Spartan Notes: Jalen James honored by MWC after triple-double on Saturday

Jalen James put up stellar numbers in the Spartans upset of Houston on Saturday, getting just the second triple-double in San Jose State history and just the third in Mountain West history.

He was rewarded Monday with a share of the Mountain West Conference co-player of the week honors with New Mexico’s Cameron Bairstow.

James is the fifth player in the NCAA to have a triple-double this season, getting 12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in the Spartans’ 72-68 win over the Cougars, but he is the first freshman this season to do so.

In other San Jose State sports news …

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The alleys are closed: San Jose State won’t be bowling this year, and here’s why.

935_-mountain_west_conference-primary-2011It will be a winter of discontent for San Jose State.

The Spartans will spend December at home this year after a 6-6 record and a rousing win over ranked rival Fresno State, victim to there being too many eligible teams and not enough spots. San Diego State and Colorado State snapped up the last two spots from the Mountain West, with the Aztecs taking their boring act to Boise instead of the Spartans, who spent the entire week campaigning for that spot.

Those were the Spartans last good hopes. There was no magic to be worked, either: the few at-large bids went to mediocre teams in power conferences, and with so many teams fighting over the scraps, the Spartans were bound to be one of the many left out. It’s 2008 all over again.

For a season that started with such high hopes, it’s a disappointing end for everyone involved.

There will be a lot of hand wringing about bad losses to mediocre teams which could have tipped the balance for a bowl game to their favor.

So why did this happen?

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Spartan Notes: SJSU men’s hoops stun Houston, and MWC bowl projections

935_-mountain_west_conference-primary-2011Saturday morning, I said that what ails San Jose State basketball is an inability to move the ball and pick good shots.

Well, then.

Throw that out at least for one game. San Jose State walked away Saturday with its most impressive win of the season, rallying to beat the University of Houston 72-68 on the road.

The team’s top two recruits were the show: Rashad Muhammad, in continuing with what is becoming tradition for the Spartans, led in scoring with 21 points, including a 3-pointer in the final minutes that gave them the lead for good.

More impressive, though, is Jalen James’ triple-double, just the second in school history and third in Mountain West history. The freshman guard had 12 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds against the Cougars on Saturday. It is the first in the conference since 2006, and first since 2001 for San Jose State.

This was a big win for the Spartans. They came back from an 11-point deficit with about eight minutes left, playing strong defense and taking advantage of Houston going cold from the field. They had 17 assists, by far the most in a game this season, and shot a season-high 48.9 percent from the field, including a 14 for 26 mark from 3-point range.

D.J. Brown added five assists and four steals in the game, and Devante Wilson had 16 points. The Spartans are off 10 days before facing UC Davis on Dec. 18.

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They shoot (and miss) a lot: Quick assessment of SJSU’s men’s hoops team so far

Dave Wojcik and Jaleel Williams.

Dave Wojcik and Jaleel Williams.

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:

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Spartan Notes: Fales wins lots of awards, sees draft stock go up

san_jose_stateDavid Fales is starting to get a lot of attention.

The senior quarterback is winning all the awards this week. The list seems to go to 11 so far. Such are the accolades for knocking off everyone’s favorite — and most overrated — BCS buster in Fresno State.

On top of that, Charles Davis of NFL.com sees the senior quarterback zipping up draft boards also.

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Breaking down Chris Petersen’s decision to leave Boise for Washington (with edits)

Chris Petersen is leaving Boise State after eight seasons, ESPN reports.

Chris Petersen is leaving Boise State after eight seasons, ESPN reports. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

This is some serious deja vu for Boise State.

ESPN is reporting that Boise State head coach Chris Petersen has finally decided to leave the Broncos. His choice? Washington, which is heading to a bowl game after a 7-5 year under Steve Sarkisian, who just bolted for USC (former Raiders QB and Washington alum Marques Tuiasosopo will coach the team in the bowl game.)

Petersen’s path here is not far off from his predecessor, Dan Hawkins, who had three straight one-loss seasons from 2002 to 2004 before losing four in 2005, finishing outside the top 25 for the first time in three years, and bolting for Colorado.

Here’s what you need to know about Petersen’s move:

Why Washington?

Here’s why I think he’s finally leaving after rejecting so many overtures over the years, including the same USC gig his predecessor with the Huskies took:

  • Money. Washington essentially offered to make Petersen one of the highest paid coaches in the Pac-12. And they did not disappoint, giving Petersen $3.6 million per year. That’s a strong offer from a program not looked upon as elite. He made $2.2 million at Boise State, the most in the Mountain West, but that’s small compared to what the Huskies are allegedly throwing on the table.
  • He gets a team on the rise. Washington, in essence, presents a strong chance to do special things with someone else’s recruits, and use it to build a dynasty. Sarkisian recovered the Huskies from the ash heap of irrelevance after a winless season in 2008, and what he’s done there last few years is nothing short of amazing. Petersen likely sees a team he doesn’t have to rebuild or reload, because the previous coach has left for another reclamation project. He can win now and take all the credit.
  • Top level talent doesn’t want to come to Boise any more. It was already hard enough for Petersen to pull in top-level talent given factors like location, but being in a reduced Mountain West has likely made it intolerable. He can offer up a premiere stage to the same recruits he was pursuing now as well as an extremely appealing metropolis in Seattle.
  • Boise State may finally be a program in decline. After seven great years, the Broncos lost more games this year than they have since Dan Hawkins was coach. They will finish outside the top 25 for the first time in Petersen’s tenure. He lost as many games this year than he has in the last four years combined. The team hasn’t had many bad recruiting classes, but a few recent ones have not lived up to expectations. Petersen may have seen the writing on the wall, especially since recruiting to Boise isn’t getting any easier despite more than a decade of success for the program.
  • The Mountain West’s prestige as a conference has gone way down. Boise State remained rather than jump to the then-Big East because the Mountain West threw money at them (and the Big East became a less appealing choice after getting raided by everyone.) The problem is that all the good teams left for other conferences: TCU is in the Big 12 now, Brigham Young is an independent and Utah is happy in the Pac 12. The conference replaced them with the old vestiges of the WAC — Nevada, Fresno State, and later Utah State and San Jose State. These teams may have good seasons, but don’t bring to the table the year over year success the three that left did, and certainly aren’t name brands. This effects everything: Gate receipts, value of their independent TV contracts, ability to get into big time bowl games, and, most of all, recruiting. The Pac-12 is, I would say, the second or third best conference in the nation. The Mountain West is still in the middle when it comes to the 11 FBS conferences, but realignment opened the break between top and middling programs into a chasm.

So what are his prospects with the Huskies?

If history holds for Boise State coaches who have moved on, it’s not good. Houston Nutt had good years at Arkansas, but never did better than OK at Arkansas. Dirk Koetter had mixed success in six seasons at Arizona State. Dan Hawkins was an abject failure in Colorado.

Who’s going to coach the Broncos next?

Again, if recent tradition holds true, they’ll stay in house and offensive coordinator Robert Prince will be the man. After all, Hawkins was Koetter’s offensive coordinator, and Petersen was Hawkins’ OC. Prince, who has been OC for the Broncos the last two years, could be in line for a promotion, especially since he’s been around the team off and on since 2001. This seems unlikely given the other options available.

At this point, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for the Broncos to go out of house for their next coach. The conference may be down and the team may have had a down year by its standards, but Boise State still brings a name brand to the table that could attract a savvy assistant looking to strike out on his own.

[Edit – Petersen is likely to take much of his coaching staff with him, but there are some intriguing former assistants on the table. The Idaho Statesman’s Chad Crippe seems to be zeroing in on two particular former assistants as the leaders: Bryan Harsin, Arkansas State’s coach and a former Boise State offensive coordinator, and Justin Wilcox, Washington’s current defensive coordinator and a former Boise State defensive coordinator under Petersen. Harsin may be intriguing but unlikely since his buyout is expensive; Wilcox has options on the table since two of his former bosses are building staffs. For now, Bob Gregory will serve as the team’s interim coach.]

What does this mean for San Jose State?

Right now, not much. It could mean more later on, especially in the money department.

Boise State is the Mountain West’s cash cow, the best team year over year in the conference. If Petersen’s leaving signals a declining program, then it could equal less for everyone.

There’s also the remote chance that the Spartans could lose someone in this whole coaching realignment. Ron Caragher isn’t going anywhere, but offensive coordinator Jimmy Daugherty has ties to Washington (he was a position coach there last year) and to Steve Sarkisian (whom he worked for), which could mean he could be moving on after just one year for understandably greener pastures.

Let the beauty pageant begin: San Jose State starts searching for a postseason home

san_jose_stateThe easy part is done, although the Spartans chose a rather difficult and trying way to accomplish it.

With a win over Fresno State in an absolute shootout last Friday, San Jose State is bowl eligible at 6-6, a rather precarious record to be given that they make seven for six spots.

Being eligible for a bowl and actually going bowling are two different things, and that means the hardest week of the year for everyone is upon us. The Spartans won’t know if they have a postseason to look forward to until Dec. 8 as the Mountain West tries to work out how to get all seven teams to bowl games, or figures out with the help of its bowl partners which team stays home.

But as of right now, here’s what we are looking at as far as bowls and teams:

  • There are currently 77 bowl eligible teams, with a potential for two more (AAC – Rutgers, SMU are both 5-6 with one to play.) Remember, there are only 70 slots in bowls, and no at-large bids outside of the BCS.
  • Conferences that will have spaces to fill: American (0, 1 or 2 – Meineke Bowl of Texas;  Notre Dame will likely fill the AAC’s open spot in the Pinstripe; this is all riding on the outcome of Rutgers’ and SMU’s games); Big Ten (1 – Little Ceasars); Big 12 (1 – Pinstripe.)
  • Conferences with a surplus of teams: Mountain West 1; Pac-12 (2); ACC (2); Sunbelt (3); MAC (3)
  • Teams likely on the bubble: Ohio (7-5); Toledo (7-5);  Colorado State (7-6); Florida Atlantic (6-6); Oregon State (6-6); Washington State (6-6); Pittsburgh (6-6); North Carolina (6-6); Central Michigan (6-6); Texas State (6-6); Louisiana-Monroe (6-6); San Jose State (6-6).

Suffice to say, someone’s not bowling this year. Will it be San Jose State? Or will they find a home for the holidays that isn’t in front of a TV?

Here are the key questions involved with the Spartans and their postseason hopes …

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