David White

Take solace, Bulldogs basketball fans. If this season was ‘bad,’ think what’s ahead

Fresno State coach Rodney Terry will welcome a slew of talented players back next season including senior guard Jaron Hopkins.
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry will welcome a slew of talented players back next season including senior guard Jaron Hopkins. Associated Press

Sitting here in a middle seat – oh, the joys of a C group boarding pass on a Southwest flight – watching March Madness, when the total lack of a Fresno State men’s basketball team on the mini screen hit us with an unfathomable new truth:

So what if the Bulldogs didn’t get back to the NCAA Tournament this year? They just had the best bad season in school history.

Think about it: the 2016-17 Bulldogs should have been CBI Tournament bad. They lost Mountain West MVP Marvelle Harris to matriculation and point guard Cezar Guerrero to the land of used-up eligibility.

Fresno State should have been eyes-bleeding bad. They were never going to lift the bar on last year’s 25-10 season.

What the Bulldogs did do was just as important: they lifted the bar on the basement.

The Bulldogs won 20 games, which makes this down year less down than it has ever been. They beat Mountain West Conference champion Nevada twice. They even made the NIT field, a national nod to a program that is now closer to the top 64 than it is the bottom 64.

Twenty wins and an NIT invite? If that’s as bad as it gets, that’s not bad at all.

Other thoughts and musings while we try to open this blasted bag of heat-sealed peanuts:

▪ The last thing Fresno State needed was to win the NIT championship like the 1983 Bulldogs did. One win would have been nice, but easy with the team spirit.

This program needs coach Rodney Terry more than Terry needs Fresno State in this increasingly one-way street. The more the Bulldogs would have won in March, the more hirable Terry would have become to Power Five conference schools.

His 45 wins in two consecutive seasons is the most by a Fresno State men’s basketball coach since Lord Jerry Tarkanian won 45 in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons. If Terry strings together a third straight 20-win season, he is as good as relocated.

Given the scholarship help coming back season, this would be a good time for Terry to start picking up cardboard boxes in an alley near him.

▪ Most of you did not join me in watching the NCAA wrestling championships this weekend. Tune in next year, when Fresno State is back on the screen for the first time in more than a decade.

Because, we’ve had it up to our eyebrows watching Valley-bred wrestlers wearing out-of-state singlets.

▪ The Los Angeles Lakers missed the NBA playoffs for the fourth straight year. Big deal, if you’re the Sacramento Kings.

Huge deal if you’re the Lakers. They skipped the postseason all of five times – as in, ever – before this current bottomless plunge. Whoever they’ve fired, they haven’t fired enough people.

Who do the Lakers think they are, the 1990s Clippers?

▪ Fresno State football coach Jeff Tedford’s bonus-boosted contract has the athletic department in a Cash-22.

With money prizes seasoned throughout his deal – think $250,000 to win the Mountain West Conference – the cash-strapped Bulldogs can hardly afford for Tedford to hit every bonus.

But then, if Tedford doesn’t hit the incentive markers, it means Fresno State isn’t winning games, which means fans aren’t coming to games, which means the Bulldogs are losing money.

They lose money if they win, and they lose money if they lose. Seeing all things are equal, they may as well go broke winning trophies – at least you can hawk the championship rings at a pawn shop for the extra cash.

▪ Wisconsin men’s basketball beat No. 1-seed Villanova with seniors, defense and a bench. So this is what basketball looked like in the black-and-white television days.