In the latest installment of a basketball rivalry that dates back to 1919, the San Jose State Spartans will make the 4 mile journey down The Alameda to meet with their embittered rival Santa Clara.
The Spartans will be enduring a season of transition, as they welcome in new coach Dave Wojcik, and are brought into a new conference, the Mountain West. This figures to be a rough transition, as the Mountain West is a significant step up in competition. This will be compounded by the transfer of 6 players from the SJSU program.
Last year the Spartans finished 9-20, ending the game on a 14 game losing streak. The Spartans already endured a tough loss to non-Division 1 Cal State Monterey Bay, who bested them on their own floor 78-69 on November 4th. Losing your exhibition game is a pretty harrowing way to start your season, and with only Chris Cunningham, a Santa Clara transfer, and D.J.Brown having any meaningful Division 1 college basketball experience, the Spartans are going to have a long year.
The Spartans will look longingly, as they often do, towards Santa Clara, who figure to be at the very least, the college team to beat in the south bay. The Broncos handled their exhibition against Bethesda of Anaheim 84-39, despite resting Evan Roquemore, their starting point guard who was a Naismith Watchlist Candidate a season ago. Freshman Jared Brownridge notched 25 points, and his freshman backcourt counterpart Jalen Richard scored 15 in the win. Blowouts don’t provide much insight, as this season could too be a year in transition on the Mission Campus.
Gone from the Bronco roster are all-time leading scorer Kevin Foster, Marc Trasolini, and Raymond Cowells III. Between those three players were nearly 13,000 minutes played and almost 6,000 points. The significant gap is left to be filled by an incoming class that includes four freshman- Jalen Richard, Jared Brownridge, Jarvis Pugh, Emmanuel Nduymana, a redshirt freshman in Nate Kratch, and a senior transfer, Jerry Brown, formerly of Fresno State. Whether Santa Clara regresses majorly this season or is able to reload and move forward will be the question of the season, and this game against SJSU, which figures to be a Santa Clara win, will be the first chance for the Broncos to begin answering that question against Division 1 competition.
The series between the two schools has been somewhat lopsided, with Santa Clara besting San Jose State in 78 of the 107 matchups. Last year, Santa Clara topped SJSU 75-54 at the SJSU Events Center, a building where Santa Clara has never lost since the building opened in 1989. Santa Clara is riding a 3 game win streak in the series, as SJSU last prevailed in 2009. However, it wouldn’t be a rivalry if it were completely one-sided. Long-time Spartan fans remember fondly the Spartan upset over No. 3 Santa Clara at the San Jose Civic Auditorium in February 1969 that ended Santa Clara’s perfect season. For 70 years, the Broncos and Spartans both played their home games at San Jose Civic Auditorium, before Santa Clara moved to its current on campus home.
Tipoff is at 8 p.m. in the Leavey Center. The game is the second part of a doubleheader which features SJSU and SCU’s women’s teams, who tip at 5:30. The game will be carried on 1220 AM in the Bay Area.