It hasn’t been a pretty open to San Jose State’s first season in the Mountain West. Not that anyone should have expected it to be.
The Spartans are just 2-6 so far heading into Saturday’s game against Houston (Online, ESPN3 at 3 p.m.), with an impressive win over Pepperdine and little else to show. Rashad Muhammad has been a revelation in the early going, averaging 16.9 points per game so far, while junior Jaleel Williams pitches in about 14 per game.
But what ails the Spartans in this early juncture is a mix of woes on offense and defense that come with unfamiliarity with each other, and youth. Dave Wojcik had no delusions when he came to San Jose that it was going to be tough.
But I wonder if he knew just how tough it was going to be this first season?
Some early observations of the Spartans’ play so far this season:
They shoot a lot of ill-advised 3-pointers. San Jose State’s 37.7 shooting percentage for the season so far is 346th out of 351 Division I programs, a product of hucking up too many 3-pointers. The Spartans are 13th in the nation in 3-pointers (76) and ninth in the nation in attempts (219). By contrast, the numbers inside the arch are abysmal — 97 made (331th in the nation) and 240 attempts.
They don’t pass the ball enough either. The Spartans have just 84 assists this year, an average of 10.5 per game (262nd overall).
The defensive stats are not that strong right now. The Spartans are in the top 100 in personal fouls committed this year, and near the bottom of the nation in blocks and steals. They grab a lot of rebounds, ranked 127th in the nation with a per game average in the high 30s. Yes, teams are only scoring an average of 73.3 points per game against them, but they are also forcing very few turnovers so far (78 by opponents so far.)
What does it suggest?
The offense is settling for shots that are not strong, and it’s showing with their 68.8 points per game output. This young team isn’t moving the ball enough either to find open shots, and their defense hasn’t been good enough to offset all the misses most of the time.
This was going to be a trying season, and anyone who thought otherwise is delusional. Basketball programs not named Kentucky or Michigan State are not built overnight, and certainly not ones that spent the last decade not trying to win earnestly.
Coach Dave Wojcik must get the offense working the ball around more, and converting more possessions into points. The defense will likely come with experience. The tools seem to be all there, it’s just a matter of getting this young and inexperienced team to work as a unit.
(Note: Observations are based off of these stats from sports-reference.com.)