Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on February 26th, 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 (12-1, 25-3)
  2. Nevada (8-4, 16-10)
  3. New Mexico State (8-5, 15-12)
  4. Boise State (7-5, 17-9)
  5. Idaho (6-6, 13-13)
  6. Hawai’i (5-8, 13-13)
  7. San Jose State (4-8, 11-14)
  8. Louisiana Tech (4-9, 12-16)
  9. Fresno State (2-10, 11-17)

The race for the league title and the automatic bid to the NIT should be decided on Thursday night. Utah State hosts Hawai’i with a chance to wrap up the regular season title, their second in the past two seasons. For Utah State however, they’re looking to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since the 2005-06 season, that year they received an at-large bid after finishing second in the regular season and losing to Nevada in the title game of the conference tournament. The UtAgs, despite a record of 25-3 don’t want to leave anything to chance as they still feel the sting of finishing 25-3, being ranked 21st but not receiving an at large bid after losing in the Big West semifinal to Cal State-Northridge 63-62.

As for the rest of the league, the race for second place is on as Nevada (8-4), New Mexico State (8-5), Boise State (7-5) and Idaho (6-6) can all finish as high as 2nd.

And not to be left out, the bottom four teams, Hawai’i (5-8), San Jose State (4-8), Louisiana Tech (4-9) and Fresno State (2-10) are all playing to stay out of the league’s 8/9-seed play-in game (with the winner having to face likely 1-seed Utah State) in the quarterfinal round.

WAC Player of the Week

Mac Hopson, who has Idaho DNA throughout his body, is the WAC Basketball Player of the Week. He has been a rock all season for Coach Don Verlin. Idaho notched a pair of victories last week — 56-54 over Boise State and 78-75 over Cal State Northridge. Hopson racked up this line at Boise: 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and one steal. In the triumph over Northridge, the junior totaled 17 points, six assists and nabbed four steals.

His competition:

  • Fresno State junior Sylvester Seay
  • Hawaii junior Roderick Flemings
  • Louisiana Tech junior Kyle Gibson
  • New Mexico State sophomore Gordo Castillo
  • Utah State junior Jared Quayle

A Question: did Idaho Coach Don Verlin clinch WAC Coach of the Year honors with the Vandals second win this season over in-state rival Boise?

Boise State.  The Broncos played a pair of games last week starting with a return game with in-state rival Idaho. The Broncos’ Anthony Thomas’ bold prediction looked like it would be backed up after the Broncos stormed out to a 15-2 lead to start the game. The Broncos led 49-41 with just under 10 minutes left in the game, that’s when the Vandals made their move. A 9-0 run gave the Vandals their first lead in the game at 11 with 3:11 remaining. The two teams would battle final three minutes with Idaho winning 56-54 after Marvin Jefferson hit a jumper with four seconds remaining in the game. Boise State was swept by Idaho for the first time since 1999. The Broncos had to shake off the disappointment quickly as they traveled to Portland to take on the Portland State Vikings. The Broncos trailed early 42-25 and lost 93-81.

Next up: at Louisiana Tech on Saturday Feb. 28 and at New Mexico State on Monday, Mar. 2.

Fresno State.  Fresno eked out a 71-70 BracketBuster road win over UC Davis thanks to Sylvester Seay’s 20 points and 6-4 freshman Mychal Ladd’s third double-double of the season, consisting of 14 points and 10 boards. This was the first Bulldog win as a visitor since the New Year began. Prior to that, the Dogs fell at home to Hawaii 73-69 in an ESPN2 televised game that could have gone either way. Seay again led with 22 points and nine rebounds.

Next up: Nevada on the 26th and Idaho on the 28th both come to Fresno.

Hawaii.   The host Rainbow Warriors fell to BrackBuster foe UC Irvine 76-70 after going to Fresno and winning a close one, 73-69. Hawaii was down by 20 points in the second half and came within a single point but never could take the lead. Backcourter Kareem Nitoto led with 18 points and forward Bill Amis contributed a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Earlier, UH stayed tough and managed to turn back Fresno State aided by Roderick Flemings’ tandem of 22 points and 10 boards. Flemings didn’t shoot all that well from the floor but was 12-13 at the foul line.

Next up: Utah State on Feb. 26 and then San Jose State on Feb. 28, both on the road.

Idaho.  A 56-54 victory over host Boise State made the Vandals’ season. It was the second time in league play that Idaho took down the rival Broncos, thereby re-igniting a dormant rivalry. Don Verlin’s squad made only 2-10 from long distance but held Greg Graham’s team to just 6-24 on three-pointers. Phil Hopson totaled the aforementioned 18 points but center Marvin Jefferson more than ably backed him up with 15 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Then it was another close one but still a victory despite 20 turnovers — 78 to 75 — over Cal State Northridge in a BracketBuster matchup. Idaho took 18 less shots than the Matadors but still made two more baskets, going 26-38 for the game. Hopson and Kashif Watson added 17 points apiece.

Next up: On the road at San Jose State and then Fresno State, the 26th and 28th respectively.

Louisiana Tech.  The Bulldogs bounced back from another disappointing loss (disappointing in that they lost their fifth game in the final 10 seconds of the game), this at the hands of New Mexico State, by ripping Houston Baptist 84-47 and then going on the road to Murray State for Bracketbusters and beating the Racers 69-60. The back to back wins are the first time the Bulldogs have won back to back games since they won three in a row to start December.

Next up: at home for a rematch with New Mexico State on Feb. 26 followed by Boise State on Feb. 28.

Nevada.  Nevada’s fortunes, hopes and spirits picked up this past week with a 71-70 BracketBuster victory over visiting Virginia Commonwealth. VCU had a 10-point lead at one point in the second half and a plus-9 margin with six minutes remaining.

Next up: A trip to Fresno on Thursday the 26th followed by a Saturday hosting of Utah State in what should be the WAC game of the night.

New Mexico State.  The Aggies survived a 32 point barrage by Josh Akognon who drained eight threes as the Aggies won a hard fought battle with Cal State-Fullerton on Bracketbusters Saturday, 94-86. Sophomore guard Gordo Castillo came off the bench for the Aggies and scored 20 points, hitting six three pointers and adding two free throws. In all six Aggies scored in double figures and the Aggies shot a sizzling 78.3% in the second half, hitting 18 of 23 shots, including six of eight three point attempts.

Next up: a trip to Ruston to face Louisiana Tech on Feb. 26, followed by a rematch of the 2008 WAC Championship game in Las Cruces as Boise State rolls into town on Monday, Mar. 2.

San Jose State.  The Spartans bested visiting Utah Valley State 52-47 behind Justin Graham’s 14 points, six assists, four steals and fine defense on UV’s bigtime scorer Andy Toolson who shot 4-14, including 0-6 from three-point range.  But then Brackbustin’ UC Riverside came to town and the Highlanders earned a 53-52 victory despite not scoring in the last five minutes of the game. Justin Graham’s 48th steal of the season in the initial 20 minutes set a single season record for SJSU.

Next up: Idaho and then Hawaii come in for the final Spartan home games on the 26th and 28th respectively.

Utah State.  After winning 19 games in a row, the UtAgs have lost two of three. After suffering their first defeat in the conference at the hands of Boise State, Utah State sandwiched a 78-57 victory over Cal State-Bakersfield with a 75-64 defeat at the hands of the Paddy Mills-less St. Mary’s Gaels on Bracketbusters Saturday. The UtAgs’ Jared Quayle led the Aggies with 22 points, senior Gary Wilkinson chipped in 16 more but that was about it for the Aggies as no other player scored more than seven points. Utah State led once, 8-6 very early in the first half and cut a 14 point second half deficit to just three with 2:06 remaining in the game but could get no closer. Head coach Stew Morrill said of the Aggies’ defeat, “They got us on our heels with their physicalness. The advantage goes to the aggressor, and they were certainly the aggressor out there.”

Next up: hosting Hawai’i on Feb. 26 with a chance to win the WAC regular season outright, then a trip to Reno to face Nevada on Feb. 28.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Thu., Feb 26, Nevada at Fresno State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Thu., Feb 26, Hawai’i at Utah State – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • Thu., Feb 26, Idaho at San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Thu., Feb 26, New Mexico State at Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. CT
  • Sat., Feb 28, Utah State at Nevada – 7:00 p.m. MT (Game of the Week)
  • Sat., Feb 28, Boise State at Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. CT
  • Sat., Feb 28, Idaho at Fresno State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Sat., Feb 28, Hawai’i at San Jose State – 7:00  p.m. PT
  • Mon., Mar 2, Boise State at New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. MT
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