UW vs. San Jose State men’s hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Kevin McCarthy, who runs the Spartan Roundball blog that covers San Jose State men’s basketball, about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 7 p.m. MT Wednesday at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Kevin McCarthy

Kevin McCarthy

San Jose State remains in last place in the Mountain West, but it appears significant progress is being made in the rebuilding of the program. Would you agree or disagree with that, and what has been the most significant improvements?

Progress has definitely been made. The squad can play competitively with the lower half of the conference teams but just not for a full 40 minutes. The freshman starters, Ryan Welage, Cody Schwartz and Jaycee Hillsman, along with Brandon Clarke have demonstrated Mountain West talent in flashes. Various additions to them, such as greater weight and strength, experience and the honing of current skills, along with some more players, will get the Spartans on a much more equal footing with anyone in league.

What still needs to happen for the Spartans to be a consistent competitor in the conference?

Foremost is the need for a true point guard. The team lacks a talent who can limit turnovers while running the offense,  penetrate and either score or pass the ball while also being — at very least — an average defender. Whether it is Hillsman stepping up or not, a consistent shooting scoring guard is a must. Plus, a replacement of sorts in the frontcourt for Frank Rogers is required. The youngsters must return with better bodies and improved skill sets.

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Coaches weigh in about keeping MW Tournament at Thomas & Mack Center

Wyoming men’s basketball coach Larry Shyatt spoke for a little more than 20 minutes Monday on behalf of the other 10 Mountain West men’s hoops coaches about the league’s decision to change the format of the MW Tournament to eight teams for both the men’s and women’s events starting in 2017.

Larry Shyatt

Larry Shyatt

In the past, and for the 2016 event, all teams were allowed to participate.

Here’s is Shyatt’s full statement from Monday. Quick hint, he didn’t hold anything back and needless to say, he wasn’t happy.

http://www.wyosports.net/shyatt-issues-statement-on-behalf-of-mw-hoops-coaches-on/article_642f6f4a-ad82-11e5-b81b-9bd0b26a88d4.html

The MW decision, which was released on Dec. 18, also included keeping the MW Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas — the home court for UNLV — through 2019.

UNLV has won three MW Tournament titles there, with the last one coming in 2008. The MW gets a good deal in terms of “rent” for the facility, which was the driving force to keeping it there.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

I thought I would wait until the start of conference play to do my first Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings of the season.

Who is good and who is not may be more uncertain now than at the start of the season. But you have to start somewhere, so here we go.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com. As always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Boise State (8-4, 69 RPI): There was a head-scratching loss at Montana to start the season, but the only other losses for the Broncos have been to Arizona twice and now No. 1 Michigan State. A good mix of inside and outside production, and the team to beat as league play begins.

2. UNLV (9-4, 71 RPI): I’m a little hesitant to put the Runnin’ Rebels up this high, but they’ve not had any bad losses. However, UNLV let a double-digit second half lead at home to Arizona State slip away in a 10-point loss. As is the case most years, UNLV has the most talent in the MW, but can coach Dave Rice put it all together through the rigors of league play?

3. Utah State (8-3, 132 RPI): The Aggies have responded well after losing one of its best players — sophomore forward David Collette — who quit just prior to the season-opener. Utah State has not beaten anyone great, but has taken care of business against teams it should. This is a veteran team, which should help in the MW.

4. Fresno State (8-4, 129 RPI): A loss at Cal Poly was a surprise, but this is a big, physical and athletic team with enough talent to win the conference. Will see what the Bulldogs are made of this week as they play at UNLV and host New Mexico.

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UW-San Jose State men’s hoops Q&A

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

Jimmy Durkin

Jimmy Durkin

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.

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UW-San Jose State men’s hoops postgame thoughts

I don’t think many expected Wyoming to struggle at San Jose State Saturday night.

But it did.

However, UW played better defense and got to the free-throw line in the second half for a 64-59 victory in front of what was announced as a crowd of 1,188 at The Event Center in San Jose, California.

Larry Shyatt

Larry Shyatt

We all know that UW (13-2 overall, 2-0 Mountain West) likes to slow the pace of games. That worked to San Jose State’s advantage. Despite getting two of five players back from suspensions, the Spartans dressed only eight players — seven of whom played. The two reserves who got into the game played just over eight total minutes.

San Jose State (2-12, 0-2) would hold the ball for most of the shot clock, and then run a play or launch at 3-pointer. It worked for a while as the Spartans made four of its first 3-pointers over the first 12 minutes of the game, but they made only 4 of 16 the rest of the game.

When the Spartans were not making 3s, they did a good job of getting looks inside and mid-range jump shots. San Jose State made five more baskets than UW, and five more 3-pointers.

“We executed the game plan exactly as our staff wanted them to do,” San Jose State coach Dave Wojcik said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win it down the stretch. That’s all you can as for as a coach.”

But the Cowboys were 23 of 30 from the free-throw line and 18 of 24 in the second half. The Spartans were 3 of 6 from the line in the game. That, and the fact UW held a 32-24 rebounding edge, and a 28-19 advantage on the defensive glass, were the biggest factors in the win, coach Larry Shyatt said.

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Adams provides spark for Cowboys at any time

Wyoming trailed UNLV 37-33 at halftime of its Mountain West opener Wednesday night in Laramie.

The Cowboys weren’t playing horribly, but they needed a spark — someone to make some plays and give the team and the crowd some energy.

Josh Adams

Josh Adams

Enter Josh Adams.

The junior guard recorded an assist on UW’s first basket of the half, then had a steal and spectacular reverse layup that tied the game at 37. Adams’ driving layup capped off a 12-2 run for the Cowboys to start the half. The Cowboys trailed only once after that.

With 1:43 to play, Adams made a 3-pointer — his only one of the game — with the shot clock about to expire that pretty much sealed the game.

UW fans have seen Adams do things like this before. He is one of the most athletic players on the team, and his dunks, defense and overall hustle often get his team going.

“Josh is one of the most athletic people I’ve ever been or around and played with,” senior forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “When you have someone like him that is a spark plug, it’s fun to sit back in awe and watch. He definitely brings energy, whether it’s coming off bench or whenever. He’s just a fireball of energy, and I’m glad we have him.”

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UW-San Jose State men’s basketball Q&A

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, about Saturday’s Mountain West game between the University of Wyoming and San Jose State. Tip-off is at 8 p.m. MT at The Event Center in San Jose.

Follow on Twitter: @Jimmy_Durkin

What is the latest on the suspensions of the four players for San Jose State, which includes the four leading scorers on the team? What did they do and will they be back for the Wyoming game?

Jimmy Durkin

Jimmy Durkin

There hasn’t been much official word. Coach Dave Wojcik is sticking with calling the length “indefinite.” There are indications that Rashad Muhammad and Jaleel Williams could be back fairly soon (they’ve participated in practices recently), but there hasn’t been any definitive word and Wojcik plans to keep it hush until anybody actually does come back. I’ve heard Wednesday’s game (at Utah State) was likely the last for Andrew Vollert, one of the football players who joined the team after the suspensions. So maybe a couple of guys are back Saturday, but that won’t be known until near game time.

At 2-11 overall, has the season played out a lot like you thought with San Jose State to this point?

No, I wouldn’t say that. I didn’t expect a ton out of this team this year, but thought they’d begin to show some signs of improvement. The Spartans played well in their opener (it was against NAIA Bethesda), and played well for the first 30 minutes against Portland. At that point, I thought a 10 or so win season with a few Mountain West wins was possible. But things started falling apart on the court and then, of course, off the court and it’s looking like it’ll be a really long year.

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UW-San Jose St. men’s hoops Q&A

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 about Saturday’s 3 p.m. game with the University of Wyoming at The Events Center in San Jose, Calif.

Follow on Twitter: @Jimmy_Durkin

As the only winless team in conference play and on a 12-game losing streak, how have the Spartans held up mentally and even physically during this time?

It’s starting to weigh on them, no doubt. Coach Dave Wojcik even said after the close loss to Air Force that the team is struggling mentally. The combination of their youth and the losses is adding up. The only hope now is that they are learning from the experience.

 

The Spartans have had some close games at home in MW play with New Mexico, Colorado State and Air Force. What do they do well when games like that are close?

They shoot. It’s really as simple as that. They don’t have much of an inside presence, other than Chris Cunningham. So any offense usually comes from outside shooting. The games in which they are hot, they have a chance.

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What could have been for UW, Muhammad

When the Wyoming men’s basketball team hosts San Jose State at 2 p.m. Saturday in Laramie, the Cowboys will be familiar with the Spartans’ best player.

Rashad Muhammad

Rashad Muhammad

True freshman guard Rashad Muhammad is a 6-foot-6 guard that leads all Mountain West freshmen in scoring (17 ppg). He also leads his team in shots made, shots taken and free-throw percentage.

Muhammad’s final two choices for college came down to UW and San Jose State. He and his mom  made an official visit to Laramie during the recruiting process.

“It’s pretty cool coming back,” Muhammad said. “I liked it there and my visit was great. Coach Shyatt had me over to his house and I hung out with the team a lot. It was a real good time.”

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UW-San Jose State men’s hoops Q&A

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 about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium.

Follow on Twitter: @Jimmy_Durkin

 

Even though San Jose State is 6-11 overall and 0-5 in the Mountain West, what have been some of the positives with this team in coach Dave Wojcik’s first season?

The team has been competitive, a lot more competitive than most people thought they would be. They’ve been right there in games with Nevada, Colorado State and New Mexico and were close most of the way with Utah State. The Air Force game was close midway through the second half, also. There wasn’t an expectation for many (or maybe even any) wins in the first season in the Mountain West, but the young team is showing signs it may be competitive in the next couple of years.

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