Just days after surviving a tough test at city rival San Diego, No. 24 San Diego State played arguably its worst half of the season against Washington on Sunday afternoon. While the Aztecs aren’t a team chock full of prolific shooters, they do have multiple athletes capable of finding quality looks both at the rim and in the mid-range game.
But that didn’t happen in the first half, as San Diego State failed to execute offensively and thus struggled with its shooting. As a team SDSU shot 29.7% from the field, 1-for-7 from three and just one of their eight made field goals was assisted, resulting in a 30-21 Husky lead at the break. It was obvious what Steve Fisher’s team needed to do in order to turn things around and to their credit the Aztecs put forth a far better offensive performance in the game’s final 20 minutes.
There was better spacing and passing (ten of their 15 made field goals were assisted), resulting in 60% shooting from the field and 1.36 points per possession. In the end that was enough to hold off Washington 70-63, with C.J. Wilcox scoring 17 to lead three Huskies in double figures. Xavier Thames, who was outstanding during last weekend’s Wooden Legacy, led the way with 19 points and Winston Shepard III added 17 (5-for-6 FT in the game’s final 39 seconds).
SDSU was once again impressive on the defensive end, tying a school record with 11 blocked shots (Skylar Spencer had five) and limiting Washington to 38.6% shooting from the field. By this point in time San Diego State’s ability on the defensive end is a “given,” in that on most nights it’s safe to assume that Fisher’s players will put forth the effort required to make things difficult for the opposition.
It’s on the offensive end where SDSU will determine its standing within the Mountain West. And the difference between merely contending and winning the conference will boil down to how the Aztecs go about finding shots.
If it turns into a “one-on-one” contest like the first half against Washington it’s probably safe to say that they won’t be able to contend with the top teams in the Mountain West. But if San Diego State uses efficient ball and player movement, that combined with their defensive execution should have the Aztecs right in the middle of things in conference play.
With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.
And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.
Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.
Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.