San Jose State vs. Portland: Series Preview
Two first-year head coaches put their non-conference momentum on the line on Friday.
San Jose State heads north for a Friday clash with the Portland Pilots.
WHO: San Jose State Spartans (5-4, 0-0 in the MW) vs. Portland Pilots (8-4, 0-0 in the WCC)
WHEN: Friday, December 17th, 6:00 PM PT, 7:00 PM MT
WHERE: Chiles Center-Portland, OR
Stream: WCC Network
Line: KenPom, Pilots are favored by 2
SERIES RECORD: Portland leads all-time series 11-12
Part of the Mountain West Conference’s triple-header on Friday, Tim Miles takes San Jose State north to face the Portland Pilots inside the Chiles Center.
Both of these programs have found themselves in the college basketball cellar over the past few years, but both have new and proven head coaches leading their ascent out this season. The Spartans are led by Tim Miles, a proven winner in the Mountain West at Colorado State with an ensuing seven year stint in the Big Ten. While Portland nabbed the up and coming young coach in the region, 40-year-old Shantay Legans from Eastern Washington (75-49, in four seasons).
Portland is coming off of their worst loss of the coach Legans era, as the Pilots fell 71-96 to in-state Pac-12 power Oregon in Eugene on Wednesday. The 25-point road loss hurts, but the Ducks have only ever fell to Portland eight times in decades long history, so nothing out of the ordinary there.
The Pilots may have the better record but the Spartans have some winning momentum on their side. They’ve won four of their last five and have their first undefeated winning record at home since the 1999-2000 season. This all after their 78-66 win over fellow WCC member Pacific, where four players logged double-digit point totals.
The last time these teams met was on November 10th, 2019 in San Jose, where the Pilots won 72-57. Portland has won the last five-meetings, it’s about time for the Spartans to even the overall series record at twelve wins a piece. This Tim Miles led squad can do just that tonight.
Match up of the night: Battle of the stat-sheet stuffers
The Spartans welcomed plenty of incoming talent via the portal and overseas for coach Miles inaugural season in the Bay Area. Though, of the returning pieces back for San Jose State, Omari Moore has led the rebuild with several impressive performances. The 6’6 wing can play multiple positions on the floor and is currently averaging 15.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.4 SPG & 1.3 BPG. He’ll be a key focal point for the Pilot defense if they hoping for their ninth win in just fourteen contests. They haven’t had a season above .500 in seven years, back when they were coached by Eric Revenue in 2014-2015 ( 17-16).
For the Pilots, coach Legans had three starters from Eastern Washington follow him to Portland, along with a couple of recruits. Maybe the most impactful at the moment is redshirt-sophomore Tyler Robertson. The Australian wing has leveled up in his new home and is contributing all over the floor. Most known as a sniper from beyond the three-point line, Robertson is averaging 16.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 4.3 APG & 1.1 SPG.
Both players make their impact in multiple places on the court, but plenty of strategy and offense flows through them both. So the worst shooting, distributing or defensive night from either player could be the decision factor.
For SJSU: The Treys
Omari Moore does a bit of everything, but any support or extra help from his teammates is of course welcome. In this one, a duel double-digit performance from the Treys (Smith & Anderson). The 6-3 Smith is second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.1 PPG. While the 6-7 combo forward Anderson is coming off of his best scoring performance of the season, with 23-points against Pacific, including five three-pointers made.
I’ve decided to highlight a familiar face to Mountain West fans in former UNLV Runnin’ Rebel Moses Wood. Who since leaving Sin City has increased his playing time and productivity in the Rose City, averaging 14.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG & 1.6 APG as the Pilot’s starting five man. He brings the size and shooting touch beyond the arc (2.1 makes a game shooting 44.6%) to give coach Legans another scoring threat along with Robertson and Fordham transfer Chris Austin (15.2 PPG & 4.9 RPG).
Prediction: Portland 72, San Jose State 68
Both squads lack multiple scoring options to really separate themselves from their opponent. Portland’s beating D-I opponents by 8.5 PPG, while the Spartans are doing the same thing in 9.8 PPG. I expect this one to be close, and likely decided by some late second clutch free-throws or even a half-court heave. But I do expect the hometown court to survive this one and keep the W in Portland.
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.