Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 1st, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic conference.

The WAC begins conference play this weekend and the league has made a switch to a Saturday/Monday schedule from a Thursday/Saturday schedule in years past.  The breakout non-conference season for the WAC never materialized. The good news is the league finished 73-43 in non-conference play.  The bad news is the league was 0-7 against BCS teams, 7-9 against the West Coast Conference, 5-7 against the Big West and just 4-12 against the Mountain West, the league the WAC most likes to compare itself to due to the fact that MWC is made up of former WAC teams (records via Chris Murray, Reno Gazette-Journal and Jason Erickson, WAC Media Relations)

As the nine teams enter league play the standings are as follows:

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

The conference season could produce plenty of high scoring games.  Eight of the nine teams are averaging at least 73.5 PPG.  Only Fresno State lags behind, averaging 67.4 PPG.  All but two teams in the league are giving up at least 70 PPG with Utah State leading the way giving up just 60.2 PPG.   Fresno State is the only other giving up just 63.1 PPG.

Should there be close conference games, which there almost always are, free throw shooting will be vital and seven of the nine teams in the league hit at least 70% of their free throws.  Only Idaho (66.5%) and Fresno State (66.4%) are below 70%.

The league features 10 players averaging at least 15 PPG.  Louisiana Tech’s Kyle Gibson leads the league in points per game with 21.6.  There are two players averaging at least 10 rebounds per game, San Jose State’s Chris Oakes (10.6) and Petras Balocka (10.1).

Boise State (9-4)

The week’s results:  12/29 W vs. Northwest Nazarene, 76-58

Upcoming games:  01/02 @ Fresno State, 01/05 @ Hawai’i

The Broncos enter league play riding a four game win streak and sport a 9-4 non-conference record.  They were competitive in three of their four losses (a 26-point loss to Wyoming being the exception).  The Broncos will open up league play on the road after having played at home for five straight games.   The Broncos will travel to an improved Fresno State team and then travel to the islands to take on Hawai’i.  The Broncos are 2-3 on the road this season and are led by forward Ike Okoye who is averaging 14.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.  La’Shard Anderson is averaging 12.2 points and 3.8 assists per game and Robert Arnold is averaging 10.8 points and 3.7 points per game.  Kurt Cunningham is averaging 9.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and is second in the league in field goal percentage and is hitting 64.5 percent of his shots.

Fresno State (7-7)

The week’s results:  12/28 W vs. Colorado State, 73-50

Upcoming games:  01/02 vs. Boise State

The Bulldogs will enter league play on a high note after pounding Colorado State 73-50 in their non-conference finale. The Bulldogs host Boise State to open up league play.  Fresno State is 5-3 at home this season and are led by the duo of Paul George and Sylvester Seay.  George is averaging 16.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while Seay is averaging 15.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.  Center Greg Smith is averaging 12.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Fresno State leads the WAC in field goal percentage defense allowing opponents to hit just 39.1 percent of their shots. They’re second in the league in points allowed per game giving up just 63.1 PPG.

Hawaii (7-6)

The week’s results:  12/25 L vs. St. Mary’s (CA) (Diamond Head Classic), 84-75; 12/29 W vs. Northwestern State, 81-62

Upcoming games:  01/03 vs. Idaho, 01/05 vs. Boise State

The Warriors hung tough with a very good St. Mary’s (CA) team losing by nine.  The Warriors rebounded with a win against Northwestern State winning handily by 19 points.  The Warriors have a great opportunity to make their mark early in league play with Idaho and Boise State coming in to the islands for the opening weekend of play.   Hawai’i is 7-5 at home this season and have won five of their last seven games after dropping four straight.  Dwain Williams leads the Warriors with 15.6 PPG.  Roderick Flemings is averaging 15.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.  Petras Balocka is averaging a double-double with 10.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and Hiram Thompson is averaging 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

Idaho (7-4)

The week’s results:  12/29 W vs. Lewis-Clark State (in Boise, ID), 71-52

Upcoming games:  01/03 @ Hawai’i, 01/04 @ San Jose State

The Vandals have a tough task to start the conference season as they’ll face Hawai’i on January 3 and then turn around and play San Jose State on January 4.  The Vandals wrapped up non-conference play with a resounding victory over Lewis-Clark State 71-52.  The Vandals are just 2-4 on the road this season.  Mac Hopson leads the way for the Vandals with 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.  He is also averaging 4.5 assists per game.  Steffan Johnson is averaging 11.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.  Kashif Watson rounds out the double-digit scorers averaging 11.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Louisiana Tech (12-2)

The week’s results:  12/29 W @ Houston, 99-94

Upcoming games:  01/02 vs. Nevada, 01/04 vs. Utah State

The Bulldogs wrapped up non-conference play with an impressive 99-94 win over Houston to enter conference play with the best record in the league at 12-2.  The Bulldogs have a chance to back up their impressive non-conference record when they host the WAC preseason favorites in Nevada and Utah State.  Louisiana Tech is a perfect 5-0 at home while Nevada is 0-4 on the road and Utah State is 2-3 on the road.  The Bulldogs have five players averaging double-digits in scoring with Kyle Gibson leading the way at 21.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.  Magnum Rolle is averaging 12.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, Olu Ashaolu is averaging a near double-double with 12.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

Nevada (8-5)

The week’s results:  12/28 W vs. Portland, 78-69

Upcoming games:  01/02 @ Louisiana Tech, 01/04 @ NMSU

The Wolf Pack earned a solid 78-69 victory over Portland and will enter conference play at 9-4.  They travel to surprising Louisiana Tech and also surprising New Mexico State.  The Pack is 0-4 on the road this season.  Nevada is the league’s highest scoring team at 82.9 PPG.  They’re led by sophomore sensation Luke Babbitt who is averaging 19.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.  Armon Johnson is averaging 17.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.  The big question for the Wolf Pack is how will their team hold up through what promises to be a wide open conference schedule.  The Pack essentially are getting all their production from just six players.

New Mexico State (7-6)

The week’s results:  12/28 W vs. Prairie View A&M, 95-76

Upcoming games:  01/02 vs. Utah State, 01/04 vs. Nevada

The Aggies wrapped up non-conference play with a 19 point victory over Prairie View A&M and are on a four game win streak heading into conference play.  The Aggies are above .500 for the first time this season and after a somewhat rocky non-conference portion of the season they have a chance to flex some muscle in the first two games.  The Aggies host the two league favorites in Utah State and Nevada in the opening weekend and both games will be nationally televised on ESPNU.  The Aggies are 5-2 at home this season.  Jahmar Young leads the team in scoring averaging 20.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.  Mid-season addition Wendell McKines has made his presence felt and is already averaging a double-double with 16.0 points and 10.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game.   Hamidu Rahman is averaging 12.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game but is coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him in their game against Texas Southern.

San Jose State (7-5)

The week’s results:  12/28 W vs. UC-Irvine, 78-68

Upcoming games:  01/04 vs. Idaho

The Spartans will enter league play on a two game win streak after defeating UC-Irvine 78-68.  The Spartans will open up league play at home against Idaho.  The Spartans are 4-1 at home this season.  Adrian Oliver leads the way for SJSU averaging 20.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.  Big man Chris Oakes is averaging 9.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while fellow big C.J. Webster is averaging 9.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

Utah State (10-4)

The week’s results:  12/29 W vs. Western Oregon, 78-42

Upcoming games:  01/02 @ NMSU, 01/04 @ Louisiana Tech

The Aggies handled their business against Western Oregon winning 78-42 in a blowout.  Utah State enters league play on a four game win streak but will take to the road to open conference play.  The Aggies will face the southern Aggies to open up league play.   Utah State is just 2-3 on the road this season.  After a trip to Las Cruces the Aggies will head to Ruston to face the surprising Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.  The UtAgs were picked to win the league by both the coaches and the media and will be looking to get at least a road split to get things off on the right foot.  The Aggies rarely lose at home and if they can split their road conference games and win all their home games, they have a great chance to wrap up the league’s regular season title for the second straight year.  Utah State is led by reigning WAC Player of the Week Tai Wesley who is averaging 14.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.  Point guard Jared Quayle is averaging 12.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game to go along with 4.5 assists per game.   The Aggies will get forward Nate Bendall back from a scary situation.  Bendall is averaging 11.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game but was sidelined briefly after having a cardiac ablation last Wednesday and having ‘minor surgery’ to repair an atrial flutter.  The Aggies expect Bendall to suit up and start against New Mexico State on Saturday.

UPCOMING GAMES

  • 01/02 – Fresno State vs. Boise State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/02 – Hawai’i vs. Idaho – 7:00 p.m. HT (KFVE Hawai’i)
  • 01/02 – Louisiana Tech vs. Nevada – 7:00 p.m. CT (Comcast Sports Net California)
  • 01/02 – New Mexico State vs. Utah State – 9:00 p.m. MT (ESPNU)
  • 01/04 – Hawai’i vs. Boise State – 7:00 p.m. HT (KFVE Hawai’i, KTVB Boise)
  • 01/04 – San Jose State vs. Idaho – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/04 – Louisiana Tech vs. Utah State – 7:00 p.m. CT
  • 01/04 – New Mexico State vs. Nevada – 9:00 p.m. MT (ESPNU)
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