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Men's basketball: Fresh faces, attitude at SFSU

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The San Francisco State men’s basketball team has a new mantra: “March!”

This season, which began with a Friday with a 78-74 win over host Rio Grande (Ohio) in the Bevo Francis Tournament, the players close practices and break huddles with the one-syllable word, a signal for advancement. More precisely, in postseason advancement.

“‘March’ is about playing basketball in the month of March,” coach Bill Treseler said. “But it’s also a military command that implies discipline.”

Said 6-foot-2 junior guard Alex Thomas: “We don’t want to be watching everyone else play when March comes around. We want to be playing basketball in the playoffs and NCAA.”

While thinking postseason thoughts may seem like the Gators are getting ahead of themselves — especially for a team that finished 6-21 last year, won just two California Collegiate Athletic Association games and hasn’t made a postseason in 13 years — SFSU can look forward with more certaintythan in the past because the CCAA reinstated its postseason tournament. Eight of the league’s 11 teams qualify for the tournament, March 4-8 in San Bernardino, allowing teams lower in the standings a chance to play off for an NCAA Division II tournament bid.

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“Where we’re at in the development of the program, to have a conference tournament creates some focus,” Treseler said. “This will be by far the deepest team I’ve had here, with 12 or 13 guys that are legitimate CCAA players.”

Ten players are newcomers, Treseler said, including power forward Chris Rodriguez, a transfer from NAIA school Southern Oregon.

“He has great hands and soft touch around the rim,” Thomas said. “He’s a great passer for a [power forward], can put the ball on the floor and shoot jump shots.”

The lone returning senior is Dave Van Someren, a 6-foot guard who sat out most of the late stretch last season with a knee injury but was the Gators’ leading scorer when he played. He led the Gators on Friday with 16 points.

Partly to keep such injuries at bay, Treseler guided the players into a program of in-season weight training he said will keep bodies thicker and more ready for physical contact in the CCAA.

Treseler also brought in a new top assistant, Rich Mendoza, who installed a motion-style offense different from the halfcourt set that was at times predictable last season.

“It’s a spacing- and read-oriented offense where players have more latitude to make decisions on the fly,” Tresler said. “Early in the season, we’ll make some incorrect reads but we’ll go on tape and teach. These guys are bright enough to make adjustments and by conference play we should be adapted to it.”

By March at the latest.

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