Checking In On… the WACPosted by Brian Goodman on February 2nd, 2012
- Last Week’s Action: Nevada stayed perfect, sweeping their Las Cruces/Ruston road trip, and sits comfortably atop the WAC standings with a two-game lead over second place New Mexico State. There’s a three-way logjam in third behind the Aggies as Idaho, Hawai’i and Utah State all sit at 4-3 while surprising LA Tech is 3-4. Fresno State and San Jose State bring up the rear as the Bulldogs and Spartans both went winless last week in league play.
- Busting Brackets: Nevada and New Mexico State were pegged for two of the 13 televised BracketBuster games. The Wolf Pack will travel to take on Iona while the Aggies will host Drake on February 18.
- Nevada (18-3, 7-0): The Wolf Pack head into the second half of conference play unblemished as they manhandled New Mexico State in Las Cruces in a bit of a shocker. The 68-60 final doesn’t necessarily reflect the point disparity present for the majority of the game. Nevada led this one by double-digits throughout, but a late run by New Mexico State cut the lead to just five before the Wolf Pack hung on for the eight-point win. Then perhaps suffering a little bit of a letdown, the Wolf Pack escaped by a deuce in Ruston as they were pushed to the brink by the Bulldogs in escaping with a 65-63 victory. The Wolf Pack’s bench delivered just two points in the win over LA Tech, a season low for any team in the WAC in terms of bench production this season. Pre-conference assessment (Why they won’t win the WAC): Lack of depth. Mid-conference assessment:Thus far, their bench production (or lack thereof) has not hurt them, though they won’t go through the second half unscathed if their bench has a repeat performance of their game against LA Tech.
- New Mexico State (16-7, 5-2): The big showdown was a big letdown for New Mexico State as another flat start in a big game cost the Aggies. Head coach Marvin Menzies was at loss in the postgame presser, stating, “I just don’t have a good feeling about how we are playing that first half,” Menzies said. “We have to come out with better execution, especially after timeouts. It’s frustrating.” The Aggies were pushed by Fresno State two nights later, but came away with the victory, 60-56. Pre-conference assessment (Why they won’t win the WAC): The three-point line. Mid-conference assessment: Entering conference play the Aggies were sixth in three-point shooting percentage and last in three-point percentage defense. In the Aggies’ two losses, they shot just 5-15 (33.3 percent) and 5-22 (22.7 percent) from distance and allowed Hawai’i and Nevada to shoot 9-17 (52.9 percent) and 7-17 (41.1 percent) respectively from three. Though their three-point defense has been fairly very good in their five conference wins, their shooting in the seven conference games is a league-low 28 percent.
- Hawai’i (13-9, 4-3): A 77-72 loss to Utah State, despite a remarkable 24/14 double-double from center Vander Joaquim, started the road trip. The chances for winning were hurt by Zane Johnson shooting 4-15 and Joston Thomas going 4-12. Up to Moscow to face Idaho was next on the agenda, and the Warriors dug in and pulled out a 76-70 triumph. Joaquim went for 18 points and nine rebounds, followed by 16 apiece from Johnson and Thomas, plus Hauns Brereton contributed 15 points. With his increased production of late, Joaquim is certainly playing himself into most valuable player contention, right alongside Nevada’s Deonte Burton and New Mexico State’s Wendell McKines. Pre-conference assessment (Why they won’t win the WAC): Ball control. Mid-conference assessment: The Warriors are last in the league in turnover rate at 22.1 percent and second-to-last in the league (and nearly last in the country) in turnovers forced per game (10.6) and opponent turnover rate (17 percent). In two of their three conference losses, they’ve turned the ball over at rates of 20.8 and 22.3 percent, though one of their losses came without two starters available.
- Utah State (12-10, 4-3): Wins at home versus Hawaii (77-72) and then San Jose State (82-65) restored some wind in the sails of the Good Ship Morrill this past week. Redshirt sophomore guard Preston Medlin led the way against Hawaii with 25 points, buttressed by a remarkable (in both makes and attempts) 13-14 from the foul line. Then, Kyisean Reed‘s 21 points, eight rebounds and three blocks plus a season-best 15 points from Mitch Bruneel paced the win over San Jose State. Upcoming are matchups again with first Fresno State and then a big one in Reno against Nevada. USU lost a 78-71 home game to the Wolf Pack on January 7. Pre-conference assessment (Why they won’t win the WAC): Road woes. The UtAgs were 1-5 on the road entering league play. Mid-conference assessment: USU went 1-2 on the road and their lone road win at LA Tech was by just four points. They finish with four road games in conference play, including trips to league-leading Nevada and Hawai’i.
- Idaho (11-10, 4-3): The Vandals pulled off a home split defeating San Jose State, 74-66, Deremy Geiger and Kyle Barone each had 21 points in the victory. Djim Bandoumel scored 24 in a losing effort against Hawai’i in a nip-and-tuck affair throughout. Pre-conference assessment (Why they won’t win the WAC): Free throw shooting. Mid-conference assessment: Idaho’s free throw shooting hasn’t let them down as much as their defense has let them down. In fact, the Vandals lead the conference in free throw percentage at 77.9 percent, a 15 percent increase over non-conference play, however, they are allowing teams to shoot nearly 50 percent from the floor, seventh in the league, and 55.7 percent from inside the three-point arc, which is last in the WAC.
- Louisiana Tech (11-11, 3-4): The Bulldogs have to be the surprise of the league so far, with three wins in conference play including a win at Hawai’i and three close losses at home by a combined total of eight points. Pre-conference assessment (Why they won’t win the WAC): The Bulldogs struggle offensively. They rank dead last in the league in points per possession at 0.905. Mid-conference assessment:The Bulldogs are still last in the league in points per trip (.973), however, in their three conference wins, their efficiency rose to 1.01, 1.04 and 1.02, respectively. In four losses, the Bulldogs posted O-PPP rates of 0.85, 0.93, 0.88 and 1.11 (a two-point loss in overtime).
- Fresno State (9-14, 1-6): It was a pair of very close losses on the road for the Bulldogs that did them in this week, first losing, 59-58, on a last second shot to Louisiana Tech and then falling, 60-56, to New Mexico State. Sophomore guard Kevin Olekaibe led FSU with 20 points, followed by 17 points against NMSU. Coach Rodney Terry‘s crew, as usual, were out-boarded 42-24 by NMSU. Next are home games versus Idaho and then Utah State, opportunities to snap a three-game losing streak. Pre-conference assessment (Why they won’t win the WAC): Defense. Mid-conference assessment: The Bulldogs have actually improved defensively in conference play, as teams are shooting 47.1 percent against them which is fifth in the league. However, the team ranks dead last in rebounds per game, grabbing just 26.6 per contest.
- San Jose State (7-15, 0-7): A 74-66 loss to Idaho up in the Land of Famous Potatoes was followed by falling, 82-65, to Utah State in Logan. It was Vandal big Kyle Barone posting a 21/11 double-double that hurt the Spartans. Senior forward Wil Carter came close to another double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds and freshman guard D.J. Brown led with 18 for SJSU. Playing in The Spectrum was next and Utah State took care of business to the tune of 82-65. Guard James Kinney paced the Spartans with 21 points and five assists. Teammate Keith Shamburger missed the game due to being called for a flagrant foul against Idaho. Pre-conference assessment (Why they won’t win the WAC): Offensive struggles. Mid-conference assessment: 38.1 percent shooting on offense combined with a porous 50.1 percent defensive effort equates to zero conference wins and could equate to them finishing with zero conference wins.
The second half of conference play starts off with a bang as Nevada hosts Utah State on Thursday night and then Idaho on Saturday. Fresno State hosts Idaho then Utah State opposite of Nevada. New Mexico State hosts Louisiana Tech on Saturday while Hawai’i travels to San Jose on Friday.
- New Mexico State’s Wendell McKines became just the second player in school history to record 1,000+ career points and 1,000+ career rebounds grabbing his 1,000th in the Aggies’ win over Cal State-Bakersfield. He’s also just one of two current active players with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds (Long Beach State’s T.J. Robinson)
- Kevin Olekaibe is the fourth in the conference at 17.7 points per game, the only Fresno State player in the top 15.
- UH’s Jeremiah Ostrowski is running away with the assist lead at 7.7 per outing, Fresno State point guard Steve Shepp is second in the WAC in assists with 5.1 per contest
- Hawaii has two talents in the top 15 in rebounding: Vander Joaquim is first at 11.1, and Joston Thomas fifth at 7.3.
- Joaquim is shooting an astounding 71% in WAC games.
- SJSU’s Wil Carter is averaging a double-double at 13.3 points and 10.9 boards each time out, the latter curiously broken down to 35 offensive, 37 defensive.
- Center Hamidu Rahman is grabbing 5.4 rebounds per contest for New Mexico State in conference play, but his board breakdown is quite different from what you’d expect: 24 offensive, 14 defensive.
- Freshman Daniel Mullings of New Mexico State is the only guard in the top 15 in rebounds with 5.7 per game.
- Despite some down shooting nights, Hawaii’s Zane Johnson still leads the conference with 22 treys (and in just six games).