Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 22nd, 2009

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

Current Standings:

  1. Utah State (5-0, 17-1)
  2. Nevada (4-1, 11-7)
  3. Boise State (3-2, 12-5)
  4. New Mexico State (3-2, 9-9)
  5. San Jose State (2-3, 8-8)
  6. Idaho (2-3, 8-10)
  7. Louisiana Tech (2-3, 8-10)
  8. Hawai’i (1-4, 9-8)
  9. Fresno State (0-4, 7-11)

Home Cookin’. Order was restored last week as after the first two weeks of conference play the road teams had jumped out to a 10-5 record against the hosts. However last week the home teams regained that home court advantage, going 6-1. Of the road losers, Fresno State could probably be declared the winner after two close losses to conference leaders Utah State and Nevada, falling by five points and four points respectively. Boise State probably had the toughest time as they went into the week undefeated in league play but came out nursing two double-digit defeats.

Official WAC Player of the Week. Nevada freshman frontcourter Luke Babbitt has been selected the Western Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week for the second straight week. In Wolf Pack wins over Boise State and Fresno State. Babbitt notched 18 points, 10 boards and two shot blocks in the former and 22 points along with 13 rebounds, against the latter.

Other nominees:

  • Boise State sophomore forward Paul Noonan
  • New Mexico State freshman forward Troy Gillenwater
  • San Jose State sophomore guard Justin Graham
  • Utah State sophomore forward Tai Wesley
  • Fresno State junior forward Sylvester Seay

Seay Says. Speaking of Sylvester Seay or we should say Sylvester “You’re going to have problems [guarding] me before I have problems with you” Seay, he obviously has provided the best bulletin board material of anyone in the WAC and WAC reporters and bloggers thank him for his efforts.

Boise State. The Broncos suffered back-to-back losses for just the second time this season as they ventured on the road to Utah State and Nevada with a 3-0 league record and returned home with a 3-2 record and more questions than answers. Question number one on the mind of Bronco fans is whether senior leading scorer Mark Sanchez will be ready for the homestand against New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech this week. Question number two is whether the team can measure up against fellow league contender in New Mexico State. The Broncos fell short against the UtAgs and Wolf Pack and don’t want to sport a three game losing streak with better-than-their-record-indicates Louisiana Tech visiting two nights later.

Next up: hosting New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech

Fresno State. This week brought two more close losses. On the road in both, the Bulldogs lost to Utah State 65-61 and then Nevada by the remarkably similar score of 65-60. 32 points from Sylvester Seay and a remarkable eight blocked shots still were not enough to beat the Aggies in The Spectrum. The Bulldogs actually led 32-28 at the half. Neither Fresno nor Nevada shot all that well in the Bulldog loss but the Wolf Pack enjoyed 14 more free throws in the game.

Next up: a home game against Louisiana Tech and then a short trip up to San Jose State.

Hawai’i. Basketball games are sometimes a tale of two halves and none more so than the contest between the Rainbow Warriors and visiting San Jose State. In the third straight loss for UH, an early 12-3 lead became a 29-25 margin for Bob Nash’s squad at the half. Hawaii maintained a similar lead until SJSU’s 19-3 run gave the Spartans a double digit lead. The Rainbow Warriors then closed it to six but fell back again asnd eventually lost 73-61. Roderick Flemings continues to produce good numbers but a second consistent mid-to-high double figures scorer for Hawaii is missing.

Next up: a road game versus Nevada and then Utah State hits the islands to mix it up.

Idaho. The element of surprise may be dissipating as that but especially an injury to lone Idaho big man Marvin Jefferson hurt UI in two close road losses. A five-point Vandal lead with just 3:25 left in the game eventually turned into a 74-71 loss to New Mexico State in Las Cruces. Jefferson didn’t play due to a concussion and NMSU’s bigs led the way for the Aggies with 38 points and 22 boards. Next came a 74-63 fall to Louisiana Tech in Ruston as Jefferson returned to play 21 minutes but more importantly La Tech shot 55% for the game. Mac Hopson put up 25 points in 35 minutes for Idaho versus the Bulldogs.

Next up: New Mexico State comes to town for a return match as the first opponent in a three game Vandal homestand.

Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs defeated upstart Idaho 74-63 last week to improve their record to 2-3 in conference play. It remains to be seen what the impact of the indefinite suspension of Kenneth Cooper will have on this Bulldog team but after just one game the returns are positive for the Bulldogs. Kyle Gibson and Magnum Rolle scored 21 and 19 points respectively. For Gibson it was six more points than his season average and for Rolle it was eight points more than his season average. Their victory was also aided by their extremely hot shooting. The Bulldogs shot .593% in the first half and .500% in the second half for a .551% shooting percentage on the night. It was by far their best shooting night of the season.  This week they’re on the road to face Fresno State and Boise State. There is still a great deal of optimism for the Bulldogs as their 2-3 record is a bit deceiving as they could easily be 4-1 after last second losses to both Hawai’i and Nevada.

Next up: at Fresno State and at Boise State

Nevada. Oh my gosh, Mark Fox has re-learned how to coach winning basketball! On the heels of roads victories against New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech, the Pack welcomed Boise State to town and grabbed a 14-point, 77-63 victory. Armon Johnson scored 25 points and Luke Babbitt secured a double-double with 18 points and 10 boards versus the Broncos. But Brandon Fields’ inconsistency remained as he totaled just two points in 19 minutes of action. Then it was a closer than expected 65-60 victory against visiting Fresno State. Babbitt produced another double-double of 22 points and 13 rebounds. Both Johnson and Fields scored eight points in 32 and 28 minutes of play respectively.

Next up: Hawai’i flies in to try its luck in Reno.

New Mexico State. The Aggies shook off the disappointment of back-to-back home losses as they pulled out a hard fought victory over Idaho. The win kept Idaho winless in Las Cruces against NM State. Nine players combined from both squads scored in double-figures, four for NM State and five for Idaho. The victory sets up a heated rematch between the two squads on Saturday, January 24 as Idaho head coach Don Verlin felt that his Vandals should have won the first matchup in Las Cruces saying, “We did a lot of good things tonight, but I’m very disappointed in losing this game because it is a game we should have won.”  Before the Aggies face Idaho though they’ll head to Boise to take on the Broncos. The last time these two teams met it was in the 2008 WAC Tournament championship game, a 107-102 triple-overtime thriller won by the Broncos. Gone are most of the key participants from that game, just one starter from each team, Jonathan Gibson (NM State) and Anthony Thomas (Boise State), returns from that epic battle.

Next up: at Boise State and at Idaho

San Jose State.  Coming off a 61-56 loss to CSU Bakersfield, San Jose State headed across the ocean to face nemesis Hawaii, a team SJSU hadn’t beaten in Honolulu since 2003. But a 73-61 victory was produced built upon a 19-3 second half San Jose State surge, led by point Justin Graham. An earlier win at Fresno, combined with this one, gave the Spartan two WAC road wins, something that remarkably hadn’t taken place since the 2001 season. These numbers stood out: SJSU finally committed fewer turnovers than its opponent, 13 to 19 and San Jose State shot remarkably well, 47.6% overall, 5-7 on treys and 77.8% on free throws.

Next up: 800-pound WAC gorilla Utah State, followed by Fresno State, come to town.

Utah State. The Aggies just keep winning. It may not always be pretty but it’s effective. The Aggies staved off an upset bid by Fresno State 65-60 before pounding defending conference champion Boise State 79-65. Utah State continues to lead the nation in field goal percentage at 51.6%. The teams ranked in the top 10 nationally in that category all have a winning record except for Northern Arizona who is the statistical anomaly with a 5-12 record (5-12 with a 49.9% FG percentage, yikes!). Utah State’s Gary Wilkinson had a rare off week against Fresno State and Boise State scoring just 10 points and grabbing just two rebounds against Fresno State and then following that up with 10 points and just three rebounds against Boise State. His shooting percentage for the two games was just 31% which was also well below his season average.

Next up: The Aggies take another road trip this week as they travel to San Jose State to take on the Spartans. Last season SJSU defeated Utah State 70-67. After that they’ll head to Hawai’i to take on the Warriors, completing the longest road trip in the WAC.

Upcoming Schedule:

  • Thu., Jan. 22 – New Mexico State at Boise State – 7:00 p.m. MT (Game of the Week Part I)
  • Thu., Jan. 22 – Utah State at San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Thu., Jan. 22 – Hawai’i at Nevada – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Thu., Jan. 22 – Louisiana Tech at Fresno State – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • Sat., Jan. 24 – Louisiana Tech at Boise State – 2:00 p.m. MT
  • Sat., Jan. 24 – Utah State at Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. HT
  • Sat., Jan. 24 – New Mexico State at Idaho – 7:00 p.m. PT (Game of the Week Part II)
  • Sat., Jan. 24 – Fresno State at San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT (Underrated Game of the Week)
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