San Jose State basketball opens Mountain West play with a clank

san_jose_stateClank!

Get used to that noise. It’s a season in which the San Jose State men’s basketball team is far behind the curve and still looked at as building toward mediocrity in the Mountain West. And the bunch is going to spend every waking moment of it, apparently, launching 3-pointers.

And, in the case of Wednesday night’s opener against Nevada, missing most of them.

Whiff!

The Spartans shot just 34 percent for the game against Nevada in a 62-50 loss Wednesday in which they squandered a one-point halftime lead against one of two other bottom feeders in the conference (the other one being Air Force.) That lead, at 26-25, was not the last one, either. The Spartans actually got up by four in the second half before they went cold from the field and the Wolf Pack found their stroke.

Nevada went on an 18-3 run for a good six-minute span in the second half to not only erase the deficit, but put the game away. San Jose State’s shooting never improved, and the Spartans never found any kind of groove from any range. They were 5 for 20 from 3-point range in the game — not bad, but not good — but that small win is immediately negated by the fact that one player hit four of them.

Devante Wilson was the only player to really have a good game. He shot well from the field (4-7 from 3-point range, 6-6 on free throws) to lead the team with 18 points. D.J. Brown continues to show his potential as a pass-first point guard by getting five assists (to go with five points).

But the problems were glaring on the offensive side of the ball. Chris Cunningham was the only other player in double figures with 10 points, but needed needed 11 shots and was well under 50 percent shooting for the game to get there. For the teams only real post presence, he has to be better if he’s going to take that many shots.

Bonk! Rattle rattle rattle.

Rashad Muhammad, the teams surprise scoring juggernaut of the preseason, was quiet. He had just five points, and missed three 3-pointers; Jalen James, the team’s other big recruit, struggled from the field, making just one of seven shots.

This was a missed opportunity. Nevada (6-8) blew no one away in San Jose, and showed that they have a lot of work to do this season also if they want to even sniff the postseason. At 1 for 12 from 3-point range and 42 percent from the field, there was a lot to like about the Spartans defense considering how it has struggled.

San Jose State is going to go where its shooting takes it this season. That’s not going to be far, but when an opportunity like this is missed, it makes it oh so hard to stay optimistic going forward.

Clank!

Next game: at Utah State, Saturday at 6 p.m.

Sidenote: If you aren’t also checking out Kevin McCarthy’s Spartan Roundball blog, you’re missing out.

SJSU women fall at Nevada to open MWC play

For as hard as the men’s game was to take, the women’s was even harder.

San Jose State (6-6, 0-1) laid an egg on the road in Reno, once again allowing a team to hit the century mark in a 101-74 loss to the Wolf Pack on Wednesday. Much like the men, the problem isn’t hard to find – the Spartans shot just 32 percent from the field, and no one was better than 50 percent from the field for the game.

Nevada got 22 points from Danika Sharpe in the first half. The Spartans led for a total of 47 seconds before the Wolf Pack tied it up, then surged ahead. It got so bad the end of the bench was in the game in the second half.

Ta’Rea Cunnigan had 17 points, mostly by getting to the free throw line (10 for 13 on free throws). Three others — Classye James (11), Riana Byrd (10) and Jasmine Smith (13) — were in double figures. The Spartans, though, shot just 15.4 percent (2 for 13) from 3-point range in the first half and subsequently got buried by a 23 point deficit at halftime.

The Spartans were outrebounded 66-46. Despite nine blocks as a team for San Jose State, Nevada was 43 percent from the field for the game.

You have to feel for this team. Coach Jamie Craighead’s offense is a taxing one to run, and being shorthanded is only exacerbating the situation on defense. Only one player Wednesday night had less than 20 minutes on the court, and she was only a minute short of that mark. If the Spartans had a fuller bench right now, they might not have to barely win games by scoring 95-100 points.That’s just not going to happen every time they take the court.

They have a lot of talent, but with the personnel so thin at this point, it’s going to make the mere act of competing difficult at best.

Next game: vs. Utah State, 2 p.m. Saturday

San Jose State men’s hoops win thriller over UC Davis in 3OT; women roll over Ga. State

It took an extra three periods, 15 minutes and a lot of work, including more than a few come backs, but the San Jose State men’s basketball was able to fend off a strong challenge from UC Davis for its second straight win and fourth this season, 89-85, on Wednesday night.

This piggybacked off the women’s basketball team snapping its four-game losing streak by outshooting Georgia State, 95-81.

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Spartan Notes: San Jose State WR Jones earns honorable mention on SI all-America team

Chandler Jones turned a 15-touchdown, 79-catch season into a spot on the honorable mention list for Sports Illustrated’s All-America team, the only San Jose State player to land on the team. The Mountain West landed a slough of honorable mentions from the magazine, but no actual spots on the first or second team.

Check out the team here.

The long and short of it: David Fales got snubbed. Again.

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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.

In other San Jose State news …

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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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How they wrote it: San Jose State’s upset win over Fresno State

Enjoy this one, guys. You did what no one else in the Mountain West could do this year: beat the Bulldogs.

Enjoy this one, guys. You did what no one else in the Mountain West could do this year: beat the Bulldogs.

Links to the different stories from around the state on Friday’s 62-52 shootout upset win by San Jose State over No. 16 Fresno State.