WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Jimmy Durkin, who covers San Jose State men’s basketball for the San Jose Mercury News, on Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.
The game starts at 4 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, and will be televised on Root Sports.
Follow on Twitter: @Jimmy_Durkin
The Spartans continue to struggle with no Mountain West wins and just two victories overall, but have there been any bright spots or reasons to feel optimistic about the program in the future?
Sadly, the biggest bright spots have been the timing of their injuries to point guard Jalen
James and center Leon Bahner (a 6-foot-11 true freshman from Germany). James was injured in the eighth game and Bahner in practice after the ninth game, so both just barely fit under the guidelines to be eligible for medical redshirts. Assuming they are awarded them, that would be a small bright spot. James is obviously a key player being the point guard and Bahner, when healthy, provides size they sorely need. Bahner’s still pretty new to organized hoops, so getting a redshirt year in was always probably wise, they just didn’t have enough depth to do it.
But looking to next year, getting those guys back, along with really everybody except senior Jaleel Williams, should make them more competitive and definitely more experienced. They recruited pretty well, bringing in some more size and length and will add a former Pac-12 player when Utah transfer Princeton Onwas becomes eligible. Hopefully it’s enough to win a couple games.
When this team has played well this season, what does it do well?
Shoot. The Spartans don’t have any real interior scoring threats and coach Dave Wojcik basically preaches for them to shoot whenever they have an open look. He wants them firing up a lot of 3-pointers. The few stretches in which they’ve played well and been in games has been because they’ve gotten the shots to fall. But at less than 36 percent on the season, that obviously hasn’t happened much.
Aside from depth with injuries and other personnel moves, what are the biggest areas of need for San Jose State moving forward?
They need an increase in resources, which has come to a degree. Wojcik’s staff spent $100,000 in recruiting in his first year, nearly triple what former coach George Nessman spent over his eight seasons. I don’t think we can fairly say yet what Wojcik is as a coach because he hasn’t had enough legit Division I talent on his roster, but he does seem to be recruiting well with that increased budget. I think if they can have a season next year that shows they are capable of competing mildly in the Mountain West, maybe they can start digging out of this hole. But it’s a hole that’s been dug for over 30 years now, so it’s going to take a lot of work still.
San Jose State gave Wyoming everything it wanted last month in San Jose. Based on that, and how Wyoming has struggled the last two games without senior forward Larry Nance Jr., do you think the Spartans are confident going into Saturday’s game?
At 2-21, I don’t think it’s possible for them to enter a game confident. The Air Force and Nevada home games were ones they thought they had a shot and I believe they’ll think the same when they face Nevada on the road (that’s where their only MW win last year came). Do they probably feel a little better than normal coming into this game? Yes, but I think that’s mostly because they are fresh off their best chance at an MW win in that Nevada game. But they’ve been brutal on the road in league play this year, losing by an average of 29.7. The closest defeat was by 18. Hard to feel good when you’ve been that bad on the road.
What are your keys to the game, and how do you see it unfolding?
The way San Jose State does and needs to play with its limited depth fortunately plays well with Wyoming’s slower pace. That’s one reason I think the last meeting was fairly close. But I have to imagine Wyoming having a close call with the Spartans previously got its attention and my guess is it’ll put the game out of reach fairly quickly and win going away.
Cowboys game day
Game: San Jose State (2-21 overall, 0-11 Mountain West) at Wyoming (19-6, 8-4)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie
TV: Root Sports
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KCGY (95.1 FM) Laramie
Tickets: UW Athletics Ticket Office, 877-996-3261 or gowyo.com