In Tim Miles’ second season at the helm, his young San Jose State squad starts their 2022 season this evening at home against Georgia Southern.
With four returning starters from Miles’ first season (Omari Moore, Alvaro Cardenas, Tibet Gorener and Trey Anderson), his second year team should still be considered an upstart project.
Not too much of a surprise after going 8-23 last year in what was considered a positive culture change for all.
Mountain West pundits predicted the Spartans to finish 10th in the final standings this year above Air Force (and below Nevada) - a glimmer considering past years predicted finishes.
6’6” junior guard Moore will be the leader and catalyst this season. As an All-Mountain West Honorable Mention last season and scholar athlete, Moore averaged 13.2 points and 5.5 rebounds last season.
“We’re still a new team with a lot of young guys and there’s going to be ups and downs for sure,” said Moore. “We need to find that median of who we are and what we need to do. It’s something we’ll figure out as we move through the season.”
Any level of success this year will certainly run through Moore’s smooth, gliding, slice-and-dice style of play.
The storm before the storm
The Spartans’ 69-66 exhibition win over Cal State Los Angeles last Friday was a closer and tighter game than it needed to be against a smaller but virulent team.
“Our exhibition game had a little bit of everything from situational plays, key possessions and comebacks,” said Miles. “It was a great experience to go through.”
“But am I happy with the way we played, no.”
The Spartans lacked defensive intensity to start that game and when the offensive execution did finally kick in, SJS’ defense waned.
“There were just bad decisions and mistakes, especially late in the game,” said Miles.
Moore added, “It starts with our leaders knowing where we are in the game. In tight games, we need to focus better on the court mentally because a lot of the game is mental.”
Georgia Southern to start the regular season
The Eagles look to be a defensive-minded team first, which is somewhat typical for teams with offensive uncertainty.
The Spartans will likely face high-intensity defense considering the Eagles top three players are noted to be defense-first standouts.
“Every team has new elements and dynamics when we play them and figuring out who can do what exactly and how each of our guys can contribute to winning is the fascinating thing to figure out,” said Miles.
“We have to find what works for us to find a way to win and what’s our edge. Every guy has to figure out where and how they fit in.”
Forwards Trey Anderson and Tibet Gorener, along with guard Alvaro Cardenas expect to be the other floor leaders and mainstays of the Spartan attack.
Other returners expected to bring an immediate spark: guard MJ Amey and center Ibrahima Diallo.
Diallo is coming off a knee injury last season that kept him out for a good portion of last season, which he was still nursing in the exhibition game.
Noted off-season acquisitions:
Guards Leo Torbor, Garrett Anderson and forward Max Allen are freshmen expected to find their way almost immediately. Fresno State transfer Robert Vaihola adds inside size and strength to compliment Diallo’s paint protection presence.
“We thought we needed one more scorer but we didn’t get them,” said Miles on the off-season recruiting. “But we did fulfill the bigger and stronger part of it and I feel more comfortable that way.”
If the writing is on the wall this season, it might be that a young team without enough depth and experience will face a seesaw struggle this year.
Or if it is possible for the newest Spartan talent to gel immediately so as to avoid drop-off when any of the starters off the floor, this will save and help Moore along with giving Miles and staff a better chance to coach up.
Only the latter will help the Spartans make bigger moves up the ranks, because Mountain West competition will be a big gauntlet of tough teams.