San Jose State Non-Conference Schedule Preview

San Jose State Non-Conference Schedule Preview

Mountain West Basketball

San Jose State Non-Conference Schedule Preview


San Jose State Non-Conference Schedule Preview 



Spartans look to improve on 8-23 record from a year ago



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It’s year two of the Tim Miles regime at San Jose State, and the Spartans will look to improve on an 8-23 tally in his first go-round.  The season started off fairly well, as SJSU went 7-5 in the non-conference portion of their schedule.  Unfortunately, injuries and lack of depth on the roster sent them off the rails during January and February, as they finished 1-17 in a very tough Mountain West Conference.  

The Spartans and their fans will hope this season plays out similarly to Miles’ second season at his prior stop of Nebraska, when he led the Huskers to a 4th place finish in the Big Ten and an NCAA Tournament berth.  While that may be a bit ambitious, the roster seems improved, and if they stay healthy, it’s certainly possible San Jose State can climb out of the cellar.  

Virtually all preseason publications and MWC polls have the Spartans interchangeable with Air Force in spots 10 and 11 of the league pecking order.  KenPom’s website and ratings, used by most as an unofficial ranking of every school in the country based on efficiency, have them neck and neck as well, literally right next to each other at 235 and 236 (out of 363 Division I teams).  It will be important for San Jose State to try and build confidence and momentum during November and December, before the grind of a very competitive conference schedule begins around the holidays.  

Below is a look at each non-conference matchup with a focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent, key personnel, and a brief insight of what to expect.  The Spartans will play 13 games in all, including a 3 game MTE (Multi-Team Event).  Listed next to the opponent in parentheses is that team’s preseason KenPom rank.  


#1. Tuesday, November 8th vs. Georgia Southern (221) – San Jose, CA; Provident Credit Union Event Center

The Spartans will open their 2022-23 campaign against a Georgia Southern team picked in the bottom half of the Sun Belt.  They are coming off a 13-16 season with a 5-11 league record.  The Eagles do return a lot of pieces, but that’s not always a good thing.  Lately they have been a very slow paced, deliberate team offensively.  Last year they struggled shooting the ball and turned it over at a high rate.  They have been effective defensively by slowing teams down and making them play in the half court.  There is a lack of size though that leads to poor rebounding numbers.  Facing a team flying across the country, this is an opener SJSU needs to get.


#2.  Saturday, November 12th vs. Bethesda (N/A) – San Jose, CA; Provident Credit Union Event Center

Frankly, the less said about this one the better.  Bethesda is a member of the NCCAA.  That’s the National Christian College Athletic Association for those of you not already keeping score at home.  These two played last year, and it was a 118-43 Spartan victory.  Expect something similar here, and a chance for Miles to tinker with player rotations and schemes.  


#3.  Tuesday, November 15th vs. Alabama State (344) – San Jose, CA; Provident Credit Union Event Center

Next to come to town will be Alabama State.  The Hornets are picked in the middle of the pack in a bad SWAC.  Long time D1 assistant Tony Madlock takes over for former NBA star Mo Williams as head coach.  Madlock finally got his chance at South Carolina State last year after 26 years as an aide.  His first team slightly outperformed expectations for two reasons.  One, his focus on playing fast and playing hard, and two, the talent of his son TJ Madlock.  TJ transferred to ASU to play for his father, and will be one of the most talented players in the conference.  Unfortunately, the rest of the roster will struggle to keep up, as the Hornets went 10-21 and 8-10 a year ago.  If the Spartans are not ready to go from the tip-off, this could be interesting for awhile, but ultimately the more talented team should be able to hold on for the win.  


#4.  Thursday, November 17th vs. Hofstra (144) – San Jose, CA; Provident Credit Union Event Center

The fourth of four home games to start the season will see SJSU entertain Hofstra.  The Pride, under former standout Speedy Claxton, are picked second in the CAA and possess the returning conference player of the year, in Aaron Estrada.  The do-it-all point guard put together an incredible stat line a year ago – 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.0 apg.  The Robin to Estrada’s Batman is breakout candidate Darlinstone Dubar, who should also be on the all-name team.  Dubar averaged 11.7 ppg last year and is a massive frontcourt presence for an undersized team.  The Pride are coming off a successful 21-11 season and went 13-5 in league play.  They like to play up-tempo, as a team coached by a man named Speedy should be obligated to do.  The 3-point shot is a big weapon in their arsenal, but they must replace their top two shooters from a year ago.  They are also breaking in many new faces, which could take a few weeks to do.  Lastly, the Spartans may catch the Pride looking ahead to a more flashy matchup two days later at St. Mary’s against the Gaels.  On paper, this is one where Hofstra will likely be favored.  It’s also a great spot for San Jose State to catch a team in transition and grab a key early season win.      


#5.  Saturday, November 19th @ Northern Colorado (182) – Greeley, CO; Bank of Colorado Arena

The Spartans will have a quick turnaround for their first road contest of the season, heading to Northern Colorado for what will be their third game in five days.  The Bears sported a solid 22-16, 13-7 record in 2021-22.  One of those losses was a 75-74 early season defeat to San Jose State, so UNC will want a little payback.  Head Coach Steve Smiley is well-respected as an offensive minded coach, and they were very efficient on that end of the floor a year ago.  The same cannot be said for the defense, however, and that was a point of emphasis for Smiley this offseason.  The Bears do have Daylen Kountz at their disposal, the preseason player of the year in the Big Sky, and a threat to lead the nation in scoring this year.  The logistics here do not set up for a peak SJSU effort, most of which were already mentioned.  First game away from home, 3rd game of the week, UNC will have been off since Tuesday, and have a minor revenge angle.  Add in the elevation factor playing in Colorado and this screams flat spot for the Spartans.  


#6.  Friday, November 25th vs. North Texas (67) – Nassau, Bahamas; Baha Mar Convention, Arts & Entertainment Center 

The Thanksgiving Holiday weekend will take the San Jose State program to the Bahamas for an 8 team MTE, guaranteeing the Spartans three games.  Unfortunately their opener of the event comes against the best team in the field – North Texas.  The Mean Green have been one of the best mid-majors in the entire country the last few years under rising star Grant McCasland.  They own an NCAA Tournament win as a #13 seed, defeating #4 seed Purdue two years ago, and narrowly missed the field last season with a 25-7 record.  They can win with either a defense-first mantra, or by simply out scoring you.  This will be far and away the best team the Spartans have played to this point, and Miles will hope to see a good effort for 40 minutes even if that may not be reflected in the final score.   


#7 & 8.  Saturday and Sunday, November 26th and 27th vs. TBD – Nassau, Bahamas; Baha Mar Convention, Arts & Entertainment Center 

The second and third opponents will not be determined until the other games in the bracket take place.  SJSU will play either Oakland (225) out of the Horizon League, or Long Beach State (158) from the Big West in round two on Saturday.    

Sunday’s third and final matchup will come against one of the four teams from the other side of the bracket.  They include – Ball State (230), Vermont (100), Missouri State (134), and UNC Wilmington (204).

There are far too many possibilities and permutations for the final two games to cover each one, but the odds say a 1-1 split is the most likely result, following the opening round defeat.


#9.  Saturday, December 3rd @ Arkansas (14) – Fayetteville, AR;  Bud Walton Arena 

Hopefully the Spartans and their families enjoy the weekend trip to the Bahamas, because the first destination upon returning to the mainland will be no picnic.  Reason being, SJSU will enter SEC country and fabled Bud Walton Arena to take on a consensus top 20 team in Arkansas.  Bay Area hoop fans should be familiar with their head coach, former Golden State Warriors boss Eric Musselman, who has taken the Razorbacks to back-to-back Elite Eights, including the monumental upset of #1 Gonzaga last March.  Although the Hogs lose much of their roster from last year’s 29-9 team, they bring in two possible one-and-done NBA talents, in Nick Smith and Anthony Black.  This has the makings of a long night.   


#10.  Tuesday, December 6th vs. Cal St. Bakersfield (265) – San Jose, CA; Provident Credit Union Event Center

After a significant amount of travel and a few games against top-shelf competition, it will be nice for the Spartans to return home, and do so against a favorable opponent to boot.  Cal St. Bakersfield is in the middle of a massive rebuild under veteran coach Rod Barnes.  Coming off an 8-19 campaign, the Roadrunners, beep beep, are picked to finish at the bottom of the Big West again.  Their main struggles come on offense, where they had problems consistently scoring in the half-court.  Barnes wants to try and push the ball in transition to see if it will lead to some easy buckets.  They were better defensively, but still not great, as they were poor defending the 3-point line, and lacked physicality.  Add it up and this should be a positive return home.  


#11.  Saturday, December 10th @ Santa Clara (111) – Santa Clara, CA; Leavey Center

The first of two games against WCC foes comes next, when San Jose State makes the short trek to neighboring Santa Clara.  The two met last year, in one of the Spartans most disappointing non-conference efforts, a 79-57 home loss.  The Broncos were 21-12 a year ago, but lost two stars to the pro ranks.  They do return all West Coast Conference playmaker/scorer Keshawn Justice and with the ever-consistent Herb Sendek at the helm, they will always be competitive in the top heavy WCC.  They may not quite have the firepower to replicate last season’s success though.  As a result, this is a game SJSU can certainly hang around in, and may have a chance late to steal a huge road win.  


#12.  Saturday, December 17th @ Pacific (251) – Stockton, CA; Alex G. Spanos Center

After a week of final exams, the Spartans will make one more road trip in the non-con, an 80 mile journey north to Stockton to take on Pacific.  This is another return game from 2021-22, with SJSU coming out on the right side of a 78-66 decision 12 months ago.  The Tigers struggled to an 8-22 record last season, and coach Leonard Perry is planning a long rebuild.  Pacific lacks star power, but that is how Perry likes it, stressing his team-first concept and utilizing a deep bench.  The Tigers play extremely hard, highlighted by a very high rebounding rate, likely because there are other options for Perry if someone decides to coast for a night.  San Jose State could easily find themselves in a dog fight for 40 minutes in this one.       


#13.  Tuesday, December 20th vs. Cal Poly (249) – San Jose, CA; Provident Credit Union Event Center

The Spartans 13th and final game before conference play starts, is a matchup against Cal Poly out of the Big West.  The Mustangs are coming off a 7-21 season, but head coach John Smith believes he has the pieces in place to start climbing the standings.  The 4th year boss finally has players to fit his system and likes the culture of his group.  There is a nice mix of returners and newcomers, ready to embrace a pace and space, rim-attacking style.  At this point in the schedule, teams are past the ‘getting to know each other stage’, and if Smith is correct in the feeling he has about his unit, this is another game that will go down to the wire.  



The schedule sets up pretty well for Miles and his charges, with some very winnable games in the first two weeks.  It obviously stiffens up with the trips to the Bahamas and Arkansas, but those experiences may prove valuable later on in the season.  The last four games will really tell us a lot about the gains Miles and the program has made.  There is as good a chance that SJSU goes 3-1 in this closing stretch as that it goes 1-3.  If the former happens, entering conference play on a high and sitting at 8-5 or maybe even 9-4 will be a huge confidence boost.  On the flip side, a few additional losses and a near .500 record going into the holidays could derail any hopes for the tangible progress Miles and his roster are counting on.  



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