Random Thoughts: The rest of the league can thank us for putting the serious jinx on the UtAgs with our mention of potential undefeatedness in last week’s WAC Check-In. That being said, Utah State (12-1) will not be caught — a wise man told us — in the race for the league championship despite falling to Boise State Saturday night … Nevada has managed a solid 8-4 WAC record to date despite a young team and some returning players positioned in new roles … Boise State Coach Greg Graham and his Broncos stand at 7-4 with these games remaining until tourney time: Idaho, @ Portland State (BracketBuster), @ Louisiana Tech, @ New Mexico State, Fresno State and Nevada. That same wise man refused to offer who was going to be the second place finisher in the WAC and then told us to get off his lawn.
Playing for second. The Utah State Aggies can wrap up a share of the regular season WAC title this week with a win over Idaho. And if they are to do it, they’ll have to do it on the road. Utah State is 11-0 in league play and is looking to complete the first undefeated season since TCU turned the trick in the 1997-98 season at 14-0 and then a year later when Utah also completed the feat going 14-0. In both cases the teams were playing in the then (and first) 16 team league and won their division. The race for the league’s 2-seed in the conference tournament is heating up as five teams are within two games of each other with anywhere from five (NM State) to seven (Idaho) league games remaining.
#17/21 Utah State (11-0, 23-1)
Boise State (6-4, 16-7)
Nevada (6-4, 13-10)
New Mexico State (6-5, 12-12)
Idaho (4-5, 10-12)
San Jose State (4-7, 12-11)
Hawai’i (4-7, 12-11)
Louisiana Tech (3-8, 9-15)
Fresno State (2-7, 10-14)
Official Player of the Week: For the third time this season, Utah State’s Gary Wilkinson has been named the Western Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week. Versus New Mexico State, he scored 18 points and nabbed 11 boards. He didn’t miss all night — going 5-5 from the floor and 8-8 at the foul line. Wilkinson then added 16 points against Louisiana Tech.
Current Standings (Updated through games played on 02/05/09):
Utah State (10-0, 22-1)
Nevada (6-6, 13-9)
Boise State (5-3, 15-6)
New Mexico State (5-5, 11-12)
Idaho (4-4, 10-11)
San Jose State (4-5, 10-10)
Hawai’i (3-7, 11-11)
Louisiana Tech (3-7, 9-14)
Fresno State (1-7, 9-14)
Official WAC Player of the Week — Jahmar Young
The sophomore Young did just about everything but pop the popcorn and take tickets at the Pan-American Center last week and rightly came away with the WAC Player of the Week award. Young averaged 28.5 points per game on 72.7% shooting from the floor in wins against San Jose State and Hawaii. He was ‘en fuego’ from three-point range — seven for ten — and sank 18 of 20 free throws. Young also grabbed 10 rebounds and made four steals.
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.
Ed. note: if you have some nominees that we missed, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave it in the comments and we’ll try to get a photo up…
While we were sitting around watching a closer-than-it-should-have-been game between Memphis and Central Florida a couple of weekends ago, it occurred to us that we were spending more time staring at the appallingly hideous UCF Knight plastered onto the middle of the floor. And when the tv cameras took us to one end of the court, away from the menacing black knight ready to swallow up half of the players, my eyes were forced to contrast their two-tone floor where everything within the three point line was one color (light beige) and everything outside of it, another (beige). It was horrible. But our visual disaster is your gain, as it gave us an idea for a neat post comparing the ugliest home floors in America.
Central Florida – UCF Arena
The first thing we did was contact our loyal RTC correspondents, because who else will know about some abominable court hidden away in the BigMountainSouthUSA whatever Conference than our guys. Here are some of their entries:
Eastern Michigan – Convocation Center
It’s never a good thing when you start painting giant basketballs on the court and coloring in the three-point areas. Never. A. Good. Thing.
Moving to the Big 12, which has not one, but two nominees…
Texas A&M – Reed Arena
We’re uncertain what bugs us about this particular floor, other than the bizarre checkerboard parquet and the enormous outline of the state of Texas in the middle of it. Yeah, Texas is a big state, but come on… And the T-star situation isn’t helping – what is that thing?? We thought the A&M logo always had the letters “A” and “M” in it.
Baylor – Ferrell Center
This one isn’t all that bad except for one minor major annoyance – unless you’re sitting in the first five rows, who thought it was a good idea to paint the new 3-point line in yellow on a hardwood-colored floor? Especially when watching Baylor on tv, it’s nearly impossible to track what is a three and what isn’t a three because of that fact (sorry, we haven’t moved to HD in the RTC West Coast Compound yet).
Georgia Tech – Alexander Memorial Coliseum
This place has always bothered us – something about the deli mustard borders and the gigantic bee in the middle of the floor. Why not go with the black/gold setup like Vandy or Wake instead?
Colorado State – Moby Arena
Oh, Lord, no… this just can’t be allowed to continue. The photo isn’t great but you can clearly make out the outline of a ram’s horns all over this court.
Boise State – Taco Bell Arena
But the school that takes the cake, not once, but twice, has to be our blue-turfed friends in Boise. Both incarnations of their home floor in recent years (the top is their current one) have been downright offensive (the horse heads are bad enough, but we esp. hate the half-basketballs in the corners).
Princeton – Jadwin Gymnasium
Honorable mention goes to Princeton, not so much for its floor (which is solid) but for its multipurpose arena known as Jadwin Gymnasium. The space-age Epcot-style lighting and airport-hangar background there really scares us. For Chrissakes, they have temporary restraining walls on the sidelines so the ball doesn’t roll into the indoor track/field area. What a disaster.
Home Sweet Home… errr Road. A strange thing has happened early in the WAC this season. Through 15 games the road teams are 10-5. Among the milestone victories this season was Utah State defeating New Mexico State in Las Cruces for the first time since 2000, Idaho winning for the first time in Reno since 1999 and San Jose State winning in Fresno for the first time since 1993. There is a strong chance the road wins will keep on coming as Idaho visits New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech, Boise State visits Nevada and Utah State and San Jose State visits Hawai’i.
What we know about the WAC
Fresno State’s Paul George is the real deal…but one that nobody expected to be so productive so soon nor that he would play every minute of every Bulldog WAC game so far.
Rainbow Warrior Roderick Flemings is also special…as presupposed
Look at Coach Steve Cleveland’s roster and then the squad’s 7-8 record — in what fantasy world do those expecting more reside?
BSU’s Kurt Cunningham has come back to earth with his shooting but any coach will take a 10-17 shooting ratio from his center.
Player of the Week: No, the WAC has not adopted a bird as the league symbol, but it did select Jared Quayle (no relation to former VP Dan to our knowledge) of Utah State as the conference Player of the Week. Quayle was the MVP of the 2008 Duel in the Desert after scoring 17 points, grabbing 11 boards and passing out seven assists against Howard and then coming back with a line of 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals against Houston Baptist. Quayle then managed a double-double of 24 points and 10 boards versus Wyoming.
Other candidates: Boise State’s Mark Sanchez, Fresno State’s Paul George, Hawai’i’s Roderick Flemings, New Mexico State’s Wendell McKines.
Opening night in the WAC had the teams away from home enthusiastically whistling “On The Road Again” — that is, until they played their second games with the exception of New Mexico State.
New Beginnings. The WAC begins league play this weekend as many of the teams are eager to put their non-conference pasts behind them and start fresh at 0-0. Overall the league sports a 66-44 record with just two remaining non-conference games on Wednesday night before opening league play on Saturday night. Utah State will host Wyoming and Nevada sports the conference’s marquee non-conference opponent when they host North Carolina in Reno.
The league is a combined 48-12 at home, 15-28 on the road and 1-5 at neutral court sites. The bottom three teams in the standings heading into conference play, Idaho, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State are a combined 15-2 at home but just 3-17 on the road and 0-2 at neutral court sites. Conversely the top three teams in the league, Utah State, Boise State and Hawai’i are 20-3 at home, 6-3 on the road and 0-1 at neutral court sites while the middle three teams, San Jose State, Nevada and Fresno State are 13-6 at home, 6-8 on the road and 1-2 at neutral court sites.
The End of the (Non-Conference) Road. The WAC may have started off slowly in the non-conference schedule but has picked up the pace over the past two weeks. Over a three day span the league went 9-4 against their opponents including victories over two West Coast Conference schools (San Francisco and San Diego) and a pair of Mountain West Conference schools (Utah and TCU). The four losses were to two Pac-10 schools (Cal and Washington State), the Missouri Valley’s Creighton and Conference USA’s UTEP. This upcoming week will see the WAC enter its home stretch of non-conference games before the league begins conference play.
Boise State (8-3). The Broncos rebounded from back to back losses to improve to 8-3 on the season thanks to a pair of victories on the west coast. Boise State defeated Cal State-Bakersfield 66-62 on Saturday, December 20, and then picked up a solid road victory over the West Coast Conference’s San Diego 75-72 just two nights later. Boise State is off until after Christmas when they’ll close out their non-conference portion of their schedule when they host Eastern Washington on Monday, December 29.
Making Headway. The league had a decent week in the win-loss column as the collective went 10-5 against their competition since the last check-in. Hawai’i (over Eastern Washington), New Mexico State (over Texas-El Paso) and Nevada (over Southern Illinois) all earned solid wins and the league also had a couple of close losses to decent opponents (San Francisco and Montana) . The WAC has another big week of competition upcoming as they’ll face teams from the Pac-10, Missouri Valley Conference, West Coast Conference, Mountain West Conference and Conference USA.
The WAC needs to earn some key victories as they are currently the 15th ranked conference in terms of RPI and just one of the league’s teams, Utah State (40) is inside the Top 100 RPI.