WAC Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

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

It’s finally here, do or die time. The WAC tournament will begin on Thursday, March 11, for the eight teams who earned their way in. All eight teams feel like they have a shot to win the whole enchilada but in reality there are probably only five teams that have a chance. History is also not on four teams’ side as only once has a team seeded lower than #4 won the conference tournament as #5-seed Hawai’i pulled off the feat in the 2001 WAC Tournament. Utah State is the favorite as they ran roughshod over the WAC for a second straight season. Nevada is also a favorite but their lack of depth and need to win three games in four days will be something to keep an eye on. New Mexico State is the league’s second highest scoring team and perhaps most physically talented team, however, they are also the league’s worst scoring defense having given up at least 80 points in seven of their 16 conference games. Louisiana Tech was strong in the first half of the season but faltered down the stretch. They could get hot and run the table as well as they have wins over every WAC team except New Mexico State (whom they would not potentially face until the championship game). San Jose State is the darkhorse in the equation. They boast the league’s leading scorer in Adrian Oliver and they have the pieces in place to make a run. However, they too have fallen on tough times losing three of the final four conference games. Unfortunately for them their path to the title game goes through New Mexico State and potentially top seeded Utah State and that’s even before playing in the title game.

There is one team missing from the conference tournament and that is the University of Hawai’i. Not only did Hawai’i not play its way into the WAC tournament last week losing twice on the road, they played their coach out of a job. The University of Hawai’i announced on Monday that head coach Bob Nash would not be returning next season. The Warriors have fallen on tough times since winning the conference tournament in back-to-back seasons to start the new century. The Warriors won in 2001 and again in 2002 earning the automatic bid and then were NIT bound in 2003 and 2004 but have gone 85-93 in their past five seasons combined after amassing an 85-45 record from the 2000-01 season through the 2003-04 season.

Final Standings (conference tournament seeding order)

  1. Utah State, 25-6 (14-2)
  2. Nevada 19-11 (11-5)
  3. New Mexico State, 19-11 (11-5)
  4. Louisiana Tech, 22-9 (9-7)
  5. Fresno State, 15-17 (6-10)
  6. San Jose State 14-16 (6-10)
  7. Idaho, 15-15 (6-10)
  8. Boise State, 15-16 (5-11)

OUT) Hawai’i, 10-18 (3-13)

All-WAC Honors

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RTC Live: Louisiana Tech @ Utah State

Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2010

If you’ve been following the WAC all season then you know this is the game we have been waiting for. Louisiana Tech came into the conference season with just two losses against a pretty weak schedule and there were questions about just how good they were. They answered those questions with an opening weekend sweep of the old guard in the WAC, beating Nevada by six and then smoking Utah State by 22. Since then, the Bulldogs have slowed down a little, but still come into tonight’s rematch in third place in the WAC, sporting an 8-3 conference record. Meanwhile the USU Aggies came out of that weekend with their tails tucked between their legs, getting edged by New Mexico State followed by the aforementioned beatdown from Louisiana Tech. Since that January 4 matchup, however, the Aggies have yet to lose, running off ten straight victories with eight of them coming by double digits. The key to the earlier meeting in Ruston was Louisiana Tech’s defense. The Aggies shot a miserable 3-13 behind the arc, something they usually excel at (currentl second in the nation in 3pt% at 43% and an even better 46% in WAC play). For the Aggies the key will be getting good inside play, especially from leader Tai Wesley going against the WAC’s best defensive big man in Magnum Rolle, and they will need to keep shooting well from behind the arc to take the pressure off the big guys (look for Brian Green shooting a blistering 71% from deep in conference games). The Bulldogs will need Rolle to control the boards and get someone besides Kyle Gibson (averaging 21 pts a game) and Rolle (just under 15 pts a game) to contribute to the scoring load (Jamel Guyton had 17 in the first matchup between these two). A win for the Bulldogs would put them right back into the thick of things for the conference title, but a loss would all but eliminate them from the race. Can the Bulldogs pull the upset in front of 10,270 screaming Aggie fans? Stay up late and tune into ESPN2 tonight at 9 pm (MST) and follow along to find out. 

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Breaking Down the Bracketbusters…

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2010

Special to RushTheCourt.  Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!

The BracketBuster matchups are out, and as promised, RTC is here with some analysis of some of the top games!  Five Colonial Athletic Association teams lead the pack into these February weekend matchups. The Western Athletic Conference drew four bids and the Missouri Valley drew three.  One problem with the BracketBusters? Five of the television games will be on ESPNU, which of course means they’re not available on ESPN360.  However I’d say there are five games where you must, to quote another piece here, “quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live.”

Friday 2/19  (RPI)

Old Dominion (#46) @ Northern Iowa (#17)  – 7 pm on ESPN2/ESPN360

Get to Know Gerald Lee

The Monarchs will travel to Cedar Rapids to play where the Panthers have won every home game by an average of 14 points per game entering this week. 6’8 UNI senior Adam Koch is a tough-to-contain inside presence, scoring a team high 12.7 points per game. 6’10 ODU senior Gerald Lee will likely be assigned to the task of guarding Koch, an he has been a beast this year for the Monarchs, shooting 53% from the field and leading the team with 14.3 points per game. The matchup to watch in this game will be to see if Old Dominion can defend Koch on the inside while keeping their shooters, junior Kwadzo Ahelegbe (11.1 ppg) and Senior Ali Farokhmanesh (team high 42 3-pointers made), at bay. Both teams are first in their respective conferences in FG percentage defense at eerily similar numbers: Old Dominion’s 39.5% FG-defense is 21st while Northern Iowa’s 39.9% ranks 37th nationally. The Monarchs have had some defensive trouble lately, trying zones at Northeastern on Saturday when facing a team with similar size and offensive weapons as the Panthers, to give up a season high 59.5% field goal percentage. 

Saturday 2/20 (RPI)

Siena (#44) @ Butler (#19) – 11 am on ESPN2/ESPN360

The owner of the nation’s longest winning streak, Siena at thirteen straight, will go into an extremely tough environment at Butler in Saturday’s first Bracketbuster game. The Saints are led by 6’5 senior Edwin Ubiles and his 15.8 points per game as he makes his case for MAAC Player of the Year despite some lingering shoulder issues. Alex Franklin plays bigger than his 6’5 frame to lead the Saints down low with 16.1 points per game. On the other side, Butler’s Gordon Hayward has been a beast for the Bulldogs this year, scoring 16.1 points per game and tying a season-high 25 in Sunday’s comeback win over UW-Milwaukee. Hayward, a sophomore, is already attracting the attention of NBA scouts. Fellow sophomore Shelvin Mack has scored 15 points per game and Matt Howard, when not in foul trouble, scores 11 points per game. Howard has been tough to defend inside, going off for 23 points in Butler’s nine-point loss to Minnesota, but has had issues with foul trouble, getting disqualified in three of the Bulldogs’ four losses. It will be interesting to see how Siena defends Hayward and Howard and how this veteran Saints team led by seniors Ubiles, Franklin and Ronald Moore can contain this explosive offense on the road.

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