaled 15 points, seven rebounds and a team-leading five assists.

On the SJSU ledger, Rashad Muhammad continue to pile up the points, finishing with a season high 28, including 5-6 from long distance. Chris Cunningham enjoyed a 13/5 night, Jaleel Williams 11/6 and freshman point Jalen James earned seven assists but was also whistled for six TOs.

San Jose State University shot an impressive 47% as a team while holding CSU to 40% and the Spartans also won the battle of the boards 29-26. But it was 19 turnovers versus just nine for the Rams.

Next, it's New Mexico coming in on Saturday evening. The Lobos topped Wyoming 72-69 in overtime tonight up in Laramie.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Colorado State here on Wendesday night

So it's Colorado State and Coach Larry Eustachy (as well as Assistant Coach Steve Barnes who really, really wanted the position Coach Wojcik got in late March of last year) coming in Wednesday night. The Rams have lost a ton of talent due to graduation and 2013-14 has been pegged to be a rebuilding year

Eustachy's guys are currently 9-6 overall, 0-2 in the Mountain West Conference, a 71-61 loss at home to San Diego State and an 80-72 defeat to host New Mexico. Both are respectable setbacks considering the Aztecs and Lobos are of the top three squads in the league.

On the season, Colorado State has beaten who they were supposed to, except possibly an 80-70 ambush by Denver.

Everywhere Eustachy has coached, his gang have been known for a tough and physical playing style. Therefore, the Rams boast a 39-33.4 advantage in team rebounding plus a 446-315 lead in season free throw attempts.

Here's the who:

* 6-foot-7, 240 Naval Academy transfer J.J. Avila leads in point production at both 18.9 points and 52 assists a game, the latter an unusual feat for a forward

* At 6-foot-4, Daniel Bejarano is tops in rebounding with a 9.4 average and second with 15.1 points an outing

* 6-foot-4 backcourter Jon Octeus is third in scoring with 12.2 points per contest and he is also surprisingly tied for the team lead with 84 free throw tries despite his stationing on the court.

* Another guard, 6-foot-4 Joe DiCiman is the 'designated' three point shooter with a team-leading 50 attempts but a 34% connection rate

* Do watch for backcourter Daniel Cohn who is 14-29 from long distance on the season as well as sporting an extremely attractive 20/5 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Colorado State doesn't possess overwhelming size but they go hard and make contact. Coach Wojcik's frontcourters will be tested on the fouls count.

Unlike in other Spartan games this season, don't look for a number of wide open shot attempts despite SJSU's proclivity for firing away from far away as Eustachy will simply not stand for that.

This is a good test for the youthful Spartans. They won't be overwhelmed by talent but the consistent body contact on the court will be new and challenging.

ESPN's Glockner on MWC hoops happenings

ESPN's Andy Glockner is interviewed about teams and happenings in Mountain West Conference basketball so far this season:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Not everyone is happen with Shaw's reinstatement

Amy Macavinta offers the details of some disappointment in the timing of Jarred Shaw's reinstatement to the Utah State basketball team.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Utah State wins 86-67

The return of Jarred Shaw helped Utah State take the 86-67 victory over SJSU but a 20 rebound differential -- 44 to 22 -- is still startling.

The factors: both Chris Cunningham and Jaleel Williams fouled out with neither reaching the 30 minute mark (Cunningham was limited to just 17 60-second turns on the clock). Therefore, freshman Matt Pollard saw 20 minutes of action, shot 2-2 and blocked a pair of shots but registered no rebounds.

Rashad Muhammad paced the Spartans with 20 points (6-9 from three-point range) as the Washington Square guys lofted 35 trey attempts in 57 overall shots, many of them before Utah State engaged defensively.

But worth noting is earning 16 assists on 24 baskets, indicating solid Spartan ball movement.

Coming off the bench, point TeNale Roland had a career night with 20 points (7-7 overall shooting, 5-5 from beyond the stripe and all in the second half). He got a late run by the Aggies started which put the game out of reach.

Note this tweet from USU sports beat reporter Kyle Goon: "I've seen enough from to assert that they could be a problematic opponent with a few recruiting additions. Some talented newcomers."

From Herald News USU sports beat reporter Kraig Williams: "SJSU isn't going to be a conference doormat for very long"

Kyle Goon game reports.

Shawn Harrison game reports.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Shaw is back

That was fast.

Utah State's starting center, 6-foot-10 Jarred Shaw, pled guilty today to a felony charge, which may be reduced to a misdemeanor and he's supposed to be back in uniform Saturday when the Aggies face San Jose State University.

Kyle Goon reports.

Cioach Stew Morrill's reputation as an abide-by-the-rules-or-else taskmaster certainly takes a hit here, no ifs, ands and buts.

Another peak at the MWC to date

Dave (BSU beat reporter) Southern takes a look at the basketball doings of the members of the Mountain West Conference.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Holes in the Utah State roster?

Kyle Goon writes that near everyone is restless in Logan over the play of the Utah State Aggies. Deficiencies are reappearing rather than being negated.

Utah State hosts SJSU on Saturday

This isn't your father's Utah State basketball program as there's a hole in the middle with the continued suspension of center Jarred Shaw. This was evident in the fall to Air Force on Wednesday as Coach Stew Morrill's guys were out-rebounded and allowed the Falcons to shoot 51%. Check out this game report.

As well-respected dean of the MWC beat reporters Geoff Grammer tweeted: "Utah State will be middle of MWC pack because Logan is so tough & Butterfield/Medlin are very good, but MWC is different beast than WAC."

It is indeed.

Yes, sharpshooting guard Preston Medlin (47% from long distance, 50/15 assist-to-turnover ratio) is back and tied for the lead with Spencer Butterfield (6.5 rebounds an outing) in scoring at 14.2 points per game. But the former stands 6-foot-4 and the latter 6-foot-3. Both are solid contributors but no Jaycee Carroll, meaning neither can take over a contest. They are best as cogs in a well-oiled and multi-threat offensive machine.

6-foot-7 forward Kyle Davis is contributing 10.1 points plus 8.6 rebounds (and 20 blocked shots) but it's a scramble after that as nobody else is steadily adding to the Aggie attack.

6-foot-7 freshman forward Jalen Moore will be a very good player in time but he's hit-and-miss at the moment.

Neither Ben Clifford at 6-foot-7 nor 6-foot-10 Jordan Stone are going to often outplay their respective opponents in the paint. Clifford can be a sneaky scorer but more if he's getting overlooked because of the focus being elsewhere. Stone is best at defending.

6-foot-6 Danny Berger, who went through that horrendous situation in a practice last year where his heart stopped, has receded a bit in his effect.

At the point Marcel Davis starts and TeNale Roland is his backup but neither is capable of a breakout offensive performance.

Things To Watch For

* The matchup is in The Spectrum and that cannot be ignored. Certainly call that a plus in USU's favor. But if Coach Dave Wojcik's crew are leading towards the end or grab a win, matters could get real ugly. Logan-ites are used not only to winning but being in contention for the top spot and accepting less is not going to happen.

* Can the Spartans bog down the Aggie offensive execution? Or at least enough of the time? There are a lot of years of experience residing on the roster in Logan so this will be fascinating to see what transpires.

* Will SJSU go to more of a dribble-drive penetration game seeing that Utah State is vulnerable in the middle? Such hasn't been the the method-of-operation to date.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Muhammad with some national press

Via Jeff Borzello/CBS Sports in writing about the MWC this season:
"Freshman of the Year favorite: Rashad Muhammad, San Jose State. If New Mexico’s Cullen Neal continues to play like he has the past two games (21.0 ppg, 4.5 apg), he will make a push – but right now, it’s all about Shabazz Muhammad’s younger brother. Muhammad has scored at least 11 points in all but one game this season, reaching at least 17 points in five of his last six games. On the season, he is averaging 17.3 points while shooting nearly 45 percent from 3-point range."

Nevada 62, SJSU 50

When you are playing a jumpshot-centric, four-out offense, the ball needs to be entering the cylinder at a decent rate in order to emerge victorious. That didn't happen for the Spartans tonight (35% shooting) as visiting Nevada nabbed a 12 point victory, 62-50, via a strong second 20 minutes (37-24).

But it wasn't as if the Wolf Pack were all that zeroed in with their own shooting, as 1-12 from long distance exemplifies.

However, Nevada newcomer in the middle, AJ West, got thisclose to a double-double with 15 points (6-8 shooting) plus nine boards and a pair of rejections. That is double his points per game average coming into this matchup. West was known primarily as a shotblocker coming in -- 10.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and a nations best 5.1 blocks per outing at Monroe Community College as a sophomore -- so this was an unexpected offensive performance.

Star backcourter Deonte Burton led the Reno-ites with 18 points (coming in averaging 22.5) as he and West were the only Nevadans in double figures. The second-leading scorer on the Wolf Pack roster at 15.3 points a contest, Jerry Evans, scored just eight (3-11 shooting).

6-foot-7 Cole Huff rebounded particularly well, finishing with 10 as Coach David Carter's squad won the rebounding battle 37-30, 13 offensively, this despite a lack of depth on the frontline.

Devante Wilson was the main scorer for SJSU, concluding with a very efficient 18 points (4-7 from three-point range) plus five rebounds. The Wolf Pack defended Rashad Muhammad quite well, limiting him to five points on five shots in 33 minutes.

Now, an upset (in more ways than one) Utah State will welcome SJSU on Saturday. Host Air Force took down the Aggies 73-72 tonight as the absence of center Jarred Shaw (on suspension) was evident.

SJSU & the Wolf pack, according to Chris Murray

Chris Murray digs into tonight's San Jose State University - Nevada pairing, providing his keys to the game, an X-factor plus a prediction. His sports department mate Dan Hinxman differs with his game prognostication.

A look at the mid-season MWC

The Fresno Bee's Robert Kuwada sizes up each Mountain West Conference team at the moment.