Mountain West Basketball: Alabama State vs. San Jose State–Preview, Odds, Prediction
Spartans aim for 3-0, host Hornets
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Game 3: Alabama State Hornets (0-3) @ San Jose State Spartans (2-0)
When: Tuesday, November 15th – 7:00 PT
Where: Provident Credit Union Event Center; San Jose, CA
How to Watch: Livestream on Mountain West Network
Odds: San Jose State -13.5 Over/Under 140
With the opening of the 2022-23 season in the books, the San Jose State men’s basketball team begins a grueling three game week on Tuesday night against Alabama State. The Spartans did what they needed to do, start the season with two wins, and now have a chance to continue building momentum in the non-conference portion of their schedule.
Head coach Tim Miles had to like what he saw in the season opener, a 63-48 win over Georgia Southern, in a game that was never in doubt. The defense, often a liability a year ago, was much more engaged, and bothered the Eagles into 27% shooting. GSU is far from an offensive juggernaut, but if that kind of effort on the defensive end can be sustained on a regular basis, the Spartans will find themselves much more competitive down the stretch of ball games, even in the MWC – quite the contrast from last season.
SJSU followed that up with a workmanlike 90-68 defeat of DII Bethesda. Miles seemed to treat that outing as a glorified exhibition, as he used 15 different Spartans, and none for more than 23 minutes. He used only 9 in the Georgia Southern win. As such, his troops should be fully charged up and ready to go on Tuesday night with a great opportunity to get to 3-0.
What else are the Spartans doing well? Let’s start with balance on the offensive end. Omari Moore garnered preseason all-Mountain West Conference accolades and rightfully so. And while he is the only player to score in double figures in both games, they were with modest totals of 14 and 12. More importantly, four others have had games scoring either 13 or 14. Developing different options if Moore is having an off night is vital to the Spartans success.
Some other positive numbers from the stat sheets thus far include assisting on over half of all made field goals (32 out of 62), and grabbing 28 offensive rebounds. Granted, those numbers are inflated from the outing against a Division II program, but it shows those are areas of emphasis for Miles and his staff.
As for the flip side of the coin, the Spartans have been wretched from deep, connecting on just 26% of their attempted 3-pointers. Again, the sample size is minimal, but that is a number that needs to go up. There is only one other team statistic ranked near the bottom, and that is free throw attempts, signaling a need to be a bit more aggressive on offense. Tuesday night’s game should provide a great opportunity for San Jose State to improve on all of those offensive numbers, when taking a look at the opponent.
Alabama State is at best a middle of the pack team in the SWAC, historically one of the worst conferences in Division I. As many programs in their league do, the Hornets help fund their program by playing road game after road game in the non-con, and they are finishing up an early season three game tour of California. They started in Los Angeles against USC, moved across the coast to Malibu to take on Pepperdine, and now head north for the matchup with San Jose State. The problem for ASU is that they left their defense back home in Montgomery. They have surrendered 96 and 91 in their first two games out west, and when adding in the 111 UAB scored against them in their season opener, the Hornets are giving up a cool 99 ppg.
Tony Madlock, first year coach of Alabama State prefers playing at a fast pace, which of course leads to more possessions. The problem is, when you’re severely outmanned in the talent department, you don’t really want more possessions. The Hornets have allowed at least 44 points in each of their six halves of play so far this year.
What sort of problems might ASU present? For one, they have an electric offensive performer in TJ Madlock, the coach’s son. The preseason SWAC newcomer of the year can flat out score the ball in a variety of ways and will need to do so efficiently for the Hornets to reach their ceiling. He will also need to find a running mate, and Duane Posey appears to be applying for the job. The 6’7” Junior wing came off the bench in the first two games, but earned a start on Sunday and is averaging 9 points per game.
One thing the elder Madlock stresses more than anything, is how hard his guys play, and if there is one statistic that exemplifies hustle, it is offensive rebounding. The Hornets have a remarkable total of 45 offensive boards through three games. Part of that can be chalked up to the fact that they shoot a poor percentage and therefore there are many misses to be had. However, for being drubbed three times, and outsized in each game, those are impressive numbers. If nothing else, the Spartans better be ready for the effort of Alabama State on the glass.
The problem for Madlock and his troops is that effort might wane after halftime. The Hornets are likely to be leg weary playing their second game in 3 nights, and third game since Thursday. That theory goes out the window of course, if they find themselves in a dogfight with 12 minutes left, but this is where Miles was deft in limiting the starters minutes on Saturday. The Spartans should have a bit extra juice if needed down the stretch. Ideally for Miles, his squad can build a comfortable lead and he can save some legs for what shape up as more challenging Thursday and Saturday games. But first things first.
How is this one going to play out? It should be a secure win for SJSU. They have several players they can rotate onto Madlock, including an emerging lockdown defender in Sage Tolbert. They also have a rim protector in Ibrahima Diallo, who will have a massive size advantage. Point guard Alvaro Cardenas has played two good floor games, scoring the ball well against GSU and dishing out 7 assists versus Bethesda. Against a struggling defense (and that’s being kind), he could fill whichever role he wants in this one. While the Spartans are not the type of team to throw up a 90-spot, they should find the waters smooth enough to sail to an easy win and a 3-0 start.
Prediction: San Jose State 80 Alabama State 63
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