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.
The Move Along, There’s Nothing To See Here Edition… In a week that saw idle WAC football teams make more headlines than their hardwood counterparts, the WAC collective did little to bolster the hope that they will send more than one team to the NCAA tournament come March. The league had several opportunities to get victories against fellow mid-majors and a couple of high-majors but came up well short in the wins department. Of the 13 games of interest from last week the WAC combined to win just four of those games, two of those wins coming courtesy of Boise State, the other two coming courtesy of San Jose State (over San Diego) and Fresno State (over the U. of Pacific Tigers). The WAC is now 33-28 on the season against non-conference opponents.
(ed. note – we received this from our correspondents on Wednesday, Nov. 26, but due to unforeseen circumstances we were unable to post until today)
Flyspecks on the wall of the WAC
It’s a new season and mostly new lineups for the Western Athletic Conference in 2008-2009. A high percentage of the top players have graduated, leaving just two of the top 15 scorers back, Louisiana Tech junior guard Kyle Gibson and Utah State forward Gary Wilkinson.
In the snarkilicious So-What Department, WAC member teams went a perfect 14-0 in exhibition play this year. That’s not exactly the mighty flag Commissioner Karl Benson wants to fly. Once the real season started, the WAC has gone 19-13 in out-of-conference play. There have not been many notable victories, although, there have not been as many notable opponents as in seasons past either as the early schedule has been littered with the likes of Montana State-Northern, Grambling State, Evergreen and the mighty mighty California Maritime Academy, although, we’ll give San Jose State a pass because at least they didn’t schedule the Academy of Art (we’re looking at you University of San Francisco). The league has had early season battles with Southern Cal, San Diego, San Diego State, Michigan State, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and Siena.
The conference player of the week was Boise State senior Mark Sanchez. A reserve last season, he’s playing the most minutes on the team and leading the Broncos in scoring, shooting percentage, free throws attempted and rebounding. Can he still have a place on the ‘Gettin’ No Love’ team or does the current attention he’s receiving disqualify him?
Injury bug. Va Tech forward JT Thompson will be out 4-6 weeks with a hernia. Tyler Hansbrough appears “extremely doubtful” for UNC’s opener against Penn on Saturday. Ole Miss guard Trevor Gaskinstore his ACL and will miss the entire season.
Nevada’s sticky-fingered trio of Brandon Fields, London Giles and Ahyaro Phillips will be held out of the season opener against Montana St. on Saturday. Not sure why Fields is still suspended, his charges were dropped.
UCLA’s Nikola Dragovic got into a dispute with his girlfriend last week and was arrested for misdemeanor battery. He did not dress during last night’s game against Priarie View A&M.
Tennessee freshman PG Daniel West was ruled academically ineligible to play for the Vols this season, leaving juco transfer Bobby Maze and junior JP Prince as the only two legitimate ballhandlers to run Bruce Pearl’s attack this season.
Georgia Tech senior guard Lewis Clinch is also academically ineligible, but he can earn his spot back on the team after the semester ends. He’ll miss a minimum of seven games though.
Don’t expect any slicing or dicing of the current 16-team Big East arrangement on his watch, says newly voted Commish John Marinatto, who will begin next July 1. He takes over for uber-successful commisioner Mike Tranghese.
More meaningless exhibitions. Stephen Curry (41 pts on 15-19 FGs) appeared rusty in an 84-54 Davidson win over Lenoir-Rhyne. The defending champs, led by Sherron Collins (22 pts) and Cole Aldrich (17/10), handily defeated Emporia St. Wisconsin plowed through a slogfest to win 64-47 over UW-Whitewater. UConn’sJerome Dyson and his 18 pts led the Huskies past UMass-Lowell 82-63. Luke Harongody’s 21/10 helped Notre Dame to an easy win over Stonehenge Stonehill 79-47 last weekend. Pitt’s Sam Young filled the stat sheet with 18/7/4 blks in an 82-30 mauling of La Roche as well on Sunday.
Jeff Goodman gives his version of preseason bracketology, and he also went with the upset over UNC in the finals (Michigan St.). We see ya with your #15 Belmont (over Tennessee) and #14 Portland St. (over Purdue).
RTC correspondent Baker (he covers the A-Sun and the SoCon) has launched his new site, Mid Major Review, which got off with a bang this week with his podcast interview of Belmont head coach, Rick Byrd, and we expect will provide great substance and analysis of the mid-major world throughout the season. Welcome to the blogosphere, MMR.
Billy Donovan got a huge pickup with Kenny Boynton’s commitment today.
Andy Katz gives a fantastic analysis of the Arizona mess on his blog – looks like Mike Dunlap made a stupid mistake in not accepting the head coaching job. Oh, and former recruit Abdul Gaddy is going to Washington.
WYN2K. The most unusual aspect about the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in the fast-approaching season is that there is no league favorite. Yes, the usual suspects Nevada, Utah State and possibly New Mexico State could very well finish at or around the top but there’s no bet-the-house team that will run roughshod over the other squads. Adding some spice to the recipe, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State are now ready to complicate matters and join the big brothers of the league, making it a five-dom vying for the top spot in 2008-2009. The WAC should be affixed with a ‘high degree of parity’ label but this new season also offers a definite divide: a schism of the five most competitive teams and then the four remaining and re-tooling squads.
Predicted Champion. The winner can be reached via Highway 80…that’s Nevada(NCAA #12) for the geographically destitute.
Others Considered. Utah State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and New Mexico State all offer the possibility of taking the league crown.
RPI Booster Games. If any of these games become victories for The Big Five of the WAC or Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Idaho then it’s a boost to the conference power ranking.
@ BYU (10.10.08)
@ San Diego (10.22.08)
@ St. Mary’s (11.17.08)
v. UNLV (12.03.08)
@ Illinois (12.08.08)
@ Michigan State (11.16.08)
@ Gonzaga (11.18.08)
@ Washington State (12.21.08)
@ UCLA (12.28.08)
New Mexico State
@ USC (11.18.08)
@ Kansas (12.03.08)
@ New Mexico (12.23.08)
v. New Mexico (12.30.08)
@ San Diego (11.15.08)
v. UNLV (12.06.08)
v. North Carolina (12.31.08)
San Jose State
@ San Diego (11.08.08)
@ St. Mary’s (11.27-28.08)
@ BYU (12.06.08)
v. Utah (12.22.08)
The Circular Firing Squad. In 2008-2009, leaving town to play league opponents will not have any WAC teams cheerily singing of yellow brick roads, more a frosty recital wishing for roads less taken.
Multiple NCAA Bids. It won’t happen this season due to multiple poor non-conference schedules and also because of intra-conference battles that will hemorrhage league win-loss records.
Possible NCAA Success. Not likely as Nevada will be a year of experience and another solid frontcourter away from nabbing at least one Big Dance victory.
NIT. After the WAC champion heads off to the NCAAs, complete with visions of making it to Ford Field dancing in their heads, look for four NIT invites to be extended to Utah State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and New Mexico State respectively. Utah State has a string of nine straight postseason bids while Louisiana Tech and San Jose State will be game to host or head anywhere after the WAC tournament in order to extend their seasons, as will New Mexico State.
The Widest WAC Shoulders aka The MVP.Luke Babbitt. This Nevada freshman will be THE MAN in the frontcourt for Coach Mark Fox. He needs to be as the Wolf Pack has very little firepower at the one and two positions except for him. So how long will it take Reno-ites to label Babbitt as Hot Hand Luke?
WAC All-Leaguers.Gary Wilkinson – Utah State, Brandon Fields – Nevada, Jonathan Gibson – New Mexico State, Magnum Rolle – Louisiana Tech, Adrian Oliver – San Jose State.
Contenders.Kyle Gibson, Louisiana Tech, Roderick Flemings – Hawaii, Armon Johnson – Nevada, Sylvester Seay – Fresno State, Jahmar Young – New Mexico State, C.J. Webster – San Jose State, Mac Hopson – Idaho
Questions to be answered.
Can Utah State’s 6′ 9″ Gary Wilkinson dominate this season?
Who will be the greater contributor for USU, Tai Wesley, Tyler Newbold or will it be equal?
Will 6′ 10″ Brandon Webster step forward this season or remain a ‘tease’ for Fresno State?
Can Roderick Flemings average a double-double for Hawaii?
Will someone step up at the point for Louisiana Tech head coach Kerry Rupp?
Can oft-injured Richie Phillips and necomers Dario Hunt and Ahyaro Phillips provide enough help upfront for Luke Babbitt at Nevada?
How long will it take for San Jose State’s Adrian Oliver to discard his rustiness from sitting out?
Will Johnathan Gibson or Jahmar Young, or both, step up the most for New Mexico State?
How will the roster turnover at New Mexico State roster affect the team’s chemistry. Five seniors graduated and underclassmen Herb Pope, Jaydee Luster, DeAngelo Williams, Chris Cole, Paris Carter, Johnnie Higgins left the program in the offseason while Wendell McKines left briefly but came back. The Aggies also added Mick Durham as assistant coach to replace Matt Grady.
Did You Know. The 2007-08 season saw four teams tie for the regular season title at 12-4 (Nevada, Utah State, Boise State and New Mexico State).
Final Thoughts. Unlike last season, most of the better talents in the WAC should be returning in 2009-2010 as just Gary Wilkinson among the top players completes his eligibility. This bodes well for multi-Big Dance WAC invites down the road, as the league could be a year away from returning to its perch as one of the premier high mid-major conferences.
Let’s see if we can get through some of the news piling up…
CHN averages the rankings from the three preview magazines that are already out (Athlon, Lindy’s and TSN/S&S). UNC still #1. CHN gives us the mid-majors to keep an eye on this season as possible NCAA Cinderellas. And here’s your EA Sports NCAA Basketball 09 Top 25 (now partnered with Blue Ribbon). We know you were waiting for it.
Hahahahaha, so it appears the ACC is cooking the books Wachovia-style in an attempt to act like it has more televised games this year than it actually has.
Syracuse had best hope that Jonny Flynn doesn’t get hurt this season, as the Orange’s backup PG Scoop Jardine is redshirting.
Nevada starting guard Brandon Fields and two freshmen were charged with petty larceny last week, and suspended indefinitely. Brilliance. Oh, and Fields was all-academic WAC, proving that good grades doesn’t necessarily mean you have a brain.
Katz hints on our issue with UConn as a F4 threat (zero postseason wins since 2006) in this story about Stanley Robinson. He also provides us with a nice update of open questions as we head into the first week of practices.
Yep, this is going to get old real, real fast. Tyler Hansbrough, the symbol of all things good and merciful.
Dan Hanner over at YABB throws us some love (thanks, Dan!), and does a breakdown of the preseason tournaments by school participation – cool concept.
Truly, the most Epic Post of all-time. Maybe the author wants to be an RTC correspondent??? Our fave blurbs were Florida and Colgate, fyi.