Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 20th, 2008

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

Making Headway. The league had a decent week in the win-loss column as the collective went 10-5 against their competition since the last check-in. Hawai’i (over Eastern Washington), New Mexico State (over Texas-El Paso) and Nevada (over Southern Illinois) all earned solid wins and the league also had a couple of close losses to decent opponents (San Francisco and Montana) . The WAC has another big week of competition upcoming as they’ll face teams from the Pac-10, Missouri Valley Conference, West Coast Conference, Mountain West Conference and Conference USA.

The WAC needs to earn some key victories as they are currently the 15th ranked conference in terms of RPI and just one of the league’s teams, Utah State (40) is inside the Top 100 RPI.

Boise State. The Broncos fell back to earth last Wednesday night as they were manhandled by BYU in the second half of their game against the Cougars in Provo, UT. Boise State kept it close, trailing 33-29 at the break but the Broncos were blown out in the second half as BYU opened the half on a 51-11 run en route to the 94-56 victory. In a blowout of such epic proportions you’d expect the winning team to have dominated the shot chart. However, despite being outscored by nearly 40 points the Broncos attempted the same number of shots as BYU.  After having their five game winning streak broken by BYU, the Broncos dropped a second consecutive game after a 79-76 home loss to San Francisco. BSU will try to get back to their winning ways over the weekend with a pair of games against two more California squads. On December 20 the Broncos travel to Bakersfield to take on CS-Bakersfield and then on Monday they’ll make the trip to San Diego to face USD.  And in one of the more interesting promotions of the season Boise State’s athletic department had decided to give away free tickets to watch the team play. This is in spite of the fact that the Broncos are off to a 6-3 start and finished in a four-way tie for the regular season championship and they’re the defending conference tournament champions and coming off an NCAA appearance. Life in the WAC… gotta love it.

Fresno State. It’s the dog days of December for Fresno State, following a dispiriting 69-65 loss to visiting Montana. The Fresno Bee ran a game article with this headline:  “Unwatchable ‘Dogs fall to Montana”.  Earlier, freshman Paul George’s 17 points (including five treys) paved the way for a 66-51 win against nearby Cal State Bakersfield. George continues to lead the way with team-leading 15.7 and 6.1 scoring and rebounding averages respectively. Fellow frosh Bryce Cartwright isn’t shooting well but his playmaking at the point — 34 assists versus 19 turnovers — has allowed senior Dwight O’Neill to primarily move back to shooting guard, his more familiar spot.   The Las Vegas Classic begins Thursday with the Bulldogs facing under .500 Northern Colorado, then winless South Carolina Upstate, followed by tougher Creighton and then either DePaul or St. Louis. The first two contests offer the chance for Fresno State to regain some momentum.

Idaho. The Vandals fell 66-59 on the road to South Carolina State and now host the same team Wednesday night. 3-28 shooting from three-point range, this from a team coming in making 43% of its long-range shots, paved the way for the defeat.  Texas Southern and Washington State arrive on Saturday and Sunday respectively.  Backcourter Mac Hopson is fourth in the WAC in scoring, first in assists and tied for fifth in steals and should be jacked up to face his former team (WSU) on Sunday.

Hawaii. Led by Roderick Flemings’ 37-point explosion, the Rainbow Warriors grabbed a 77-55 win over visiting Eastern Washington this past Saturday and then followed up with an 88-75 victory over Chicago State Monday night. Flemings had 20 points in the latter, assisting Petras Balocka’s 21/10 double-double.  In the win over Chicago State, Coach Bob Nash had some interesting opinions. When asked about how his backcourter Kareem Nitoto played against high-scoring David Holston, Nash said “”I thought (Nitoto) did an awesome job in the first half; I thought he sucked in the second half,” Nash said with a laugh” but later added “”The kid’s a great shooter…He lived up to his billing … I thought Kareem (Nitoto), from top to bottom, did a very credible job on him.”  Flemings tops the WAC in scoring with a 19.4 points per game average and is sixth in rebounding. For his efforts in the two games, he was also named the WAC Player of the Week. Hawaii has compiled 41 assists compared to 21 turnovers in its past two games but the competiton level needs to be factored in to such positive results.

Louisiana Tech. After defeating Grambling State the previous week, the Bulldogs went 2-1 in a stretch that saw them play three games in five nights. Tech defeated Louisiana-Monroe 69-57 then dispatched Centenary College 77-71. Two nights later the winning streak stopped at three as the Bulldogs lost 61-44 to McNeese State. The Bulldogs were playing without Magnum Rolle but a frigid 14-53 night from the field did not help the Bulldogs’ cause either. The Bulldogs once again return to the road taking on Samford on December 18 in the mandated return game from last season’s Bracketbusters matchup which saw Samford defeat Louisiana Tech 73-70.  Louisiana Tech then returns home for a matchup with TCU on December 22.

Nevada. The Wolf Pack blasted lower division Sonapanoma State (Sonoma St.) 95-39 but more importantly followed that up with a convincing 62-48 triumph against visiting Southern Illinois. The Reno Gazette-Journal ran this provocative headline with the game article: “Pack basketball: Nevada slaughters Southern Illinois“.  It’s Arkansas-Pine Bluff Wednesday night in Reno followed by a trip to Berkeley to face Cal and new coach Mike Montgomery on Saturday.  Wunderkind Luke Babbitt is tenth in the WAC in scoring and tied for seventh in rebounding, Armon Johnson is fourth in assists and Malik Cooke second in steals.

New Mexico State. The Aggies put an end to their three game skid with a 76-65 victory over visiting Sacramento State. The game saw the Aggies return to last season’s rebounding form as they out rebounded the Hornets by 17. The Aggies then put together a 90-78 victory over I-10 rival Texas-El Paso (UTEP) and outrebounded the Miners by three. The Aggies and Miners are separated by less than 50 miles and a state line and it was the two teams’ 195th meeting. New Mexico State returns to action on December 17 against Prairie View A&M, a team that they defeated last season 80-43.  The Aggies will travel to El Paso on December 20 for the return game of the annual home-and-home with UTEP. The Aggies will then head to Albuquerque on December 23 for another rivalry series, this time against in-state rival New Mexico. The Aggies and Lobos also have a yearly home-and-home rivalry.

San Jose State. The Spartans didn’t play this week, coming off a 56-52 win over San Diego. Senior Tim Pierce leads the team in scoring with 17.2 points a game (fifth in the WAC), junior Chris Oakes tops the WAC in both rebounding and shotblocking and soph Justin Graham is first in steals and sixth in assists. SJSU hosts Northern Colorado on Saturday and San Francisco on Monday. The Northern Colorado game is ‘Go Retro’ night, being played at the former Spartan homecourt from back in the Big West Conference days, San Jose Civic Auditorium.

Utah State. The Aggies continue to cruise through the non-conference portion of their schedule as they easily defeated Utah Valley State behind a career high 29 points from senior forward Gary Wilkinson.  Utah State begins a stretch of three games in five nights when they travel to Cedar City, UT on December 17 to take on Southern Utah. The Aggies will then head to Pocatello, ID to take on Idaho State on December 20 and then finish up the stretch back at home in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum against in-state rival Utah.  The Aggies sport a gaudy 16.4 margin of victory and are holding opponents to just 56.4 points per game. They also are hitting 54% of their shots from the field. In addition to their gaudy margin of victory numbers, their also out rebounding their opponents by 12 boards per game.

Upcoming Games of Interest:

  • Sat., Dec. 20, Nevada at Cal (Berkeley, CA), 3:00 P.M. PT
  • Sat., Dec. 20, New Mexico State at UTEP (El Paso, TX), 7:00 P.M. MT
  • Sun., Dec. 21, Washington State at Idaho (Moscow, ID), 7:00 P.M. MT
  • Mon., Dec. 22, Fresno State vs. Creighton (Las Vegas, NV), 7:30 P.M. PT
  • Mon., Dec. 22, San Francisco at San Jose State (San Jose, CA), 7:00 P.M. PT
  • Mon., Dec. 22, Boise State at San Diego (San Diego, CA), 7:00 P.M. PT
  • Mon., Dec. 22, TCU at Louisiana Tech (Ruston, LA), 7:00 P.M. CT
  • Mon., Dec. 22, Utah at Utah State (Logan, UT), 7:00 P.M. MT
  • Tue., Dec. 23, New Mexico State at New Mexico (Albuquerque, N.M.), 6:30 P.M. MT

Current Standings

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