11 March 2011

So what next for SJSU?

San Jose State, the #8 team in the Western Athletic Conference, has lost in the WAC Tournament semifinals to #1 Utah State, 58-54. Utah State led for most of the game, but San Jose State fought back despite many turnovers and missed shots. I was listening to the game on KSJS-FM and kept thinking that the Spartans were falling apart as the clock ran down. Worst of all, Adrian Oliver, the leading WAC scorer, missed a potentially game-winning three-pointer with 7 seconds left and SJSU trailing 56-54. That could have been such a shocking upset right there had SJSU kept up its defense and prevented Utah State from scoring next that SportsCenter would replay that three-pointer over and over and put SJSU in the national spotlight. But instead, this season will just be George Nessman's best season in his six seasons with the Spartans (17-15 overall including 5-11 WAC regular season games) and the first season that SJSU basketball had 17 wins since 1979-1980 (when SJSU was in the Big West Conference). Also, this is SJSU's first foray into the WAC semifinals since joining the WAC in 1996 after a Big West championship season and NCAA tournament berth. (In the first round of the 1996 NCAA tournament, SJSU lost to eventual champion Kentucky 110-72 on March 14.)

Meanwhile, I just watched the Florida State/Virginia Tech Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game on ESPN3.com. While Florida State was trailing 52-51, Derwin Kitchen made a jumper at the buzzer, but an official review found that when the buzzer sounded Kitchen still had the ball on his fingertips; thus the basket didn't count. Must've been really disappointing for the FSU fans and players with that temporary moment of excitement.

Adrian Oliver and Derwin Kitchen both missed potentially shocking shots. Worst of all, Oliver got the ball off a Utah State miss, scored a basket to make the score 56-54, was fouled, missed the free throw, and missed a three-point shot that he got after USU's Tai Wesley missed BOTH free throws!!!

Spartan fans should root for either Boise State or New Mexico State, whoever will challenge Utah State in the WAC championship final this Saturday 6PM Pacific time on ESPN2. And for Oliver, he is considering entering the draft this year. On the post-game show on KSJS-FM, SJSU athletic director Tom Bowen speculated that SJSU might have a seed in the College Basketball Invitational or CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

Which brings up the next topic: How have losers of the WAC semifinals fared over the years?
This year, the WAC tournament has a different format than from years past. It used to be just a 3-day tournament with quarterfinals (1 v 8, 4-5, 3-6, 2-7), semifinals (1 v 8 winner vs 4 v 5 winner, 3-6 winner vs. 2-7 winner), and a final. This year, it stretched to four days because of a first round with a 5 vs. 8 and 4 vs. 7 game. The 5 vs. 8 winner faces #4, the winner of that game faces #1 in semifinal; the 4 vs. 7 winner faces #3, the winner of that faces #2 in semifinal. The losers of this year's WAC semis were SJSU and may be either #2 Boise State or #3 New Mexico State.

So it seems that in years past making a postseason national tournament depended on conference ranking not how far a team goes in the conference tournament. However, Utah State was the regular season WAC champion in 2008 but only made the NIT due to losing the semifinals. In 2009, Idaho lost the quarterfinals and made the CBI, but the team that beat Idaho for another WAC round didn't make it anywhere. Still, from Bowen's statement, I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope for an encore or two from the Spartans and opportunity in the national tournament scene.

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