Hey, Western Athletic Conference play is about to begin. As we like to say, it's time to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Currently, every team but Hawaii is thinking "we can win it" -- but remember that it is actually the WAC tournament and not the regular season that ultimately counts. Doing great in the latter certainly aids in the tourney seeding but the WAC is going to be a send-one-team-to-the-Big-Dance this go-around and that squad will be the one who wins in Reno come March.
What we liked so far
* We liked the win versus Pacific, especially shutting the Tigers down at the end, holding them scoreless for the last 3:54.
* Double-dipping against UC Irvine (and man mountain Eric Wise) was sweet, especially the win down there where a six point halftime deficit was turned into a 13-point victory.
* Even the 10 point opening game loss in Seattle to Washington offered some highlights, the biggest not being intimidated by a PAC-10 squad picked to win its league.
* The win at Santa Clara is always a highlight -- especially after being down by five points at halftime.
* The emergence of Mac Peterson, currently shooting 52% overall, 49% on three-point attempts and 92% from the foul line. Last season, he put up these numbers: 42%, 22% and 88% respectively.
* The improving numbers for Robert Owens: 48% shooting overall, 42% from long distance. Last year, he was at 39% and 38% respectively.
* Good health so far -- knock on wood.
What we disliked so far
* The 70-66 loss to UC Riverside. 6-foot-8 Kyle Austin, whose mobility and production has been a thorn in the defensive side of the Spartans for two years running, has been difficult to defend. However, do note that the Highlanders are undefeated so far at home this season.
* The 78-71 fall to St. Mary's -- especially so because SJSU played as fine a first half as we have ever witnessed. However, the Gaels are the better team.
* Losing 76-71 to USF just sticks in our craw because it was a game that was winnable.
* The 93-69 blowout at Northern Colorado -- allowing 37 three-point attempts but more so the making of 18 of them is, well, impossible to understand. The Spartans -- the backcourters who played that game -- were inexplicably unable to defensively track NC's top two long-range bombers. The pair, one 5-foot-9 and the other 6-foot at most, shot 6-8 and 6-11 on their three-point attempts. Here's a defensive hint we never thought we would have to pass on: guys, each has a number on his jersey and can be tracked by such. Granted, we were not in attendance at the game but a simple self-dedication to following basic instructions would have prevented such an offensive assault.
* The SJSU turnover margin is currently - 3.08, eighth in the league. In 2008-2009, San Jose State was at - 1.70, ranked seventh. Good defensive play will force turnovers -- that's acceptable to a degree. But not with unforced TOs. The Spartans must reduce the latter. The team currently has 37 more turnovers than the opposing teams have committed. This trend is a carryover from last season.
* To date, San Jose State has attempted 55 less foul shots than its collective opponents. Last season, SJSU had 260 foul line attempts to 211 for opponents in non-conference action. This new trend needs reversing.
* There has been improvement in the SJSU field goal percentage defense: .425%, currently fifth in the league, versus 2008-2009's .441%, which ranked last. Maybe this should be in the positive column above since it is a betterment but we want more. In fact, our desire is to witness an aggressive, attacking style of defensive play, a 'you are going to have to out-fight me' effort.
* Not having Moses Omolade available has definitely been a minus factor as just when we thought the issue of depth at the 4 and 5 spots had been resolved, it remains. Omolade would be bringing five additional fouls to give along with shotblocking intimidation. That would be invaluable to C.J. Webster and Chris Oakes.
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Kevin McCarthy is the Basketball Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact Kevin with any questions, comments, or tips at email@example.com
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