The Spartans, who were 17-16 in 2010-11, mustered only nine victories as they made the transition to a team that no longer had high-scoring guard Adrian Oliver and veteran point guard Justin Graham.
The backcourt, though, wasn't usually the problem. Often, the Spartans didn't have enough help for post Wil Carter, as they were outrebounded by 3.9 per game. The lack of expertise in the lane showed up in field-goal percentage -- a WAC-low 39.5 percent -- and in field-goal percentage defense (45.0).
San Jose State shot just 32.8 percent when it lost to top-seeded Nevada 54-44 in the WAC tournament quarterfinal. That was the Spartans' fifth consecutive game in which they shot less than 40 percent.
The Spartans lose four seniors, but Carter was the only senior starter through most of conference play, so SJSU will have a solid nucleus coming back. In the second half of conference season, San Jose State was more competitive, although its only WAC breakthrough in the victory column came in a home game against area rival Fresno State in double overtime.
"So many times we were close but didn't get over the top," coach George Nessman said late in the season. "We really believe we could have been doing better than what we're doing. But I think the big balance is that there's no question our team is moving forward, no question our team is progressing."
Nessman, who wrapped up his seventh season, did sign a new contract last summer that takes him through the 2013-14 season, although his job performance remains a hot topic on SJSU message boards.
Kinney makes a big splash in first year on campus
--Junior-college transfer James Kinney was selected to the WAC All-Newcomer team in a vote of league coaches. The guard averaged a team-high 15.8 points per game and was the team's leading 3-pointer shooter (86-of-216 for 39.8 percent). He tied for the team lead in steals (40) and was first at the free-throw line (85.3 percent). He ended the season on a sour note, though, going 1-of-13 from the floor in the WAC tournament against Nevada and finishing with five points.
--Good news and bad news for San Jose State from the free-throw line: Good: The Spartans shot a league-best 74.6 percent. Bad news: They got to the line less than any team in the WAC, just 18.9 times per game. That's emblematic of a jump-shot shooting team.
FINAL RECORD: 9-22, 1-13, eighth place in the WAC.
2011-12 SEASON RECAP: San Jose State picked up eight victories before the New Year, but none of those non-conference victories were anything to write home about, and a pattern of not being able to close out games emerged. When outside shots weren't falling, the Spartans had a tough time scoring -- witness a brutal 81-36 loss to Cal and even a 47-40 loss to Cal Poly when SJSU made a scant six two-point baskets. SJSU went winless through the first half of conference play, with a scoring margin of minus-13 per game. The Spartans had close calls against Hawaii, Nevada and Idaho in the second half of the season but struggled in late-game situations, with coach George Nessman lamenting just a couple of mental errors or missed assignments that could have resulted in at least a few more wins.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have a lot of young guys in our program, and it showed at times. We definitely have a good nucleus going forward." -- Coach George Nessman.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: San Jose State will return four starters, counting a pair of freshmen -- F Stephon Smith and G D.J. Brown -- who each joined the lineup soon after the start of conference play. The strength of the team next season will be the backcourt with rising senior James Kinney (15.8 points per game) and junior PG Keith Shamburger* (13.1 points, 5.2 assists). Santa Clara transfer Chris Cunningham could be a factor in the frontcourt as he becomes eligible.
THE BAD NEWS: The Spartans still have a long climb as a program, usually buried at or near the bottom of the WAC standings for many years, although the changing nature of the conference affiliates (with Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State leaving) might open the door for a rise. SJSU has precious little returning in the way of low-post scoring after the loss of Wil Carter, so that has to be a spring recruiting emphasis. The Spartans need more balance in their offense after relying too much on the long ball. San Jose State set a single-season school record for most 3-point attempts with 701. The previous record was 561 in 2002.
KEY RETURNEES: James Kinney proved to be a WAC-level scorer in his first season after transferring from junior college, ranking fourth in the conference with 15.8 points per game by the end of the league tournament. PG Keith Shamburger had a 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio and will be one of the top point guards in the league next season if he can find more scoring consistency and work on his 3-point shot. G D.J. Brown (7.7 points per game) and post Stephon Smith (3.9 points, 2.9 rebounds) got their feet wet as freshmen starters and need to continue to develop.
--C/F Chris Cunningham transferred to San Jose State from Santa Clara over the summer. Cunningham (6-8, 225) averaged 4.4 points and 2.8 rebounds a game for Santa Clara. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining after he sits out in 2011-12.
--Senior F Wil Carter ended his solid San Jose State career in style with a team-high 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting in the WAC quarterfinal loss to Nevada. He also grabbed seven rebounds.
*EDITORS NOTE: A post on the Twitter feed of Keith Shamburger stated that he is leaving San Jose State. However, there's has been no official announcement or confirmation
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