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Monday Morning Point Guard

January 13, 2020

Just a bunch of thoughts from the weekend.

All Road Wins are Good Wins – Especially conference wins. It is so easy to take for granted a win at San Jose State. Sure CSU has never lost to the Spartans. Sure San Jose State has languished at the bottom of the MWC since joining the conference in 2014. The Spartans were on a three-game home winning streak with wins over Pepperdine, New Mexico, and Nevada. The same Pepperdine that lost by 5 at Gonzaga and by 2 at Arizona were a 15-point victim by the Spartans. Try telling Paul Weir of New Mexico or Steve Alford of Nevada that a win in San Jose wouldn’t have been big. The Spartans are not great but they are much improved and dangerous on their home floor.

And it wasn’t just the final score that was impressive. It was the path the Rams took to get there. The teams traded punches over the first 8 minutes before the Rams started to take over. Once the Rams got their noses in front, they stayed there. Every time the Spartans threatened to close the lead, CSU responded with big buckets. After San Jose went on a late 7-0 run to tie the game, CSU immediately went on an 8-point run, initiated by David Roddy at the rim and concluded with a dagger three by Kendle Moore. (If you were watching the stream you might have noticed a huge fist pump by the head coach after that one.)

They Aren’t Freshmen Anymore – Actually, they still are. But the group of four frosh have been thrown into the fire since day 1 and, while there is still tons of room to grow, they play with the confidence of upperclassmen. Guard Isaiah Stevens was the first to emerge, showing not just basketball skills but the intangibles of leadership; if you want an NBA compare, Chris Paul comes to mind. Forward David Roddy has played his way into the starting lineup; his physical style of play has shored up CSU’s inside play as he’s averaged 18 and 8 since becoming a starter. Dischon Thomas has been an able backup to all-conference center Nico Carvacho; playing limited but strategic minutes, he’s averaged 4ppg and 2rpg and has been a defensive stalwart in the paint. Then there’s John Tonje. His minutes have been climbing as his defense has been improving and its allowed him to showcase his offensive skills, especially from long range as he’s shooting 38%. Tonje is one of those instant offense guys that every team loves to have off the bench.

How big were these freshmen at San Jose State? They scored 55 of the 81 points for the Rams. And I wanted to note that Stevens delivered a pair of incredibly brilliant back-to-back plays in the final minutes. He put San Jose defenders on his hip and drew fouls, then converted the ensuing 1-and-1’s. Dunks may draw ooh’s and ah’s from the crowd but free throws win games down the stretch.

Speaking of Free Throws… I’m not one to beat a dead horse but its become readily apparent that Nico Carvacho has the free throw shooting cooties. 11-32 in MWC games for a .344 clip. As a golfer who has gone through the putting yips I can relate. But lets not forget that drawing fouls is very important as well as making free throws. It sets other better free throw shooters up to score late in halves. And lets also acknowledge that Nico has not let his poor free throw shooting affect the rest of his game. He is the all-time leading rebounder in the MWC and he is the leading active rebounder in the NCAA. His 16 rebounds vs SJSU launched him into the top rebounder position in the league in 2020. He is extraordinary on the glass, allowing others to thrive in their own areas of strength.

Here’s hoping that Nico figures it out. By the way, my tip to the Big Chile is simple. Say “Yes” out loud when you shoot a free throw. Positive affirmation really works.

Can the Rams Play in a Post-Season Tournament? – Lots of questions come up regarding whether CSU is good enough to play in the post-season. Sure the Rams are young, sure they are improving, but an NCAA At-Large is completely out of the question even if they run the table in the MWC. And an auto-bid from winning the MWC Tournament is highly improbable. First goal would be to finish no worth than 5th in the MWC to avoid the first round of games. Winning three games is much easier than four but their odds would still.probably be about 40:1.

Then there’s the NIT. Also highly improbable. A runner-up MWC tournament finish wouldn’t be enough. It would take a lot more wins in the regular season to move up into the Top 100 of the NCAA NET Rankings, an absolute bare minimum to get an NIT bid. CSU is currently at 122. The biggest opportunities to move up will come in 6 remaining games against San Diego State, Utah State, New Mexico, Nevada, and Boise State. Win 4 of those 6 and then win nearly every remaining game against the 5 teams with lower NET rankings and Top 100 can be achieved. That means winning 10 of the last 13 MWC games and getting to 12-6 would give them a chance.

And so the most likely answer for post-season is the lesser CBI Tournament, an event usually reserved for teams that finish in the 100-150 range in NET. CSU went to the CBI after the 2009-2010 season. It was a team very similar to this years team, made up primarily of juniors (Andy Ogide, Travis Franklin, Adam Nixon) and freshmen (Dorian Green, Pierce Hornung, and Greg Smith). They mostly beat the teams below them and lost mostly to the teams above them, with the exceptions being Top 100 home wins over Montana and Colorado. They finished the regular season at 16-15 and a ranking somewhere around 140 before succumbing to Morehead State and Kenneth Faried in the first round of the CBI.

I’m certainly not against an improbable MWC tournament championship or an NIT but I’d be darn good with a CBI experience for this team. Let’s not forget that the 2010 CBI was the first of four consecutive post-season bids and that the next three were an NIT and two NCAA At-Larges. While there’s no time like the present, I also like to look ahead to what the big picture could be.

The Injury to CSU Recruit Jacob Jennissen … Reported as a torn ACL. Without knowing the severity of it, its hard to predict what the future might be in terms of a redshirt in 2020-21 of possibly making the rotation. If he has to rehab for a full season, I know a person at CSU who he can look to as an example of how to make it work. That person is Annie Brady, a starting forward on the CSU Women’s Basketball team. Annie had the misfortune of tearing her ACL while working out with the CSU Volleyball team in 2018 and that caused her to miss the entire 2018-19 season. Annie obviously worked hard at her rehab to the point that I don’t think CSU has a basketball player male or female who is cut like she is. Yesterday Annie set an all-time CSU Women’s single-game rebounding record with 23.

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