Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 15th, 2009

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

Current Standings:

  1. Utah State (3-0, 15-1)
  2. Boise State (3-0, 12-3)
  3. Nevada (2-1, 9-7)
  4. Idaho (2-1, 8-8 )
  5. New Mexico State (2-2, 8-9)
  6. Hawai’i (1-3, 9-7)
  7. San Jose State (1-3, 7-8 )
  8. Louisiana Tech (1-3, 7-10)
  9. Fresno State (0-2, 7-9)

Home Sweet Home… errr Road.  A strange thing has happened early in the WAC this season. Through 15 games the road teams are 10-5. Among the milestone victories this season was Utah State defeating New Mexico State in Las Cruces for the first time since 2000, Idaho winning for the first time in Reno since 1999 and San Jose State winning in Fresno for the first time since 1993. There is a strong chance the road wins will keep on coming as Idaho visits New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech, Boise State visits Nevada and Utah State and San Jose State visits Hawai’i.

What we know about the WAC

  • Fresno State’s Paul George is the real deal…but one that nobody expected to be so productive so soon nor that he would play every minute of every Bulldog WAC game so far.
  • Rainbow Warrior Roderick Flemings is also special…as presupposed
  • Look at Coach Steve Cleveland’s roster and then the squad’s 7-8 record — in what fantasy world do those expecting more reside?
  • BSU’s Kurt Cunningham has come back to earth with his shooting but any coach will take a 10-17 shooting ratio from his center.

What we suspect or maybe more

  • In order to compete in the league, Hawaii needs a standout backcourter who can create and score points. Does Matt Gibson have any more eligibility?
  • Don Verlin has brought order and confidence to the Idaho program — so much so that the Vandals will not be the caboose of the WAC this season.
  • There’s no way Gary Wilkinson can shoot 74% from the floor in league play. He’s good but not that good. Ditto for BSU’s Anthony Thomas — a guard — at 68%

What has made us look dumb

  • Did anyone predict Boise State would begin league play 3-0, plus have a 10-3 overall record — all with just two players scoring in double figures? Does Greg Graham deserve inclusion in the ‘he doesn’t rebuild, he reloads’ fraternity?
  • Likewise, who forsaw San Jose State stumbling out of the gate 0-3, with two homecourt losses until the win in Fresno?

What we want to know

  • Are the current top five scorers in the WAC the players who will populate the All-WAC First Team? For the record, here they are:
  1. Gary Wilkinson, Gary USU 18.7
  2. C.J. Webster, C.J. SJSU 17.5
  3. Jahmar Young, Jahmar NMSU 17.0
  4. Roderick Flemings, UH 16.8
  5. Paul George, Fresno State 16.5
  • How will Idaho match up with Louisiana Tech — Marvin Jefferson as the lone Vandal ‘big’ vs.  Magnum Rolle, now minus playing partner Kenneth Cooper.
  • Is 6-5-ish Wendell McKines leading the league rebounding because of his effort or because of the rebounding woes of his teammates or a combination thereof?
  • Speaking of McKines, does he earn an All-WAC First Team nod over say Jahmar Young — or do both get selected?
  • How is Boise State holding league opponents to 35% shooting?
  • Will Utah State pull a double-double? That is leading the conference in shooting as well as field goal percentage defense?

Official WAC Player of the Week — Luke Babbitt

Babbitt tied career highs with  22 points and 12 rebounds in an overtime win at New Mexico State for his second double-double of the year. He nailed the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in the Nevada victory at Louisiana Tech. In that game, Babbitt scored 15 points and led the Pack with nine rebounds, connecting on 6-of-12 shots from the field, including a career-best 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.  For the week, Babbitt averaged 18.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He shot 43.3 percent from the field (13-of-30), 57.1 percent from three-point range (4-of-7), and 87.5 percent from the foul line (7-of-8).

Other nominees:

  • Boise State’s Anthony Thomas
  • Dwight O’Neill of Fresno State
  • Idaho Vandal Kashif Watson
  • San Jose State’s C.J. Webster
  • Gary Wilkinson of Utah State.

Boise State. The Broncos are riding a six game winning streak and are 3-0 in the league with wins over Hawai’i, San Jose State and Hawai’i again. Anthony Thomas leads the league in three point field goal percentage in conference play at .636%. He’s hit 7-11 in three games.

Next up: Nevada and Utah State, both on the road.

Fresno State. A not so unnecessarily unexpected home loss to New Mexico State on January 3 was followed by heartbreaking defeat at home in overtime to San Jose State. With a three point lead and eight seconds to play in regulation, the Spartans made a free throw, deliberately missed the second attempt and San Jose Stater C.J. Webster grabbed the offensive rebound and scored to tie the game. Fresno State then misfired on seven three-point attempts in overtime and fell 71-68.

Next up: Utah State and Nevada (yikes), both on the road.

Hawaii. A 20-point loss at Idaho followed by a five point defeat in Boise obviously put a crimp in the Rainbow Warriors hopes for a fast start in conference play. UH trailed the Vandals by just six at the half but a six minute stretch without scoring partway through the second half in Moscow eliminated any chance for victory. Poor Rainbow Warrior shooting contributed to both losses.

Next up: hosting San Jose State

Idaho. Are the Vandals the “Hoosiers” of the WAC? Opening league play with a win in Reno followed by a close loss to Utah State in Logan was followed by a 20-point victory over Hawaii in Idaho’s home opener. Let’s see how Don Verlin’s players handle two tough places to play in upcoming games and how the various individual matchups go.

Next up: Trips to New Mexico State followed by Louisiana Tech

Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have a bad case of the ‘what might have beens.’ Louisiana Tech is about nine seconds from possibly being 3-1 in conference play instead of 1-3. The Dogs lost 65-64 on the road at Hawai’i after Bill Amis hit a go-ahead baseline jumper with about eight seconds remaining in the game, then two games later at home the Bulldogs lost 67-64 after Nevada freshman Luke Babbitt hit a 30 foot prayer at the buzzer to avoid overtime. The Nevad game was especially frustrating for fans as they saw their team lead by 11 points at the break, then fall behind by 10 points, rally to tie the game only to see the Wolf Pack steal a shot at overtime with “The Shot.”   Things will not get any easier for La. Tech as head coach Kerry Rupp has suspended Oklahoma State transfer Kenny Cooper (11.7 points, 7.1 rebounds per game) for the remainder of the season.

Next up: hosting Idaho.

Nevada. The opening loss at home to Idaho has to be receding in the memories of even the most critical of Wolf Pack fans. Why? Try road victories against New Mexico State and then Louisiana Tech, the latter on a last second 28-foot shot by Luke Babbitt. Brandon Fields tallied 19 against Idaho but didn’t shoot well from long distance. He then took but four shots in 16 minutes of play in the overtime win against the Aggies in Las Cruces. But he totaled 17 points in 25 minutes, with solid shooting from everywhere on the court in the Ruston game. Is this critical player for Nevada now ready to produce consistently?

Next up: Boise comes to town next (what a game that should be!) and then Fresno State.

New Mexico State. After sweeping a pair of conference road games to start 2-0 the Aggies returned home to Las Cruces to host preseason conference favorites Nevada and Utah State. The Aggies led Nevada for most of the game but three offensive rebounds by the Wolf Pack in the final 30 seconds, two off of two separate trips to the free throw line, allowed the Wolf Pack to tie the game and sent it to overtime where the Wolf Pack prevailed 79-71. Trying to recover from the loss, the Aggies hosted the league’s other Aggies two nights later. After Utah State jumped out to a quick lead in the first half New Mexico State clawed back into the game and took a brief lead but found themselves down by four at halftime. The homestanding Aggies would get no closer than three points in the second half as Utah State held on for a 77-67 victory sending the southern Aggies to an 0-2 homestand for the week and dropping their league record to 2-2.

Next up: hosting Idaho.

San Jose State. Close losses at home to Louisiana Tech and then New Mexico State capped a downer of an opening week for the Spartans. Then came a 20-point blowout in Boise where SJSU pulled with six in the second half but collapsed and fell back again. With two starters (Tim Pierce and Adrian Oliver) sidelined due to injuries, San Jose State headed to Fresno with foreboding. An improbable finish (a made free throw followed by a deliberately missed free throw, then an offensive rebound followed by a score to tie up the game at the end of regulation) put the game into overtime where the Fresno-ites chucked up only three-point attempts (seven of them, making none) dooming the Bulldogs to a 71-68 home loss. Following Fresno, the Spartans faced CSU Bakersfield and fell 61-55 by allowing 19 offensive boards and committing 17 turnovers.

Next up: Hawaii, in the islands

Utah State. The Aggies made the long trip eastward to Louisiana Tech where they were held to a season low 50 points but managed to win by virtue of holding the Bulldogs to just 37 points. The Aggies then made the trek back westward to face New Mexico State. The northern Aggies held the southern Aggies at bay the entire game and came away with a 77-67 victory, their first in Las Cruces against the Aggies since 2000, hearkening back to their days in the Big West.

Next up: hosting Fresno State and Boise State

This Week’s Conference Games:

  • Thu., Jan. 15 — Boise State at Nevada — 7:00 p.m. MT (Game of the Week Part I)
  • Thu., Jan. 15 — Idaho at New Mexico State — 7:00 p.m. MT (Can the Vandals pull off a second stunning road victory?)
  • Thu., Jan. 15 — Fresno State at Utah State — 7:00 p.m. MT
  • Sat., Jan. 17 — Idaho at Louisiana Tech — 2:00 p.m. CT
  • Sat., Jan. 17 — San Jose State at Hawai’i — 7:00 p.m. HT
  • Sat., Jan. 17 — Fresno State at Nevada — 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Sat., Jan. 17 — Boise State at Utah State — 7:00 p.m. MT (Game of the Week Part II)
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