By Andrew Talamantes (@DrewTooSavvy):
SJSU has never won a national championship, has never been a top recruiting school and has never been a top-tier basketball program.
With all that being said, the Spartans have never lost sight of who they are and continue to compete every night.
The past few seasons, the Spartans have had the opportunity to play big name basketball programs such as Kansas, Marquette, Saint Mary’s and even conference opponents such as San Diego State and Fresno State.
To add to the fume, the Event Center isn’t the largest college basketball arena, so when SJSU players have a game at big stadiums, it brings a whole new aspect to the game for them.
Being the only senior on the team, guard Jalen James has plenty experience with playing in intense conference match ups.
“I look forward to playing San Diego State because they have good guards and it’s a great atmosphere to play in,” James said. “I remember it being loud in there my freshman year when I played there. They were ranked No. 6 in the nation and they had a couple pros on their team.”
Playing opponents on the road is all apart of the game, and James and others are well aware of what they need to do to prepare for the matchups.
“I know it would be loud and we might not be able to do anything, so we’d just be focused playing the game we love,” James said.
One of the greatest atmospheres James has played in came his freshman year at New Mexico. With a loud audience of over 10,000 people and facing three future NBA players, the Spartans were simply outmatched and lost the game 67-41.
Unlike James, freshmen guard Noah Baumann’s team he’s always wanted to play against is Duke.
However, that’s not a team San Jose State has to worry about, or probably ever play after losing to the Blue Devils by 19 points 11 years ago.
Conference wise, he looks forward to playing Air Force, being it is a military school and him never having played a team like that before, as well as Fresno State.
“I knew I was going to be nervous and I definitely didn’t want to do too much,” Baumann said. “I just wanted to get people open, shoot when open and it’s a crazy atmosphere playing these teams as a freshmen but it was an amazing experience.”
A normal mentality you’d expect out of a freshman, looking to leave an impression and get a feel for the game.
When it comes to facing these big-name teams, Baumann believes you have to treat it just like any other game.
“You got to come in with almost like a bully mentality, because if you come in scared, they’re just going to get on you,” Baumann said.
He also sees Nevada being SJSU’s toughest opponent this season, being the Wolf Pack won the Mountain West Championship last year.
Junior forward and leading scorer for the Spartans this season Ryan Welage looks to leave his imprint on the season by taking on the scoring load and playing extensive minutes.
When it comes to talented conference opponents, Welage sees Nevada, Colorado State, San Diego State and Boise State as teams on his radar.
“I’d get up to play for every team, but for sure those are the one’s you want to beat the most,” Welage said.
Welage’s most memorable college game of his career came in a loss, but in a winning way for him.
“I would say San Diego State on the road my freshman year,” Welage said. “We lost, but coach (Dave) Wojcik challenged me all week, saying I couldn’t go up against guys like Zylan Cheatham and Malik Pope, and I ended up scoring 25 points and we almost won.”
Whether it’s a big or small platform, good or bad team they’re going against these players know that every time they step on the court, they have to bring it.