Checking in on the… WACPosted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2008
The Move Along, There’s Nothing To See Here Edition… In a week that saw idle WAC football teams make more headlines than their hardwood counterparts, the WAC collective did little to bolster the hope that they will send more than one team to the NCAA tournament come March. The league had several opportunities to get victories against fellow mid-majors and a couple of high-majors but came up well short in the wins department. Of the 13 games of interest from last week the WAC combined to win just four of those games, two of those wins coming courtesy of Boise State, the other two coming courtesy of San Jose State (over San Diego) and Fresno State (over the U. of Pacific Tigers). The WAC is now 33-28 on the season against non-conference opponents.
Boise State. Are the 6-1 Broncos for real or is more a matter of who Boise State has played? Following an 82-52 road loss to Siena, BSU has beaten Idaho State, Montana State, Southern Utah, Wyoming and Colorado State. December 10 brings a matchup with BYU in Provo and that contest will offer greater insight into this season’s Boise team. Senior forward Mark Sanchez was named the WAC Player of the Week based on just missing putting up back-to-back double-doubles (24/9 and 16/10) against Wyoming and Colorado State respectively. Sanchez is leading Greg Graham’s squad in minutes per game, scoring, rebounding and free throws made and attempted. Call him one of the more pleasant surprises of the season so far. Junior center Kurt Cunningham has connected on 32-38 shots so far, a remarkable .842 shooting percentage. In fact, Cunningham’s shooting percentage from the field is higher than the free throw percentages of all but two of the entire league’s stable of players (minimum of two made free throws per game).
Fresno State. Any week containing a win over Pacific is a good one. Yes, the Tigers were missing a pair of their best players but that factor was balanced out by the youth of the Bulldogs. Dunkmaster Paul George contributed 23 points, included five three-pointers and fellow frosh Mychal Ladd added 19 in the 66-64 win. Earlier, Fresno State fell at home 82-76 to UNLV. George had 21 points in that game, supported by Dwight O’Neil’s 19. The expected matchup between O’Neill and his half-brother, Running Rebel Tre’Von Willis, failed to materialize until late in the game. George surprisingly is leading the team in scoring with 15.9 points per game, shooting 54% from the floor and 44% on his three-point attempts. The slender wing also tops the Bulldogs in rebounding with a 6.1 rebounds-per-contest average. WAC play hasn’t begin as yet but George has muscled his way into the Rookie of the Year contention if he can maintain his production.
Hawaii. The real Roderick Flemings is finally on display. The much heralded junior college transfer led the way with 22 points and 13 boards in a 78-70 home victory over Prairie View A&M. Then the Rainbow Warriors traveled to Illinois — ‘Champaign on ice’ is how one Hawaii newspaper headline writer put it — and lost by just 10, 68-58. Flemings posted another double-double of 14/12 and center Petras Balaocka matched him in this one with 21/10. The two curious aspects of the game were Hawaii’s 43-14 (yes, you read that right) advantage in rebounding and the 22 turnovers committed by the Warriors. Upcoming matches at home with Eastern Washington and Chicago State seemingly should aid Hawaii’s win column.
Idaho. Idaho traveled to Portland but fell 68-65 to the Pilots despite shooting a toasty 57% from the floor for the game. 20 turnovers — versus 13 assists — did the Vandals in. Portland shot just about 20% less than Idaho (38%) but taking 11 more shots, nailing eight treys and limiting its turnovers to 11 did the trick. Mac Hopson shot well for Coach Don Verlin and finished with 21 points but his 6/4 turnover to assist ratio reduced his luster. The Vandals have a road match against South Carolina State on Wednesday.
Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs improved their record to 3-4 on the season as they took out their frustrations from their Alaskan misadventure out on the Grambling State Tigers, pounding them into submission in a 77-47 victory. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 42-19 halftime lead and never looked back. Believe it or not it was Louisiana Tech’s 2008-09 home opener, a span of 272 days since their last home game. Junior center/forward Magnum Rolle finished 4-4 from the field and 4-4 from the free throw line, scoring 12 points and grabbing six boards for the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have a home game against Louisiana-Monroe on December 10 before returning to an all too familiar place… the road.
Nevada. A 64-57 loss to state rival UNLV continued to demonstrate that this Wolf Pack squad is still in its developmental stage. 17-50 from the floor and a 14.3 shooting percentage from long distance paved the way for the defeat. A bright spot? Try just 11 turnovers. A December 2 82-76 road win at Colorado State had some thinking a turnaround was eminent. As a team, the Wolf Pack is shooting just .404% from the floor and .259% from three, very un-Nevada-like figures. Luke Babbitt continues to lead the team in scoring and rebounding but he and sophomore backcourt leader Armon Johnson are still not shooting well. Junior Brandon Fields is back from suspension but tellingly showing that he has missed a great deal of practice time. Fields is 8-26 from the floor and 1-14 on his his-point attempts, with a 3/16 assist to turnover ratio so far. The bright side: each of this trio will get better as the season rolls along.
New Mexico State. The Aggies took a trip to Lawrence and just like the majority of non-Big 12 and Big 12 foes alike, came away with a loss. The loss was not entirely unexpected but troubling for second year head coach Marvin Menzies is the team’s continued rebounding woes. The Aggies grabbed just 20 rebounds on the night. Kansas? They grabbed 20 rebounds as well… on the offensive end. In all the Aggies were outrebounded 46-20 en route to a 100-79 loss at The Phog. The team then ventured to Denton, TX to take on the North Texas Mean Green Eagles of the Sun Belt Conference. In what was a return game for the Mean Green traveling to Las Cruces, NM, last season for the Lou Henson Classic, the Aggies were looking to avenge a three point loss that saw them give up a 20 point lead in the final 13 minutes of the game. North Texas made sure there would be no payback and sent the Aggies home with an 85-83 loss. New Mexico State will look to rebound on December 11 against Sacramento State before taking on border rival Texas-El Paso on December 14.
San Jose State. The Spartans are coming off a 56-52 road win against San Diego of the West Coast Conference. Tim Pierce’s team-leading 23 points kept San Jose State in the game and sophomore Justin Graham produced two steals in the last minute that resulted in a basket and two free throws from him — which were the winning points. Center Chris Oakes added yet another double-double to his season total — he now has four — with 16 points and 14 boards, in addition to five blocked shots. Earlier, San Jose State fell to cross county rival Santa Clara 52-46 due to too much John Bryant. The Bronco center, who checks in at 6-11 and just somewhere below 300 pounds, produced a double-double-double, that being 20 points and 21 rebounds.
Utah State. The Aggies were handed their first loss of the season in an in-state battle with BYU on December 6. The Aggies rallied late to pull within two points at 62-60 before eventually falling 68-63. The Aggies held BYU’s leading scorer Lee Cummard to just six points but monster efforts by BYU’s Jonathan Tavernari (24 points) and Jimmer Fredette (16 points) were too much for the Aggies who were led in scoring by senior forward Gary Wilkinson (22 points). Utah State plays a pair of in-state teams in the coming week, both rare December away games. A road trip to Orem to face Utah Valley and then a jaunt down to Cedar City to take on Southern Utah. Kudos to Utah State head coach Stew Morrill for playing a pair of smaller in-state schools on the road.
Upcoming Games of Interest:
- Wed., Dec. 10th – Louisiana-Monroe vs. Louisiana Tech (Ruston, LA), 7:00 P.M. CT
- Wed., Dec. 10th – Boise State at BYU (Provo, UT), 8:00 P.M. MT
- Sat., Dec. 13th – San Francisco at Boise State (Boise, ID), 7:00 P.M. MT
- Sat., Dec. 13th – Eastern Washington at Hawai’i (Honolulu, HI), 7:00 P.M. HT
- Sun., Dec. 14th – Texas-El Paso at New Mexico State (Las Cruces, N.M.), 2:00 P.M. MT
- Sun., Dec. 14th – Southern Illinois at Nevada (Reno, NV), 7:00 P.M. PT
Boise State, 6-1
Utah State, 5-1
San Jose State, 3-3
Fresno State, 3-4
Louisiana Tech, 3-4
New Mexico State, 2-4