Friday, March 17, 2017

Wichita St. is not coming to the Mountain West

No, moi is not being consulted by the powers-that-be but, simply put, why trade the Missouri Valley Conference for the Mountain West Conference? That's a nothingburger and does nada for Wichita State's basketball interests.

"Wichita State looking to change conferences" -- McKenzie Dalgleish

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Taking a look backwards and forwards

Well, well, well, what a rollercoaster of a season. Some fans are hopeful, some are apprehensive, some are confused. Some are all three. Here's a stream of consciousness look at 2016-17 from a longtime fan with some projections regarding next season. But just remember, moi expected bigger things from Ryan Singer and a solid year from Nai Carlisle this go-around so reader beware. Apologies for any offending bluntness but all are observations and not personal criticism.

Brandon Clarke elevated his game but in the areas he was already demonstrating degrees of proficiency. His 57% foul line accuracy (56% last season) is still a major bugaboo and, after two seasons, it's appearing that such is the norm for him. But that number raises questions about the team's best offensive talent having the ball in his hands late in a tight game. However, the most prominent question regarding the 6-foot-8 Clarke is whether or not the Spartans can keep him? He has two years of eligibility remaining and, even if he is the most loyal of student-athletes, Clarke has to be at least pondering the possibility of playing out his college tenure for a mediocre team versus moving on to a better opportunity for success. Other programs will certainly be making a run at him, testing his attachment to SJSU. It will seemingly boil down to what does Clarke envision for the immediate future of Spartan basketball -- greater success or more of the same?

6-foot-10 Ryan Welage is two years in with the program and it's fair to say that he prefers facing the basket offensively, is not a good rebounder and is a liability on defense -- yes, I'm not expecting a Christmas card from the Welages come December. It's now time to accept what he brings -- the ability to bring his opponent outside, shoot efficiently at times and an unquenchable work ethic -- so employ that judiciously, and work around the deficiencies.

...6-foot-8 Cody Schwartz with 10 free throws on the season? He is one-dimensional  -- outside shooting -- yet not consistent enough even in that element. Schwartz is also a defensive liability. The amount of his playing time next season will be a bellwether for this team as a solid program will not have him out on the court very often unless he demonstrates a broadening of his skills set.

...The competitiveness of 6-foot-10 Ryan Singer will be on display as it's most likely he will play even less in 2017-18 than he did this season (68 minutes). The hope was that added weight would increase his effectiveness but that turned out to be an inaccurate projection. He may be near to graduating since he redshirted in 2015-16 and such may influence him to remain. Which is of greater importance to Singer, something that varies widely from player to player: getting on the floor or having a degree from SJSU?

...6-foot-2 E.J. Boyce is not a D-1 level player. Having typed that, he could possibly be useful as a catch-and-shoot guy on a squad with numerous offensive threats, teammates who draw double teams, but that's not SJSU at the moment. However, a promise was made to scholarship him for his final two seasons and keeping a commitment regardless of how a player is capable of performing on the court is a non-negotiable value for any program I choose to follow.

...6-foot-2 Terrell Brown was a freshman yet his downs balanced out with displays of explosive potential. He was the sole creator on offense this season (a role that needs at least two of his teammates need to join in and soon) and is still learning what is and isn't accomplishable on the college level. One area where Brown could really help in the future is as a plus defender (not necessarily just steals but more of sealing off dribble drives) because a majority of the other Spartans simply lack the quickness to perform in that role. Brown isn't a point and therefore needs to solidify his outside shooting consistency in order to make his dribble-drive forays more lethal. Added strength will also allow him to be a more effective finisher.

...6-foot-6 Jaycee Hillsman is a good shooter if he remains 15-feet in on offense (46% overall, 83% at the foul line but just 10-35 from beyond the arc). That dictates playing as a three much more than a two. Get him closer to the basket so he can launch more dribble-drives.

...6-foot-5 Isaiah Nichols displayed early promise as a freshman and as such deserves another season before his shooting strengths and weaknesses are fully determined. But his 31-61 at the foul line is troubling for a player who will have the ball in his hands a lot. Maybe that's an anomaly, more due to the "yips" but a backcourter cannot play a lot if that proves to be the norm.

...6-foot-11 Ashtin Chastain will be a career backup. The effort seems there but the body movement is lacking.

...6-foot-4 Jalen James, bless him, has given his all but isn't a starting point on a good college team. He has played three seasons and sat out a fourth as a medical redshirt after being injured early in December in 2014 so he could become a graduate transfer if he earns his degree at the end of this academic year. But he didn't appear as one of the departing players at the last home game so it seems he will be returning to Washington Square for another year.

...6-foot-2 Nai Carlisle is a bit of a conundrum. He's strong at 200 pounds so physically he is ready. But Carlisle wasn't able to seize the opportunity this season and that makes it difficult to climb aboard his bandwagon once again. He and Terrell Brown are a tantilizing, if very young, pairing.

...6-foot-8 Keith Fisher III needs to be ready to play a strong defensive role as well as be a complementary rebounder to Brandon Clarke. Yes, he will be just a redshirt freshman but nobody else on the roster looks capable of fulfilling those roles right now. This guy is going to be a major key if the team is to move forward next season.

...6-foot-5 Arizona prepster signee Noah Bauman averaged 10.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists in his high school senior year. He shot 44% overall, 35% from long distance and 81% at the foul line (34-42 on free throws). His shot attempts were almost evenly divided between two-pointers and three-pointers. He finished third on the team in scoring.

...Scholarship numbers look like this: it appears there are 12 returning players who were or will be on scholarship plus Noah Baumann and 13 is the total allowed by the NCAA. Another offer to extend, two actually, are really needed but, again that is dependent on who decides to stay or go. This team badly needs a servicable frontcourter as well as a creator-type with shooting range at the two/three.

...Who has peaked and who is going to get better? That's a series of critical determinations needing to be made in going forward. Will Hillsman and/or Nichols step forward or be pretty much the same? Is Schwartz simply who he is? Does anyone on the present roster have the sorely needed requisite shooting capability alongside the necessary consistency?

...Coach Wojcik's contract status -- not the $64,000 question, much more than that -- is also in need of resolution and it's a conflicted situation. This is a team finishing the season on a five game losing streak. SJSU fell by six at home to Utah State late in the season but lost 90-64 to that same team in the opening round of the Mountain West Conference tournament. A 7-11 conference record during a weak MWC season is a hard-to-be-satisfied-with achievement.

...On the positive side, a basketball p-r-o-g-r-a-m actually exists. After some early coaching and player hiccups, the players are committed, they appear to be 'good' kids and the elements necessary for the team to get better seem in place. Why would it make any sense to start anew yet again?

...But here is the crux of the issue: next season's league finish is the critical mass element -- forget about pre-season or overall records because those can easily be inflated. Does this team possess the capability of taking a step up within the Mountain West Conference, to be a first division finisher and maybe a lurking contender for the top spot? Or is reaching .500 the best that can or should be expected? Remember Nevada will be tough again next season regardless of whether Cam Oliver stay or goes. Boise will again be difficult. New Mexico better be, or else. San Diego State will be tougher. UNLV damn well better be or there will again be nuclear explosions in the Nevada desert. Colorado State is always tough. Fresno State is on the rise. So...

...All the shareholders with a stake in the contract situation will know so much more come March 2018. Plus, Coach Wojcik's present contract concludes a year from now unless he earns an automatic additional season for posting a winning record. Unless a player or players transfer, the roster for next season is known. So why should fans expect a better finish a year hence as greater experience is no guarantee of improvement.

...On the other hand, does coming down to the wire on Coach Wojcik's contract handicap him too much with recruiting? I say no. A better season is ultimately a win-win as it will bring a long term contract extension and attention as well as commitments from the level of recruits needed to make SJSU a consistent Mountain West Conference upper division program. The same finish or something worse extinguishes interest from the necessary recruits and also eliminates a hefty financial buyout SJSU can little afford.

Another element to consider is the new athletic director will want some evaluation time before deciding on an extension, or not. That seems to preclude any quick change in Coach Wojcik's status.

An AD tidbit

From a March 3 Sacramento Bee article on candidate for the Hornet open AD position:

"...Mark Massari – The deputy athletic director at Oregon State, Massari is a Sac State graduate, having played linebacker for Bob Mattos from 1988 to 1992. At OSU, he oversees external affairs, strategic planning and business and fan development efforts, and he is the athletic department’s chief marketing and revenue officer. Massari served as the UC Santa Barbara athletic director for six years and has drawn interest from San Jose State for its vacant AD post..."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Utah State 90, SJSU 64

After a halftime tie, Utah State blew out San Jose State University 59-30 in the second 20 minutes in taking a Mountain West Conference quarterfinal matchup in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Credit should be given to Brandon Clarke for his 13 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots but he had just four shot attempts IN THE GAME.


A blast from the past

After a big Ripon High victory, Justin Graham got shorn as a result. Hopefully, it won't be a repeat of the Samson and Delilah episode. LINK

All-MWC media poll

The following are the results from the Mountain West Conference media poll:

All-Mountain West First Team

G Gian Clavell, Colorado State, Sr. — 154

G Marcus Marshall, Nevada, Sr. — 147
F Emmanuel Omogbo, Colorado State, Sr. — 132
F Brandon Clarke, San Jose State, So. — 129
F Cameron Oliver, Nevada, So. — 118

All-Mountain West Second Team

G/F Chandler Hutchison, Boise State, Jr. — 113

G Elijah Brown, New Mexico, Jr. — 106
F Jordan Caroline, Nevada, So. — 88
F Jalen Moore, Utah State, Sr. — 80
G Deshon Taylor, Fresno State, So. — 58

All-Mountain West Third Team

G D.J. Fenner, Nevada, Sr. — 51

G Koby McEwen, Utah State, Fr. — 31
G Trey Kell, San Diego State, Jr. — 28
G Jaron Hopkins, Fresno State, Jr. — 24
G Jovan Mooring, UNLV, Jr. — 14

All-Mountain West Honorable Mention

Hayden Graham, Air Force; Prentiss Nixon, CSU; Dakarai Allen, San Diego State; Zylan Cheatham, San Diego State; Paris Austin, Boise State; Hayden Dalton, Wyoming; Justin James, Wyoming; Tim Williams, New Mexico.

Individual awards

Player of the Year: Gian Clavell, Colorado State (4)

(others receiving votes: Marcus Marshall, Nevada; Emmanuel Omogbo, Colorado State; Cameron Oliver, Nevada)

Coach of the Year: Larry Eustachy, Colorado State (8)
(others receiving votes: Eric Musselman, Nevada; Dave Wojcik, San Jose State)

Newcomer of the Year: Marcus Marshall, Nevada (8)
(others receiving votes: Jordan Caroline, Nevada; Deshon Taylor, Fresno State)

Freshman of the Year: Koby McEwen, Utah State (11)

Defensive Player of the Year: Cameron Oliver, Nevada (4)
(others receiving votes: Dakarai Allen, San Diego State; Brandon Clarke, San Jose State; Emmanuel Omogbo, Colorado State; Jaron Hopkins, Fresno State)

Sixth Man of the Year: Justin James, Wyoming (7)
(others receiving votes: Paris Austin, Boise State; Hayden Dalton, Wyoming)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Wyoming 74, SJSU 62

Wyoming won both 20 minute sessions in defeating San Jose State University 74-62 in Laramie on Saturday. Brandon Clarke was again big via 20 points plus nine boards and three blocks while teammate Ryan Welage provided 19 points.

The Cowboys shot 50% overall including 11-21 from three-point range and the Spartans were guilty of 21 turnovers in receiving negligible contributions from its backcourters.

The Washington Square crew has now lost five of their last six games.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Chris Murray offers his MWC honorees

Chris Murray makes his MVP pick: "...MARCUS MARSHALL ALSO DESERVES the MW player of the year award. The sharp-shooting guard leads the MW in scoring and 3-pointers made, is second in free throws made and third in assists. He’s also the best player on the best team in the league. Colorado State’s Gian Clavell, Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison and Marshall’s teammate, Cameron Oliver, also have cases for player of the year. Marshall’s four-game mini-slump a couple of weeks ago opened an argument to select someone else, but Marshall has been the MW’s best player from start to finish..."

Also: "MY ALL-MW FIRST TEAM INCLUDES Marshall, Oliver, Hutchison, Clavell and SJSU’s Brandon Clarke. My second team consists of Nevada’s Jordan Caroline and D.J. Fenner, Colorado State’s Emmanuel Ombogo, New Mexico’s Elijah Brown and Utah State Jalen Moore. Marshall is my MW newcomer of the year, Utah State’s Koby McEwen my MW freshman of the year, SDSU’s Dakari Allen my MW defensive player of the year and Wyoming’s Hayden Dalton my MW sixth man of the year..."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Nevada 82, SJSU 67

Visiting Nevada jumped out to a 47-24 halftime lead and San Jose State University never could recover before falling 82-67. The score was 64-54 halfway through the second 20 minutes but the advance was repelled.

Ryan Welage led the Spartans with 16 points but needed 14 shot attempts to do so while Brandon Clarke posted a 13 point (nine shots), nine rebound, five assist line. Guard Isaac Thornton enjoyed an unusual line of eight points plus 10 boards.

For the Wolf Pack, Cameron Oliver produced 13 points (11 shots), six boards, two assists and two blocks.


Thinking out loud

Conventional wisdom is that Brandon Clarke cannot win Player of the Year honors because the Spartans are not competing for the top spot in the Mountain West Conference.

But does that change is SJSU beats Nevada tonight?

Clarke is currently ranked #3 in scoring and rebounding and tops in shotblocking. Is there really another player who has performed as consistently as Clarke? Maybe Cam Oliver. That and the fact that the Wolf Pack will likely finish no worse than second are indeed large obstacles.

We'll know soon enough but tonight will tell us a lot.