Mountain West Basketball Profile: Fresno State Bulldogs
The Fresno State Bulldogs are set to kick off the 2018-2019 season with a new head coach
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Fresno State is led by star guard Deshon Taylor
Next in our Mountain West basketball preview series is Fresno State. Justin Hutson, former assistant for San Diego State, took over the job after Rodney Terry left for UTEP. With Central Valley roots, the rookie head coach is ready to surprise some people.
Projected Starting Lineup
- G, Deshon Taylor, Sr., 6-2, 185
- G, Braxton Huggins, Sr., 6-4, 195
- F, Sam Bittner, Sr., 6-6, 210
- F, Nate Grimes, Jr., 6-8, 225
- C, Lazaro Rojas, So., 6-11, 235
Player To Watch
Is this really a surprise? Deshon Taylor is the heart and soul of this Bulldogs team, and has embraced Coach Hutson with open arms. Last season he averaged 17.8 points per game, and went off for 32 against Nevada to start off conference player. Taylor is a near-consensus All-MWC First Team selection, and is also the number 2 player in Mountain West Wire’s Top 25 MWC Countdown.
Nate Grimes is a freak athlete, plain and simple. While he won’t score many points, that’s totally. With a lethal guard tandem of Huggins and Taylor, and a formidable bench group, Grimes focus will be on the defensive end. Grimes only averaged a little north of 12 minutes per game last season, but with lots of departures his role will continue to grow. After all, who can
forget the great defensive play to seal the victory against the Aztecs?
The Bulldogs got some big key transfer this offseason, thanks in part to new head coach Justin Hutson, Perhaps the biggest transfer and player to watch for Fresno State is Braxton Huggins. The redshirt senior who transferred from New Mexico State is immediately inserted into the starting five, alongside Deshon Taylor. In 2016-2017, Huggins averaged 13.7 points per game, including 42% from beyond the arc. Taylor and Huggins together could be a recipe for success in the Mountain West.
Biggest Question Mark
The Bulldogs do have quite a few questions marks heading into this season. Will Justin Hutson be ready? Will the transfers get acclimated quickly? Will the returning players buy into the new system? Perhaps the biggest question is Hutson himself. He spent the past dozen seasons as an assistant at SDSU and UNLV, so his familiarity with the conference is exquisite. Did we mention he was on Steve Fisher’s staff for a few seasons also? Hutson has learned from one of the best in the game, but can he replicate even half that success?
Marquee Non-Conference Matchup
Fresno State will be tested very early on in this season, with a looming matchup against nationally ranked TCU. The second game of the season will be against the #15 Horned Frogs, on the road. This is a huge chance for the Bulldogs to pull off a huge upset, and worst case a great chance to gain some valuable experience to prepare for conference play. Let’s not forget about Nevada, who is preseason #7 in the entire nation.
The Bulldogs will have a 7-game long homestand at the Savemart Center, starting November 28 and ending right after the New Year’s Day. This is the longest homestand in almost 65 years, and should give the team plenty of time to get acclimated with one another.
Offensive Production Chart
Thirty Second Breakdown
New head coach, lots of departures, lots of additions via transfers, and the Bulldogs season can go a number of ways. After a 21-win season last year, Coach Hutson is more then ready for this opportunity. Fresno State is in the best mid-major in the NCAA, arguably. With Nevada, San Diego State, and New Mexico set at the top of the conference, Fresno State should be more than happy with a fourth or fifth-place finish in the conference. Don’t forget, win the MWC Tournament and you’re going dancing, just like the Bulldogs did in 2016.
Predicted Order of Finish