More Notes From the Mountain West and WAC TourneysPosted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2010
In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. We have RTC correspondents Andrew Murawa at the Mountain West Tournament and Kraig Williams at the WAC Tournament this weekend. In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, they will both post a nightly diary with thoughts on each day’s action. Here are the submissions for last night’s semifinals.
Mountain West Semis
- The difference between these four teams when they are playing at their peak is not a whole lot. New Mexico and BYU have been more consistent over the course of the season, but all four of these teams are highly talented and very evenly matched.
- Even before tonight I felt pretty fortunate to have picked the MWC out of the hat to cover this year. After tonight, the MWC could start a new religion and I would be the first convert.
- I overheard Danny Ainge talking with Steve Lappas during the break between games say that this iteration of this tournament was as good as any in the country over the last few years. At this point, I’m not inclined to disagree.
San Diego State 72, New Mexico 69.
- Darington Hobson was the MWC Player of the Year, but San Diego State took some advantage of him defensively, especially in the first half when he was unable to control either Kawhi Leonard or Billy White. Further, in the postgame press conference, Aztec point guard D.J. Gay seemed to imply that they were more concerned about Dairese Gary than they were about Hobson, saying that they in the last sequence they were trying to force Gary to give the ball up to Hobson.
- Speaking of Gary, when the Lobos found themselves down 11 early, it was he who sparked the team’s run back to eventually take the lead in the first half. But as important as Gary is to the Lobos hopes, it is the combination of Gary and Hobson, each of whom have point skills, that make the Lobos so tough.
- Kawhi Leonard was the MWC Freshman of the Year, a first-team All-MWC selection and my choice as the MWC Defensive Player of the Year, and yet he is only beginning to scratch the surface of his talent. Tonight he added three threes (after shooting just 19% from three on the season), took on Hobson one-on-one defensively, and yanked down 12 rebounds, including a serious man’s rebound in the final seconds, just before knocking down two free throws to extend the final margin.
- It was apparent in the postgame press conference just how much coach Steve Fisher loves his squad. At times it seemed like he almost had to control himself from gushing over his squad. Check this: “I told our team at halftime, this is big-time, high-level major college basketball. We played about as well as we can play and we’re one point behind. That’s what they’re telling their team, that San Diego State can’t play better. But we can. We have to. And we did.” And, on D.J. Gay: “I said to our team and the media that I thought D.J. Gay was our most important player. He had seven assists, no turnovers. Guards like crazy. Helps everybody else out and wins.” On Billy White: “He’s a really talented player and a terrific young guy. So I’m proud. I’m so happy for Billy today to have him come home and play as well as he did. He was sensational. When we went out before the game, I grabbed him and told him ‘Make your mom proud.’ Afterward I said, ‘You made everyone proud.’”
- San Diego State’s freshman guard Chase Tapley and New Mexico’s sophomore post A.J. Hardeman may not get all the press that some of their teammates get, but both had key contributions. Hardeman wound up with 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while Tapley, playing with a broken left hand which has cost him his starting position, knocked down three of his four attempts from three-point range.
UNLV 70, BYU 66.
- Eight minutes into the game, both teams were on pace to score 100 points and had knocked down nine threes between them. Both teams cooled off considerably in the next 32 minutes as the pace of the game slowed into a lot of halfcourt basketball.
- BYU freshman wing Tyler Haws did not play due to an injury he suffered in the Cougars’ opening round win over TCU when a poke in the eye caused swelling, a nosebleed and a hairline fracture of a bone in the face between the eye and the nose. Head coach Dave Rose said after the game that although there had been some concern that Haws would need surgery which would jeopardize his availability for the NCAA tournament, he will not need such a surgery and will be cleared to play once his eye opens up.
- UNLV’s sophomore center Brice Massamba’s game has taken huge strides even in the last couple of weeks. The last time the Rebels played San Diego State, Massamba was little more than five (all too easily used) fouls. Tonight he was a solid post defender, a rock solid rebounder, and most surprisingly of all, a very effective offensive threat. At one point he took the ball baseline on a short burst of a drive and finished at the hoop, a couple possessions later he backed down BYU’s freshman post Brandon Davies, pivoted and kicked it out to Kendall Wallace for an open three and, still later, overpowered Davies on consecutive possessions, forcing Rose to turn to senior Chris Miles in the post.
- Jonathan Tavernari wins the title of the most-hated player in the conference, probably pretty easily (the partisan UNLV crowd booed him pretty roundly upon a couple of his entrances – although, that UNLV crowd is a pretty bitter bunch, they even booed the BYU Cougar-ette dance team at halftime), but he is a team leader, a well-spoken young man, and a very professional, likable guy in the post-game press conference.
- Tre’von Willis turned an ankle late in the game when BYU was on a run, but came back moments later to make a key tough runner with a minute left and then iced the game down the stretch with four incredibly pressure-packed free throws that didn’t even think about touching anything but net. Said sophomore forward Chace Stanback after the game: “We always expect Tre’ to come through for us. He’s our leader.”
WAC Tournament Semis
Utah State 84, Louisiana Tech 55
- Utah State is very, very good. I’ve been campaigning this for the last couple month during RTC Live blogs, but at this point it is undeniable. No matter what happens in the championship game the Aggies should not be left out of the NCAAs, and if I’m a power conference team around the 5-7 seed range I’m hoping and praying the Aggies aren’t my first round matchup.
- A tough way for Louisiana Tech to end its season. Senior Kyle Gibson was gutting it out on a bad ankle and playing at about 50%, and then Magnum Rolle sprained his ankle early in the game and it was all but over. The Bulldogs should get a postseason invite to either the NIT or CBI either way, but not a fun way for a very promising season to end.
- Scariest part about Utah State? It’s a different guy or guys every night. On Thursday it was Tai Wesley, Brian Green and Pooh Williams all scoring 18 points to lead the Aggies over the Broncos. On Friday, those players only had 27 combined points and Jared Quayle lead all scorers with 16 and Brady Jardine chipped in 13 off the bench
- The Aggie Pope is awesome.
New Mexico State 80, Nevada 79
- First off, thank the lord we finally had a good game here in Reno. It was a downright sloppy game at times, but also undeniably exciting down to the last second.
- Nevada fans were coming up to Utah State fans after the game, promising to come back for the championship game to root for the blue Aggies. To say that New Mexico State is the least liked team in the WAC would be an understatement.
- Downside to watching every game in a conference tournament? I’ve heard Rock and Roll Part 2 about 200 times, and it’s always awful.
- Nevada is going to be an interesting team next year. Talking to the Nevada bloggers next to me over the last couple days they are all convinced that both Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt are NBA bound next year. Combine that with the departing seniors, Nevada would lose 5 of its top 6 scorers. There is a lot of good talent coming into the program, but it will be a whole new team next year.
- Jahmar Young, in the immortal words of Bill Raftery has ONIONS!