Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Looking backwards and forwards

Hey, it's your long awaited, much debated, syncopated, qualitative look backwards and forwards at San Jose State hoops:

People sometimes wish both basketball season and individual game outcomes were as predictable as some of those "the whole building is about to collapse anytime now" toxic bundles Goldman Sachs profited from by first purchasing AAA ratings and then simultaneously selling and hedging against their waste products.

But they aren't.

That's what makes it interesting, frustrating, exhilarating and head-banging -- like that box of chocolates the Tom Hanks character referenced in Forrest Gump."

So let's look back instead at San Jose State hoops. What do the key numbers tell us about the 2009-2010 season?


SJSU shot a remarkable .462% (fourth) overall, an equally outstanding .399% on treys (second, on 296 attempts) in WAC action.

The numbers for the previous season were 448% (fourth) overall and .309% (eighth, on 220 attempts) respectively.

That's an obvious improvement in both categories -- make that a spectacular upgrade in three-point accuracy, despite 76 more shots.

Obviously, the steps forward in three-point shooting by Mac Peterson and Robert Owens in 2009-2010 significantly and positively effected the Spartan shooting numbers, especially from long distance.

For the sake of reference, 2009-2010 conference winner Utah State was off in the ozone, far ahead of anyone else with .502% overall shooting. The Aggies also shot .404% beyond the stripe.


The Spartan defenders allowed opponents to shoot .471% (eighth) overall in conference play, .396% (ninth) on trey attempts.

The numbers for the previous season: .483% (ninth) overall and 408% (ninth) respectively.

These figures also obviously indicate some improvement in each category.

Again for reference, Utah State led conference action with a remarkable 404% shooting percentage defense.

Now turnovers are a trickier figure. The Spartans were the only WAC squad with less than 10 turnovers 'created' a game -- 9.8 -- but WAC champ Utah State finished at a barely better 10.8.

San Jose State also was last in steals at 4.5 a game. Deflections are typically more important since they occur much more frequently but unfortunately the WAC doesn't post this category.


We have previously placed emphasis on rebounding margins. We aren't yet willing to discard this number but Boise State confoundedly finished third, Hawaii fourth and Idaho fifth in rebounding margin for 2009-2010 -- yet that's not close to where these respective teams finished in league play (eighth, ninth and sixth respectively).

San Jose State was in the minus this past season at -1.6 after finishing first in 2008-2009 at +5.6.

Playing 'small ball' contributed to this as did the coinciding absence of C.J. Webster for a number of games.


Much more accurate offensive firepower was applied by San Jose State in 2009-2010. But now Peterson and Owens are bereft of any remaining eligibility so who can step up/step in for the 2010-2011 season? It seems unlikely SJSU will attempt as many treys as put up in the recently concluded season or shoot as well but Adrian Oliver can be counted on, Justin Graham (more on him later) will end up with 20 or so treys in league play and junior college newcomer Calvin Douglas also has some proficiency from long distance.

The defensive statistics were better during the past season but not where they need to be in order to facilitate a first-division finish. In fact, more than half the teams in the WAC need better field goal defensive percentage numbers in order to make the conference more competitive in non-league matchups. We see more aggressiveness -- especially if certain pieces fall into place -- from both the Spartan front and backcourters next season.

With rebounding, look for the boarding numbers to be rightsized in 2010-2011 although probably not to the previous +5.6 level. We do predict no deficit number in 2010-2011.

Here is where we begin the l-o-o-k f-o-r-w-a-r-d and break down the Spartan personnel. Yes, there will be another recruit or two added but we didn't want to wait:


Derek Brown 6-0 180 FR

Supremely confident, Brown is a trickster with the ball. He won't wow anyone with elite athleticism but he can handle and shoot and is the son of a coach -- so he understands the game.

Anthony Dixon G 6-5 195 SO

AD: your assignment is to add 20-25 pounds before next season rolls around. The WAC is more physical than most give credit and the ability to eliminate being pushed around both offensively and defensively is generally job one for underclassmen. There is a lot of potential here but it's based on his ability to get and maintain the positions he needs for proficient play.

Calvin Douglas 6-3 190 JR

Taking and nailing the open trey look plus providing better defensive play at the wing than that of last season are Douglas' primo assignments and certainly within his capabilities.

Justin Graham G 6-4 195 SR

His two most remarkable stats: shooting 52% in league play despite nary a three-point shot. Yes, you read that correctly -- he didn't attempt a single three-pointer while averaging 8.5 points per game. How did both those numbers -- theoretically somewhat at odds because defenders sloughed off him in an effort to defend his dribble-drive penetrations -- happen? Graham was over his previous wrist ailment but the rest and recuperation necessary following his operations put the kibosh on his shooting practice. Here's hoping both his wrist and practice repetitions are fully functioning in 2010-2011. He's not a potent three-point marksmen but has previously displayed the ability to down the open trey attempt.

Chris Jones G 6-4 205 SO

It was mostly a lost season for Jones but he certainly has the capability of bouncing back strong. He still possesses the best defensive potential on the team and displayed enough of a knack for burying the open shot in his brief times on the floor. A better sense of what is accomplishable on his dribble-drives would really up his offensive effectiveness.

Aalim Moor 6-3 190 SO

He and Jones are the two guys who could lead a defensive renaissance for SJSU. Plus, the breaking in (or more) of a new point is necessary for now and especially future seasons.

Adrian Oliver 6-4 210 SR What can he do for an encore? Maybe it's quibbling, maybe it's not but Oliver can better his 54/50 assist-to-turnover ratio. A lesser need for him to make something happen will enlarge the distance between his positive-negative a/t numbers. Having some new 'bigs' who have the ability to pick away from the paint and then pop a shot should help in creating more options to shoot, pass or penetrate.

Keith Shamburger 6-0 180 FR

More than likely, someone in this group will redshirt and one of the two freshman backcourters is the likeliest of candidates. We don't think it will be Shamburger who should see time off the bench in both ballhandling and shooting guard roles.


Wil Carter
6-8 210 JR

Carter will be at the 3 and 4 spots. For defensive purposes, we would like to see 15 pounds of muscle added to his frame so as to insure his effectiveness and presence. What he will add offensively to the mix is something heretofore unseen in Spartan play: the ability to come out on top, set a screen for one of the guards and roll to an open spot to receive a pass and hit the jumper.

Joe Henson F 6-8 245 SO

He's still fairly unknown but should be on the court much more this coming season. What we want to see is assertiveness developing in his offensive and defensive play.

Brylle Kamen 6-7 235 SO

Kamen can also play inside and out but it looks right now that he'll become one-with-the-paint for SJSU. Our other sense is that he will become a fan favorite based upon his style of play, oui?

Kyle Thomas F 6-8 225 JR

Thomas has yet to display the potential seen by many during the summer of his junior year and his senior season in high school. He's looking like a tweener and needs to develop a particular standout skill -- one that he can proverbially hang his hat on.

Moses Omolade F 6-8 200 JR

We are really pulling for a positive adjudication of his eligibility because he would add missing elements: shotblocking, a strong defensive effort within the paint, rebounding prowess and a willingness to run the floor. Right now, there is no one else on the roster who brings that to the court.


Jerry Casey
F 6-8 195 FR
Garrett Ton 6-8 222 JR


* The Spartan frontcourt will offer much greater versatility this coming season as both Carter and Kamen, if needed, can shoot away from and facing the basket. Plus, each will both offer better potential for defending opposing 'bigs' who might venture further away from the basket offensively at times, a la Troy Gillenwater of New Mexico State. Thankfully, Luke Babbitt is gone or he would be another name here.

* One concern is defending the 'power bigs' but luckily there aren't many of those in the WAC. New Mexico State's Hamidu Rahman falls into this category, Nevada's Illiwa Baldwin is possibly another. Louisiana Tech has signed a 270-pounder. However, none of these are big point producers.

* The SJSU backcourt/wing positions have plenty of firepower and offensive options -- what is needed is greater efficiency per possession. Who on the roster will move front and center in making opposing teams pay for their respective defensive obsessions on Adrian Oliver?

* Plus who will lead the defensive effort? Our sense is that playing time will be for the taking for those able to bring an aggressive defensive presence to San Jose State basketball. A willingness to make contact, establish a physical presence and bang, to seamlessly rotate as much as possible, to wisely double-team -- basically being strong and playing smart -- is a critical element needed for Spartan success.

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