It's been 23 years since a top-10 team played at the Event Center, and first-year San Jose State coach Dave Wojcik will field a team with six true freshmen in the rotation Wednesday night when No. 7 San Diego State visits.

The Aztecs (16-1) have won 15 straight since a nine-point loss to top-ranked Arizona. They are unbeaten in five Mountain West Conference games and boast the nation's second-rated defense.

As was the case Jan. 31, 1991, when Jerry Tarkanian's top-ranked UNLV team beat the Spartans 88-64, this one is probably not a fair fight.

"We're going to have our hands full," Wojcik conceded. "But this is why you came here. These are the games you want to play in. We're embracing it. What do we have to lose?"

Losing has been the debilitating norm for two decades at San Jose State. The Spartans have had just one winning season since 1993-94 and no coach has left the program with a winning record at the school since 1966.

Wojcik had all that gruesome history thrown at him by coaching friends before he left his job as an assistant at Boise State to come to SJSU. He also understood the leap the Spartans were about to make from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West -- the same one Boise made two years before.

"Some people thought I was nuts for taking the job," Wojcik said. "I'm not worried about what happened in the past."


Advertisement

The Spartans were 6-6 in nonconference play but have lost all six of their MWC games. Wojcik isn't discouraged. He sees weekly progress, including a four-point loss to New Mexico and a two-point loss to Colorado State.

Freshmen are playing nearly 49 percent of the minutes and providing more than 46 percent of the points. One of those freshmen, Rashad Muhammad, is the team's top scorer, despite having started just one game.

"Their heads are spinning on how much preparation we do, but they're starting to understand it," Wojcik said. "I think their spirits are up. I try to be as positive as I can. I don't want to bury them. They're too fragile.

"But I'm hard on them because we have to have a toughness and a grit. We're getting that."

They'll need it this week, first against the Aztecs, then Saturday at Boise State, where Wojcik anticipates an emotional return and a tough road game.

The job involves day-to-day work, but Wojcik also tries to envision where his program is headed. He likes what he sees with a group of players who have nothing to do with the losing that preceded them.

"I think we can win here, and we're going to win here," he said. "We've changed the culture already. I really think the future is bright with the players we have."

  • Cal coach Mike Montgomery was surprised to learn this week that Colorado and UCLA both dropped out of the Top 25, leaving No. 1 Arizona as the Pac-12's only ranked team. Colorado lost at home to UCLA, which then lost at Utah.

    "If you lose out west in the Pac-12, then the team that you beat that was ranked was overrated," Montgomery said. "If you lose back east, boy, that league is really good.

    "We just don't get that respect out here, and it's been that way a long, long time. They would refuse to admit Utah might be decent. It's a beauty pageant. I don't worry about it much."

    Montgomery's focus is on his Bears (14-4, 5-0), who visit USC on Wednesday night, then UCLA on Sunday.

  • The San Jose State women got their first-ever MWC wins with a home sweep of Air Force and Wyoming. No one had more to do with it than junior guard Ta'Rea Cunnigan, who averaged 27.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.0 blocks.

  • How consistently spectacular has Stanford senior Chiney Ogwumike been? She has scored 30 points or more in seven of the Cardinal's past nine games.

  • Hayward High grad Davion Berry set a Weber State school record for free throw attempts in a game (23) and tied one for free throws made (18) in a 25-point performance vs. Southern Utah. The senior guard is averaging 16.4 points.

  • The Jared Brownridge Watch: The Santa Clara guard now is the nation's seventh-highest scoring freshman at 16.6 points per game after a career-best 30 vs. BYU. Among those ahead of him: Duke's Jabari Parker (19.1) and Kentucky's Julius Randle (16.9). Trailing him: Kansas' Andrew Wiggins (15.2) and Arizona's Aaron Gordon (12.4).

    Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.