Mountain West Basketball: San Jose State vs. Ball State–Preview, Odds, Prediction
Spartans, Cardinals meet for 5th place in Baha Mar Hoops Championship event
Game 8: San Jose State Spartans (5-2) vs. Ball State Cardinals (4-2)
When: Sunday, November 27th – 11:30 AM PT
Where: Baha Mar Convention, Arts & Entertainment Center; Nassau, Bahamas
How to Watch: FloHoops
Odds: San Jose State -1 Over/Under 139
San Jose State will finish off a difficult 3 game in 3 day stretch early Sunday afternoon in the 5th place game of the Baha Mar Hoops Championship against Ball State. While it says on the tournament sheet that this game is for 5th place, two things should be noted. First, the Spartans drew the best team, and likely champion of the 8-team field in the first round (North Texas, who will play for the title on Sunday night). Second, to win this game would have SJSU leaving the island with a 2-1 record from the 3 game trip, and that’s really all that matters to Tim Miles and his guys.
It was a great bounce back effort on Saturday, tipping off less than 20 hours from the conclusion of Friday’s tough, physical loss to the Mean Green. The Spartans shot the ball better than they have all season, and played a pretty complete game, defeating Oakland, a historically good low-major program, 80-67. It was quite the contrast from the in-your-face intensity of UNT to the more free-flowing offensive style preferred by Oakland, who has below average numbers on the defensive end to start this season. Still, it’s great to be able to take advantage of those opportunities, and the Spartans did. Sunday’s opponent will likely fall somewhere in the middle of the first two teams SJSU has seen in the Bahamas.
Ball State is 4-2 on the year and is headed by first year coach Michael Lewis. Ironically, Lewis was an assistant coach on Miles’ staff when he was the head man at Nebraska, so the Cardinals should be very familiar with what San Jose State will try to do today. This is Lewis’s first head coaching job, and looking at BSU’s early schedule, which in fairness is pretty poor, it’s too soon to tell what type of identity Lewis wants his program to have.
The Cardinals are coming off their best win of the season on Saturday, upsetting Missouri State 67-64. Their leading scorer in that one and on the season, was/is 6’9” center Payton Sparks. The big sophomore is averaging 16 and 7 this far, shoots a very efficient 63% from the field, knocked his first three-pointer of the year down yesterday, and has done a nice job of avoiding foul trouble. On the down side, he shoots only 51% from the foul line. He will also have his work cut out for him today, facing the Spartans 7-footer Ibrahima Diallo, in an old-school post matchup. Ball State also gets double figure scoring from Jarron Coleman, Demarius Jacobs, and Jaylin Sellers, so a very balanced lineup awaits Miles and his staff during the scouting report. They shoot the 3-ball pretty well from a % standpoint, but it is not a huge part of their offense.
For San Jose State, the last four games have produced four different leading scorers, a really positive sign. Omari Moore was the leading returner from a year ago, and was the one many expected to put up huge numbers. While he currently leads the team with a 13 ppg average, the effort and stat line from Saturday’s game will put a much bigger smile on Miles face. Moore scored only two points, but he did other things, and many of them, with 9 rebounds and 9 assists, and only one turnover. Probably most encouraging of all was that he only attempted six shots in 34 minutes. Many leading scorers and ‘go-to-guys’, will force shots and need to get their points each time out. Moore was perfectly content to do other things to help his team win, and they did. That’s a huge check mark in the plus column moving forward for this squad.
As for who did the scoring, let’s just say that Sage Tolbert and Trey Anderson like the Bahamas. Tolbert torched the nets for 25 points Saturday on 11-12 shooting and added 7 boards for good measure. Anderson was a perfect 6-6 from the floor, including 4-4 from downtown, on Friday against the stifling North Texas defense, and followed that up with 19 points yesterday. With Moore capable of popping for 20 at any time, and point guard Alvaro Cardenas doing exactly what a point guard should do (distribute the ball, and knock down occasional shots), adding Tolbert and Anderson to the holster on a regular basis, gives Miles options if one of his scorers is having an off night.
When you get to the end of these multi-team events, talent and execution matter for sure, but it’s also about fresh legs. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the championship game, or the 7th/8th place game, everyone is playing their third game in three days here in Nassau. The effort required in a 40 minute college basketball game is immense; by the last 20 minutes of your third game, even the most conditioned athletes are fatigued. Having an extra player or two in the rotation that you trust is huge. Miles has used 9 players for significant minutes through two games here, whereas Lewis has only gone 7 deep. That is going to come into play by the end of Sunday’s game. Ball State has several guys who can get buckets, but their primary weapon is Sparks in the post. The big man will get his points as he’s an all-conference talent, but he will face his stiffest challenge yet, in Diallo.
Even more encouraging for the Spartans, is that Diallo only logged 11 minutes on Saturday, primarily because of Oakland’s style of play. He should resemble a cell phone plugged in overnight – fully charged. Meanwhile, Sparks has played 35 and 32 minutes in the two games here, and may not have the legs down the stretch. These are big advantages for SJSU. They also have multiple emerging scorers, and better overall depth. This Spartan squad is under the radar right now, and rates lowly in the popular metrics websites because of their poor 2021-22 season. This is not last season, and it says here San Jose State ends their holiday getaway with a W.
Prediction: San Jose State 73 Ball State 64