Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2008

Kevin McCarthy from Parsing The WAC and Sam Wasson from bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC. 

(ed. note – we received this from our correspondents on Wednesday, Nov. 26, but due to unforeseen circumstances we were unable to post until today)

Flyspecks on the wall of the WAC

It’s a new season and mostly new lineups for the Western Athletic Conference in 2008-2009. A high percentage of the top players have graduated, leaving just two of the top 15 scorers back, Louisiana Tech junior guard Kyle Gibson and Utah State forward Gary Wilkinson.

In the snarkilicious So-What Department, WAC member teams went a perfect 14-0 in exhibition play this year. That’s not exactly the mighty flag Commissioner Karl Benson wants to fly. Once the real season started, the WAC has gone 19-13 in out-of-conference play. There have not been many notable victories, although, there have not been as many notable opponents as in seasons past either as the early schedule has been littered with the likes of Montana State-Northern, Grambling State, Evergreen and the mighty mighty California Maritime Academy, although, we’ll give San Jose State a pass because at least they didn’t schedule the Academy of Art (we’re looking at you University of San Francisco). The league has had early season battles with Southern Cal, San Diego, San Diego State, Michigan State, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and Siena.

The conference player of the week was Boise State senior Mark Sanchez. A reserve last season, he’s playing the most minutes on the team and leading the Broncos in scoring, shooting percentage, free throws attempted and rebounding. Can he still have a place on the ‘Gettin’ No Love’ team or does the current attention he’s receiving disqualify him?

Boise State.  Boise State opened up at home by defeating Pacific 100-68 but then went on the road and lost by 30 points to Siena, 82-52. They were then pushed to double overtime by Idaho State, eventually winning 92-84. Idaho State found out what most other teams have found out, you don’t want really want to go to overtime against Boise State. The Broncos are 10-2 in 12 overtime games under head coach Greg Graham. New Mexico State fans know the feeling all too well after their team lost a triple overtime game to Boise in the conference tournament championship game.

Fresno State.  Can a team’s identity be identified by a single play? Well, it’s early but let’s put it this way: the standout NCAA Division 1 dunk of November was executed by freshman Paul George. In case you took a short term basketball-related monastic vow and somehow missed this, here’s the link.  George scored 23 other points that night along with nabbing 10 boards. Fellow frosh Mychal Ladd added 13 points. The Bulldogs garnered some respect for not folding against St. Mary’s in that 99-85 road loss on November 17 but were then flattened 80-56 five days later at San Diego State. In the what-goes-up-must-come-down-department, rigged up especially for freshman, George scored two points on 1-7 shooting and Ladd totaled eight points with but 3-12 shots from the floor.  UNLV makes its way to Fresno on December 3. The Rebels were ranked anywhere from 22nd to 24th in various pre-season national polls so the Bulldogs have an opportunity to make some noise.

Hawaii.  Currently, Jimmy Breslin’s old organized crime tome “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” is an apt description for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. 75-70 and 90-76 homecourt losses to San Francisco and Cal State Fullerton respectively, followed by a 67-64 Honolulu overtime victory over Idaho State were all underwritten by 11-46 (23.9%) shooting from three-point range. A last-second 60-59 win November 24 against visiting Iowa State helps but Hawaii continued its shooting slump going 18-46 overall and 4-17 from three-point range.  Heralded junior college transfer Roderick Flemings is close to be healthy (high ankle sprain) and it is upon his back that Coach Bob Nash has placed the Rainbow Warrior season.

Idaho.  Anyone for scheduling by Torquemada? Michigan State in East Lansing and Gonzaga in Spokane are not the two programs a new basketball coach with a generally new roster giddily places on his schedule early in the season. Who knows whether Vandal Coach Don Verlin inherited these games or put them on himself but it resulted in two expected spankings. But North Dakota State next failed to join the Spartan/Zag pantheon and fell 78-69 to Idaho in Moscow.   In that last game, it was a case of ‘Newcomer City’ leading the way. Junior college transfers Kashif Watson, Marvin Jefferson and Luciano de Souza led the way with 19, 16 and 15 points, respectively. Washington State transfer Mac Hopson is the team leader at 15.5 points per game along with a total of 19 assists in four contests.

Louisiana Tech.  The Bulldogs are 2-1 on the season and have yet to see their home gym after picking up a 61-59 road victory over Louisiana-Lafayette and an 80-74 road victory over Grambling State. Their loss was at the hands of Arkansas-Little Rock, a 78-69 setback. The Bulldogs boast two of the league’s top three rebounders in LSU transfer Magnum Rolle (9.7) and Kenneth Cooper (9.0). The Bulldogs will next travel to Anchorage, Alaska, to participate in the Great Alaska Shootout before finally playing their first home game on December 6th against Grambling State. In fact, the Bulldogs will play 12 of their first 16 games on the road.

Nevada.  The Wolf Packers have faced a hybrid season so far as a shoplifting charge resulted in three players missing practice time and games. Starter Brandon Fields has been sitting on the sidelines along with freshmen Ahyaro Phillips and London Giles. Fields is now back and working his way back into the rotation. Such an absence doesn’t always necessitate any great meaning but it’s important to note that Nevada Coach Mark Fox is still assembling the pieces of a youthful squad and seeking greater cohesion. The ‘Two Tales of Luke’ is the most significant factor. In a 65-51 road loss to San Diego, celebrated frosh Luke Babbitt shot 1-9 with four boards and four turnovers. Babbitt then recovered to put in 20 points and nab seven boards in a 79-71 victory over rebuilding Oregon State. The game against the Beavers marked the return of Fields.  Keep on eye on sophomore backcourter Armon Johnson. The pre-season pick by the coaches as the conference player of the year, Johnson is struggling from the floor, shooting 27.9% overall and 21.5% from long range. To his credit, the 6-foot-3 Johnson is grabbing a remarkable 5.7 rebounds a game and has 18 assists juxtaposed with just five turnovers.

New Mexico State.  The league’s southern Aggies have played California ball early in the season taking down UC Riverside 79-52, losing to then #19 USC 73-60 and then rebounding to defeat Pepperdine 90-66. Sophomore guard Jahmar Young looks to have moved past his freshman year off and on the court maturity issues and is leading the team in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per game on 50% shooting. Frontcourt newcomer Troy Gillenwater has made his presence felt on both ends as he’s averaging 17 points per game and has nine blocks this season, including a six block performance against Pepperdine. The team’s most experienced player, junior guard Jonathan Gibson, is averaging 15.3 points per game but hasn’t been quite as efficient early as he was throughout the 2007-08 season as he’s shooting 36.6% from the floor and 30% from behind the three point line as compared to his 45.4% from the field and 41.9% from behind the arc last season although it’s still incredibly early in the season. Gibson has however improved his defense as the co-leader in steals in the league with seven.  More concerning for the Aggies is their -8.3 rebounding margin early in the season. Last season they had a rebounding margin of +8.9 which was second only to North Carolina (+11) in the NCAA.  The team has a nine day break and will take on their fourth California team in a row on Sunday, Nov. 30th, when they head to Long Beach to take on Long Beach State, the mandated return game from last season’s Bracketbuster Challenge.

San Jose State.  As expected, South Dakota State was handled, even on the road, 70-62 but Big 12 member Nebraska took it to the Spartans 63-46 in Lincoln. Junior frontcourter Chris Oakes has posted consecutive double-doubles in scoring and rebounding. Two key numbers: San Jose State is shooting 45.7% as a team — much, much better than last season but also with a  too-high 18 turnovers a contest.  The Spartans traveled across the county to play what turned out to be an eminently winnable game against Clinton, South Carolina-based Presbyterian College but fell 47-46 on a last second shot. No, Catholic University is not next on the schedule.  The next SJSU game is December 3, an intra-county rivalry game against West Coast Conference foe Santa Clara.

Utah State.  The northern Aggies are the league’s only remaining unbeaten as they sit at 3-0 after notching victories over Montana State-Northern (71-50), UC Santa Barbara (61-59) and Weber State (75-49). The Aggies lead the WAC in field goal percentage as they’re hitting just over 51% of their shots in the first three games. The Aggies will return to the court on Saturday to take on Cal Poly at home in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The Aggies are riding a 54 game non-conference winning streak at home which is second only to Duke who has won 58 consecutive games.

Current Standings:

  1. Utah St.  (3-0)
  2. Boise St.  (3-1)
  3. Louisiana Tech  (2-1)
  4. Nevada  (2-1)
  5. New Mexico St.  (2-1)
  6. Fresno St.  (2-2)
  7. Hawai’i  (2-2)
  8. San Jose St.  (2-2)
  9. Idaho  (2-3)

Upcoming Games Of Interest:

  • Wed, Nov. 26th, Nevada vs. Pacific (7:00 P.M. PT) (Pacific 67, Nevada 59)
  • Fri, Nov. 28th, Louisiana Tech vs. San Diego State
  • Sat, Nov. 29th, Nevada at Portland (7:00 P.M. PT) (Portland 63, Nevada 61)
  • Sun, Nov. 30th, Oregon State at Fresno State (2:00 P.M. PT) (OSU 62, Fresno St. 54)
  • Wed, Dec. 3rd, New Mexico State at Kansas (6:00 P.M. CT)
  • Wed, Dec. 3rd, UNLV at Fresno State (7:00 P.M. MT)
  • Wed, Dec. 3rd, Santa Clara at San Jose State (7:00 P.M. PT)
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