Armed with one of the deeper backcourt rotations in the Mountain West, led by preseason Player of the Year Marvelle Harris, Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry has enough options to provide flexibility within his lineups. That includes being able to go “small” at times, with a front court led by junior Karachi Edo being entrusted with the task of defending the paint and controlling the boards.
Fresno State’s available front court options have done well enough in the preseason to allow Terry to take the step of redshirting freshman forward Nate Grimes, with the decision being announced just before the Bulldogs’ 77-55 exhibition victory over Dominican College Friday night.
The 6-foot-8 Grimes, who spent his final season of high school basketball at Quality Education Academy in North Carolina, received numerous offers from Mountain West and Pac-12 programs before deciding to commit to Fresno State. He’ll be able to benefit from competing with Edo, sophomore Terrell Carter II and junior college transfers Torren Jones and Cullen Russo in practices this season, with an eye towards being a contributor in 2016-17.
Fresno State, picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West preseason media poll, returns their top five scorers from last season.
Slowly but surely college basketball programs are releasing their full non-conference schedules. And in the case of the 11 members of the Mountain West, they now know their possible path to a regular season conference title.
Wednesday the conference released its full league schedule, with four games on December 30 marking the start of conference play. Each team will play eight opponents both home and away, with single games (one home, one away) against the other two teams to reach a total of 18 conference games.
Of the four conference games to be played December 30, Fresno State’s trip to UNLV could be the most intriguing matchup. While the Runnin’ Rebels add one of the nation’s top recruiting classes to help account for the loss of four starters, most notably Christian Wood and Rashad Vaughn, Fresno State returns its top five scorers from a season ago led by senior guard Marvelle Harris.
Also on the schedule December 30 are Wyoming visiting preseason favorite San Diego State in a rematch of last year’s Mountain West tournament title game, Nevada visiting New Mexico and Utah State visiting San Jose State. The Mountain West will look to increase the number of NCAA tournament bids from last season’s total of three, which could have been even lower had the Cowboys not earned the conference’s automatic bid.
Below are the single-game matchups for each of the teams in the Mountain West. In larger conferences with unbalanced schedules, those single games can have a significant impact on the title race if head-to-head tiebreakers are needed to determine a champion.
Air Force: vs. Boise State, at San Diego State
Boise State: vs. Fresno State, at Air Force
Colorado State: vs. New Mexico, at Fresno State
Fresno State: vs. Colorado State, at Boise State
Nevada: vs. San Diego State, at San Jose State
New Mexico: vs. Wyoming, at Colorado State
San Diego State: vs. Air Force, at Nevada
San Jose State: vs. Nevada, at UNLV
UNLV: vs. San Jose State, at Utah State
Utah State: vs. UNLV, at Wyoming
Wyoming: vs. Utah State, at New Mexico
With four guards entering their final season of eligibility, Fresno State needed to add some bodies to its backcourt for the future. Head coach Rodney Terry and his staff took a step in that direction Wednesday, as former Colorado guard Jaron Hopkins has decided to transfer to the Mountain West program.
News of Hopkins’ decision was first reported by the Fresno Bee.
In two seasons at Colorado, Hopkins averaged 5.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 19.5 minutes of action per game. As a sophomore the Arizona native made 17 starts, shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. Hopkins will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2015-16 season at Fresno State, where he reunites with former grassroots (Compton Magic) teammate Paul Watson.
Fresno State, which finished 15-17 last season (10-8 Mountain West), returns its top four scorers but three of those players are guards who will be seniors in 2015-16. Marvelle Harris, who averaged 16.4 points per game last season, is a senior as are Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis.
With those three, and reserve Darnell Taylor, due to move on there will be opportunities for Hopkins to be a key contributor when he’s eligible to compete in 2016-17. While Hopkins sits three other newcomers will be able to play next season for the Bulldogs: Washington transfer guard Jahmel Taylor (eligible mid-year), junior college transfer Cullen Russo and freshman Nate Grimes.
Fresno State transfer Braeden Anderson has committed to Seton Hall on Friday night, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.
The 6-foot-9 Anderson has two years of eligibility left, beginning this upcoming season as he is not required to sit out the 2015-16 season. He was granted his release from the Fresno State program in February so he could focus on getting into law school.
Anderson also drew interest from Alabama, Arizona State, Buffalo, Washington and Washington State.
As a redshirt sophomore, Anderson averaged 1.0 points and 1.8 rebounds in only 10 minutes per game. It was his first year back after missing the entire 2013-14 season due to preseason car accident which left him with a displacement of his C-5 through C-6 vertebrae.
Seton Hall brings back its top two scorers, Sterling Gibbs and Isaiah Whitehead. Anderson joins forwards Myles Carter and Amarveer Singh to surround Big East Rookie of the Year Angel Delgado on the interior.
Two days after former Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State head coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away at 84, Fresno State announced on Thursday that it will honor the memory of its former coach in multiple ways over the next few days.
Beginning with Saturday’s home game against Boise State, uniforms will have a “Tark” patch and there will also be a moment of silence preceding the game and a video tribute at halftime. The school will also have cards that fans can sign before heading into Save Mart Arena for the game.
In addition to these measures, Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry will leave an empty seat on the bench in Tarkanian’s memory, with a white towel “occupying” that seat.
The white towel was something Tarkanian began to use as a high school coach in California, as it was easier to use a damp towel when thirsty as opposed to making frequent trips to the gym water fountain. And with his team winning a league title on that day, the superstitious Tarkanian continued to use the towel for the remainder of his career.
Fresno State will also lower its flags to half -staff on Monday, which is when a private service will be held for Tarkanian in Las Vegas.
“Jerry Tarkanian is one of the true legends in the coaching profession,” Terry said earlier in the week. “He was successful at so many different levels in college basketball. Coach Tarkanian welcomed me in from the first day I arrived in Fresno. He loved the Bulldogs and stayed connected with our program throughout the years.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Lois and family during this extremely difficult time.”
With junior point guard Cezar Guerrero among the returnees from a team that reached the championship series of the CBI last season, Fresno State was expected to be one of the teams in contention for the Mountain West title in 2014-15. However things haven’t gone as planned, with the Bulldogs off to a 5-8 start and Guerrero being declared ineligible by the NCAA.
Guerrero, who is in good academic standing according to Fresno State, was deemed to have not met NCAA continuing education standards. Those standards work to ensure that athletes are making proper progress towards earning their degree. Wednesday afternoon, hours before the team begins Mountain West play at New Mexico, the basketball program announced via its Twitter account that Guerrero’s status remains unchanged.
“Fresno State guard Cezar Guerrero won’t play in today’s MW opener @ New Mexico (NCAA continuing eligibility standards),” the statement (released via Twitter) read. “Guerrero remains in good academic standing w/ the university and has missed all of the Bulldogs’ games this season. Guerrero is enrolled in winter intersession courses; needs to meet necessary requirements to have eligibility recertified.
“There is no timetable for when Guerrero, who continues to practice with the team, may be available to return to the floor.”
Without Guerrero, who averaged 13.1 points and 3.5 assists per game last season, the Bulldogs have struggled offensively as they’re shooting just 43.6% from the field and averaging 9.9 assists per game. Efficiency-wise, Fresno State enters Mountain West play ranked eighth in the conference in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomery’s statistics.
Also of note is the fact that starting guard Marvelle Harris, who leads the team in scoring, won’t start Wednesday’s game due to his being late to practice on Tuesday.