2023 Mountain West Basketball Tournament: Does Fresno State Have A Prayer?

2023 Mountain West Basketball Tournament: Does Fresno State Have A Prayer?

Fresno State

2023 Mountain West Basketball Tournament: Does Fresno State Have A Prayer?

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2023 Mountain West Basketball Tournament: Does Fresno State Have A Prayer?

The Bulldogs aren’t expected to do much in Las Vegas, but how could they defy the odds to make some noise?

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Anything could happen, right?

To say that the Fresno State Bulldogs face long odds at winning the Mountain West tournament is putting it lightly. Only two teams have been given longer odds to win it all, especially considering that heavy favorite San Diego State awaits should the ‘Dogs defeat Colorado State in the opening round.

Crazier things have happened, though. As Ken Pomeroy pointed out, seven different teams have won the conference tournament in the last nine years, so why not this year’s Bulldogs? Though they enter with an overall record of 11-19, Fresno State has gone 4-5 since February 3, including wins over UNLV and San Jose State. They also lost to San Diego State, Colorado State, and Nevada down the stretch by just nine combined points, so here’s what can be done to reverse their fortunes and pull a surprise (and maybe more) at Thomas and Mack.

1. Get Jemarl Baker hot.

Baker was one of two Fresno State players to earn an all-conference honorable mention and he finished the regular season with a singularly dominant performance against Chicago State: 43 points, 10-of-11 three-point shooting, seven assists, six rebounds, and zero turnovers. While setting the bar that high again for the tourney is asking a bit much, there’s no question the team goes as Baker goes.

That’s especially true when considering his efficacy from beyond the arc. In ten wins with Baker on the floor, he’s shot 49.1% from three-point range; in 16 losses, that rate plummets to 24.2%. Finding a happy medium, at least, will give the Bulldogs a fighting chance.

2. Stay strong at the free throw line.

Fresno State has struggled all year long from the field, mustering a 43.1% field goal percentage that’s dead last in the Mountain West headed into the tournament, but only Nevada and Utah State have done more from the charity stripe. The Bulldogs have made 76.8% of their free throws this season, exactly the kind of skill that could pull them through a tight contest late.

3. Get Eduardo Andre some help on the boards.

He hasn’t received as much attention as teammates like Baker and Isaiah Hill, but Andre has pretty quietly been an important part of Fresno State’s defensive prowess. The 6-foot-11 Nebraska transfer led the Mountain West in conference play with 1.72 blocks per game and seventh with 6.67 rebounds per contest, meaning he’s done an admirable job replacing the injured Isaih Moore.

The problem is the Bulldogs haven’t often provided a ton of other assistance in Moore’s absence. Indeed, no other Fresno State player even ranks in the top 25 by rebounds per game in Mountain West play, which stands in stark contrast to the six other teams who have multiple athletes there, and it’s not a coincidence that they pushed San Diego State to the brink back in February on the strength of one of their strongest team rebounding performances.



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