Georgia Southern vs. San Jose State: Game Preview, Odds, How To Watch, Prediction
Spartans look to start the season with a win in a toss-up game
Game 1: Georgia Southern Eagles (0-0) @ San Jose State Spartans (0-0)
When: Tuesday, November 8th – 7:00 PT
Where: Provident Credit Union Event Center; San Jose, CA
How to Watch: Livestream on Mountain West Network
Odds: San Jose State -3.5 Over/Under 135
It’s hoops time. While most Division I programs played their official season openers on Monday, the San Jose State men’s team is waiting an extra 24 hours. They will kick-off their 2022-23 season at home Tuesday night against Georgia Southern. The Spartans went 8-23 a year ago, and will look for marked improvement under second year coach Tim Miles.
A positive start to the Miles era, 7-5 in the non-conference portion of the schedule, quickly went off the rails for two reasons. One, the Mountain West Conference was really, really good; and two, injuries exposed the lack of depth on the roster. Nothing has changed on the first front, the Spartans league schedule will be problematic. But the second, for now at least, seems to be much improved as we enter a new campaign.
The Spartans add two transfers, which is actually a low number compared to most other D1 teams. Four freshmen also enter the program with varying levels of skill and expectation. The main reason for optimism though, is the fact that SJSU returns its top 5 players from last year. That is a rarity in today’s college basketball climate. The counter point would be to ask, do you really want your 5 most important players back from a team that went 8-23? Fair question; but the returning cohesiveness is a plus, and having a healthy Ibrahima Diallo back is huge–literally. The 7-footer missed virtually the entire conference portion of the schedule a year ago, and the Spartans were a different team without him on the floor.
Diallo may not be a number one option offensively, but he is the rim protector that every team values, and he vacuums up rebounds on both ends of the floor. As for the scoring load, that will be left up to returning all-conference performer Omari Moore. Moore flirted with the NBA, but decided to come back and fine-tune his game, excellent news for the Spartans. This may be a team though, that hitches its wagon to its defense–much like their opening night opponent.
Georgia Southern was a bottom half team in the Sun Belt last year, and they are picked down there again this season. As a matter of fact, the Spartans might see a lot of similarities between themselves and the Eagles, since they also return much of their nucleus from 2021-22. Head Coach Brian Burg prefers a deliberate half-court approach offensively. They struggled shooting the ball from deep a year ago, and were often bitten by the turnover bug. The reinforcements brought in may help, but none stand out as absolute bucket getters.
The Eagles are very good at taking teams out of transition and making them play offense in the half-court, against their stifling man-to-man defense. That should not hamper San Jose State too much, as they don’t usually use transition offense as much of a weapon. One issue for tonight though, is that Georgia Southern possesses multiple outstanding individual defenders, and they will be tasked with putting the clamps on Moore. If they succeed in making things tough on the Spartans 6’6” facilitator, tonight could be a long night for SJSU.
One additional area the Eagles struggled in last year is on the glass. They rebounded poorly due to a lack of size and physicality. Their roster has one player taller than 6’8” and he averaged a meager 9 minutes a game a year ago. They did not bring in a lot of reinforcements either. This is a thin position group, and something the Spartans may be able to exploit. Because Georgia Southern did not play an exhibition game, contrary to most teams, SJSU is coming into this one a little blind on the personnel and lineups Burg will use. That may be a slight advantage to the Eagles.
Speaking of exhibitions, the Spartans had one over the weekend, and it was probably a bit closer than they expected. San Jose State squeaked by Division II Cal State LA 69-66. One is never sure how much, or what, to read into those, as all coaches handle them differently. Miles for example, used 12 different players in the game, something unlikely to happen tonight. The Golden Eagles did hit 11-19 from 3-point land, which was a big reason they took the game down to the wire. That perimeter defense will need to be sharper moving forward for the Spartans to show tangible progress in the win-loss column.
One thing SJSU did really well Friday night was rebound the ball, sporting a 45-17 edge. Don’t expect a disparity that wide tonight, but grabbing multiple offensive rebounds could help a team searching for additional scoring to go along with Moore. Who will that sidekick be? It could be Sage Tolbert, the transfer from Temple, who scored 11 points and had 11 rebounds in the exhibition win. Or it could be Tibet Gorener, the former Arizona recruit, who looked good on Friday night. It could also be a late-bloomer like MJ Amey was fantastic towards the end of the season a year ago. The hope is that multiple players see a bump in production, and as a result the group as a whole does too.
What should we expect on opening night? Possibly some early jitters for both teams, and especially so for Georgia Southern as they work through the kinks that often would be worked out in an exhibition game. They also are traveling across the country for this one, while San Jose State enjoys the home-court advantage. Expect Miles to emphasize perimeter defense after the poor showing the other night, and with both teams content to be patient offensively, this one is likely not headed for a shootout, but rather a rock fight. Moore may not explode for a 25 point effort against this defense like he may against some other non-conference opponents either. It says here, Diallo and his friends up front collect enough second chance points and the Spartans escape with a season-opening home win.
Prediction: San Jose State 59 Georgia Southern 58
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