Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 2010

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

The WAC opened up league play this past weekend and after the first weekend there were a couple of surprises.  The biggest surprise came from Utah State.  The Aggies went on the road to open up league play and lost to New Mexico State in a close game and then were blown out by Louisiana Tech two nights later.  The preseason pick to win the league by both the media and coaches has their work cut out for them if they hope to win the league title for a third consecutive season.

Standings

1) Louisiana Tech, 14-2 (2-0)
2) San Jose State, 8-5 (1-0)
3) Fresno State 8-7 (1-0)
T4) Idaho 8-5 (1-1)
T4) Nevada, 9-6 (1-1)
T4) Hawai’i, 8-7 (1-1)
T4) New Mexico State, 8-7 (1-1)
T8) Utah State, 10-6 (0-2)
T8) Boise State, 9-6 (0-2)

The league saw a significant drop in scoring in the first weekend of games.  Perhaps the familiarity of the offensive sets and plays had something to do with that but after two games Louisiana Tech leads the league in scoring and is averaging 79.5 points per game.  Five of the nine teams are averaging less than 70 points per game (in non-conference play seven of nine teams averaged at least 73 points per game) and Utah State has struggled to find their offense scoring just 56 points per game through two contests.

Team Breakdowns

Boise State (9-6, 0-2)

The week’s results:  01/02 L @ Fresno State, 71-68, 01/05 @ Hawai’i, 76-68

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. New Mexico State, 01/11 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Broncos opened conference play on the road and were dealt two losses.  The Broncos led Fresno State nearly the entire game but Fresno State’s Paul George hit a layup and drew a foul on Boise State’s Robert Arnold to give Fresno State a 68-66 lead with 48.5 seconds left.  After Boise State tied the game up with 22.6 seconds left Paul George got another layup and was fouled giving the Bulldogs a 71-68 lead.  The Broncos were unable to hit the three-pointer as time expired as they let one slip away.  Against Hawai’i the Broncos trailed big early falling behind 21-7 with 8:59 left in the first half but by halftime they had erased the 14 point deficit and took a 28-27 lead into the break.  The Warriors went on a 12-2 run in the second half and built a lead they would not relinquish.  Boise State’s Daequon Montreal leads the Broncos in scoring in league play averaging 20 points per game and is sixth in the league in scoring through two conference games.  The Broncos are the second best team in the league in steals and are averaging 6.5 steals per game.  Despite their two losses the Broncos lead the league in assists per game averaging 15.0 per game.  The Broncos host New Mexico State and league leading Louisiana Tech this coming week. A minimum split of these two games at home is a must if the Broncos want to keep from falling behind in the league race.

Fresno State (8-7, 1-0)

The week’s results:  01/02 W vs. Boise State, 71-68

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. Hawai’i, 01/11 vs. San Jose State

The Bulldogs played just one league game last week but they made it count as they rallied at home to defeat Boise State.  Paul George’s 21 points in the conference opener included two three-point plays in the final minute as they erased a 7 point deficit with 5:10 left to play.  George was 11-of-12 from the free throw line in the game.  The Bulldogs have a very favorable schedule to start league play with five of the first seven at home.  Fresno State leads the league in free throw percentage and are hitting 75 percent of their attempts. They are also fourth in the league in steals averaging 6.0 steals per game.  The Bulldogs host Hawai’i and San Jose State this coming week, a pair of games that the Bulldogs must win to establish themselves as an upper tier team in the conference.

Hawai’i (8-7, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/03 L vs. Idaho, 59-52, 01/05 W vs. Boise State, 76-68

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Fresno State, 01/11 @ Utah State

The Warriors split their opening weekend’s conference games as they fell 59-52 to Idaho in a defensive struggle.  The Warriors trailed 40-26 with 16:30 left to play but cut the Vandal lead down to four at 49-45 with 3:18 left to play but could get no closer.  The two teams combined to go just 26-of-43 from the free throw line as Hawai’i hit 14-of-21 and Idaho hit 12-of-22.  The Warriors rebounded two nights later as they hosted Boise State.  They used a 12-2 run early in the second half to put themselves comfortably ahead and then used a 14-for-15 performance from the free throw line in the final seven minutes to seal the deal.  In stark contrast to their previous game the Warriors hit 20-of-26 free throws (76.9 percent).  The Warriors lead the league in scoring defense through two games allowing just 63.5 points per game.  They are also third in the league in free throw percentage at 72.3 and have attempted the most free throws in the league with 47 attempts.  Paul Campbell leads the league in field goal percentage at 87.5 percent having hit 14-of-16 shots through two games.  The Warriors go on the road to Fresno State and Utah State this week.  A split of the two games would be considered a huge plus for the team.

Idaho (8-5, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/03 W @ Hawai’i, 59-52, 01/04 L @ San Jose State, 78-75

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. Louisiana Tech, 01/11 vs. New Mexico State

The Vandals split their road trip to Hawai’i and San Jose State as they held on for a hard fought 59-52 victory over Hawai’i but fell to the Spartans by three in a back-and-forth battle in San Jose.  Both teams shot above 50 percent for the game.  Mac Hopson led Idaho with 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.  Idaho held a six point lead early in the second half but were undone by a six-minute offensive drought.  Idaho is second in the league in three point percentage hitting 37.8 percent of their threes (14-of-37) and tops in the league in three point defense as opponents have hit just 7-of-28 through two league games.  The Vandals host league leading Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State this coming week and a sweep at home would put the Vandals in prime position as they play five of their next six conference games at home.

Louisiana Tech (14-2, 2-0)

The week’s results:  01/02 W vs. Nevada, 77-71, 01/04 W vs. Utah State, 82-60

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Idaho, 01/11 @ Boise State, 01/14 vs. Fresno State

Doubters of Louisiana Tech’s gaudy 12-2 record in non-conference play were quickly silenced as the Bulldogs had a pair of statement victories to open league play.  The Bulldogs held off Nevada 77-71 and then obliterated preseason favorite Utah State 82-60.  Jamel Guyton led the way for the Bulldogs against the Wolf Pack scoring 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 6-of-7 shooting from the free throw stripe he added six rebounds and three steals and played 38 minutes.  Kyle Gibson played all 40 minutes against the Pack and added 17 points, seven rebounds and a pair of steals.  Against Utah State the Bulldogs trailed 2-0 but a three pointer gave them a 3-2 lead five minutes into the game and they would not trail for the remainder.  The Bulldogs held a 33-point lead at 69-36 before eventually winning by 22.  Magnum Rolle finished the game with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and added 14 rebounds for another double-double.  Louisiana Tech hit 53.3 percent of their field goals, 50 percent of their three point attempts (7-of-14) and 73.3. percent of their free throws (11-of-15) in the rout.  The Bulldogs lead the conference in scoring at 79.5 points per game and have a +14.0 scoring margin per game, the second best margin in the league is +3.0 (Fresno State and San Jose State).  The Bulldogs are second in the legaue in field goal percentage having hit 50 percent of their shots, they are also the best field goal percentage defense allowing just 41.6 percent of their opponents shots to go in.  To go along with the defensive effort the Bulldogs lead the league in steals per game at 7.5.  The Bulldogs will look to further silence their critics as they travel to the state of Idaho this weekend to face Idaho and Boise State.

Nevada (9-6, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/02 W @ Louisiana Tech, 77-71, 01/04 W @ NMSU, 77-67

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. San Jose State, 01/13 vs. Utah State

The Wolf Pack earned a road split in one of the most difficult road trips in the WAC, the Ruston/Las Cruces trip.  After dropping a game to Louisiana Tech to start the conference season, the second consecutive season in which they’ve dropped the season opener, the Wolf Pack rebounded with a commanding victory over New Mexico State.  Though the final margin in the victory over New Mexico State was just 10 points, there was little drama in the second half.  Leading by just seven at the break the Wolf Pack never allowed the Aggies to get closer than five points (41-36) and held a 17-point lead at 71-54 with 3:43 remaining to play.  Luke Babbitt played 39 minutes and scored a game high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.  He finished 10-of-14 from the floor and a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the three point arc.  It was Babbitt’s seventh 20-plus point performance and fifth consecutive.  It was also his 10th double-double in 15 games this season.  The Wolf Pack lead the league in rebounding margin at +8.0 per game and are averaging 40.5 rebounds per game.  They also lead the league in offensive rebounds per game at 13.5 and defensive rebounds per game at 27.0 per game.  Lack of bench production continues to be a concern for the Wolf Pack as an article earlier this week by the Reno Gazette-Journal’s beat writer Chris Murray reported that Nevada’s bench contributes just 43 minutes per game, lowest in the league.  They score just 11.7 points per game, third worst in the league.  The Wolf Pack host their next three conference games as San Jose State, Utah State and Idaho all come to Reno.

New Mexico State (8-7, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/02 W vs. Utah State, 55-52, 01/04 L vs. Nevada, 77-71

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Boise State, 01/11 @ Idaho

New Mexico State grinded out a 55-52 victory over Utah State to string together their fifth victory of the season.  Jonathan Gibson’s jumper with 17 seconds remaining gave the southern Aggies a three point lead and when Utah State’s three pointer with three seconds left hit iron New Mexico State fans breathed a sigh of relief.  The Aggies went through a six minute scoring drought allowing Utah State to climb back into the game but solid defense down the stretch, a rarity in Las Cruces this season, enabled the southern Aggies to hang on for the victory.  Unfortunately for Marvin Menzies and his crew the euphoria was short lived as Luke Babbitt and Nevada strolled into town two nights later.  The Wolf Pack dominated the Aggies from start to finish.  The Aggies never led in the game and there was just one tie, 2-2, 2:18 into the game.  The Aggie defense had no answer for Luke Babbitt and he scored inside and outside on the Aggies and finished with 26 points.  The Aggies did have five players finish in double-figures in scoring, generally a stat that leads to a win, however, the Aggies’ high-scoring combo of Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson mustered only 27 points combined (the duo averaged nearly 40 points per game combined in non-conference play).  The Aggies lead the league in turnover margin at +4.0 and are second in the league in scoring defense giving up 64.5 points per game.  The high flying Aggie offense has been grounded through two league games and are averaging 61.0 points per game, only bettering the 56.0 points per game their fellow Aggies from Logan have put up through two games.  New Mexico State takes the trip to the state of Idaho as they face Boise State and Idaho this weekend.  The Aggies and Broncos have had some wild affairs the past several seasons and the Aggies have never had a particularly easy time in Moscow, even when the Vandals were way down.  Their largest margin of victory over Idaho is just 10 points and last season they suffered their first loss at Idaho since joining the league in the 2005-06 season.

San Jose State (8-5, 1-0)

The week’s results:  01/04 W vs. Idaho, 78-75

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Nevada, 01/11 @ Fresno State, 01/14 vs. Boise State

The Spartans played just one conference game on opening weekend but they made it count.  SJSU squeaked by Idaho in an offensive slugfest.  Both teams shot above 50 percent from the game but it was Adrian Oliver’s three pointer late in the game that proved to be the difference maker.  The Spartans won a conference opener for the first time since the 1998-99 season.  Adrian Oliver led the Spartans with 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting.  C.J. Webster added 21 points and 11 rebounds on 10-of-14 shooting.  The Spartans are second in the league in scoring at 78.0 points per game and are second best in the league in free throw shooting hitting 73.3 percent of their attempts.  The Spartans will fully kick off the conference season with road trip to face Nevada and Fresno State followed by a home contest against Boise State.  A 2-1 stretch in the three games could signal that San Jose State is ready to get out of the WAC basement.

Utah State (10-6, 0-2)

The week’s results:  01/02 L @ NMSU, 55-52, 01/04 L @ Louisiana Tech, 82-60

Upcoming games:  01/11 vs. Hawai’i, 01/13 @ Nevada

Shellshocked. That’s what the Aggie faithful must be feeling after a shocking 0-2 road trip to open conference play.  After losing a grinder against New Mexico State in a game that favored the northern Aggies, Utah State went on the road and suffered their second worst loss in conference play since joining the WAC (a 100-70 loss at New Mexico State in the 2007-2008 season was the worst).  The last time the Aggies started 0-2 in the WAC they were 10-3 heading into league play and finished just 9-7 but advanced to the conference championship game before falling to host New Mexico State by two.  It’s no time to panic if you’re a Utah State fan. History is on your side.  Two games into the conference season the Aggie offense is nowhere to be found.  The Aggies are averaging a league worst 56 points per game.  The Aggies are second worst in the league in three point shooting 23.1 percent a departure from their normally hot three point shooting.  Utah State hosts Hawai’i as they try to get in the win column and then two days later they travel to Reno for they always contentious battle with the Wolf Pack.

UPCOMING GAMES

  • 01/09 – Idaho vs. Louisiana Tech – 5:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/09 – Fresno State vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/09 – Boise State vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 01/09 – Nevada vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/11 – Fresno State vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/11 – Idaho vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. PT (ESPNU)
  • 01/11 – Boise State vs. Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 01/11 – Utah State vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 01/13 – Nevada vs. Utah State – 8:00 p.m. PT (ESPN2)
  • 01/14 – San Jose State vs. Boise State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/14 – Louisiana Tech vs. Fresno State – 8:00 p.m. CT (ESPN Regional)
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Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 3rd, 2009

checkinginon

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

CURRENT STANDINGS:

  1. Louisiana Tech (6-1)
  2. Idaho (4-1)
  3. Boise State (4-2)
  4. Utah State (4-2)
  5. Nevada (2-3)
  6. San Jose State (2-3)
  7. Fresno State (2-4)
  8. Hawai’i (2-4)
  9. New Mexico State (2-4)

The WAC finally got another win over the Mountain West as Utah State struck down BYU, 71-61, in Logan, UT.  The league is now just 3-8 against the Mountain West.  As for the rest of the WAC?  The non-conference has been unkind. The top four teams in the standings are 18-6 in non-conference play.  The other five teams, however, are just 10-18 and the league as a collective whole is just 28-24.  Aside from Idaho’s win over Utah (3-4)  — which is has lost some of its luster following Utah losses to Seattle and Weber State — Utah State’s win over BYU (5-1), and San Jose State’s win over Pacific (5-1), the marquee wins have not been there.  Nevada came oh-so-close last week as they fell to VCU 85-76 and hung tough with defending national champion North Carolina 80-73, but the league went 7-8 over the past seven days.

The WAC, however, can redeem itself as it prepares for perhaps its toughest week of non-conference play.  Boise State travels to Illinois (5-2), New Mexico State travels to New Mexico (7-0), Utah State hosts St. Mary’s (5-1), Nevada travels to Pacific (5-1), Fresno State hosts San Diego (4-3), Idaho hosts #25 Portland (5-2) and then faces border rival Washington State (6-1), and Louisiana Tech heads to Arizona (3-3).  Eight games, eight chances to notch RPI-boosting victories.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Northwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South, Mid-South, Lower Midwest, Upper Midwest, Mountains and Southwest) are located here.

It’s time for the tenth and final installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of cool, wet Pacific states known as the Northwest Region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Northwest Region (AK, WA, OR, northern CA)

nw_impact_players_v2

  • Matt Bouldin - G, Sr - Gonzaga.  As anyone in Spokane or among Gonzaga’s growing national fan base can tell you, most of the talk about Gonzaga this off-season has concerned itself with what the Bulldogs have lost.  Understandable, as the excellent Zag firm of Daye, Heytvelt, Pargo, and Downs are a tough bunch to replace, to say the least.  Consider also that Gonzaga is bringing in something like 37 freshmen onto this year’s squad, and one can easily conclude that Mark Few finds himself with his most interesting coaching predicament yet.  With such an inexperienced squad, what’s the one thing Few needs most?  A savvy, intelligent senior leader.  Enter Matt Bouldin, a 2010 preseason Wooden Award nominee to absolutely nobody’s surprise.  Check these stats from last year:  49.1% from the field, 42.3% from three-point range…but only 13.6 PPG.  Even with several other offensive options on his team, you’d expect a shooting guard with those percentages to average more than 13.6 PPG.  But, this means that when Bouldin does shoot, it’s usually a good shot in terms of shot selection, something coaches will tell you is one of the real keys to winning at this level, and an incredibly difficult thing to teach.  Mind you, those percentages are up from his sophomore season even though he registered more attempts as a junior.  Without a doubt, Bouldin’s touches and minutes will increase this season, despite leading last year’s team with 31.7 minutes a game.  He might need to get to the line a little more this year, but with his ability to take care of the ball, Coach Few should have no apprehension adding this to Bouldin’s responsibilites, if he chooses.  Bouldin’s 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio was third in the conference (behind two of his teammates!) and is exceptional for a shooting guard.  So go ahead, feel sorry for Gonzaga if you must.  We know what they lost, and we know Portland might be a fun pick in the WCC.  But with a coach like Few, a leader like Bouldin, and a non-conference pressure-cooker like the one Gonzaga has in store, if Portland so much as twitches, Gonzaga will take them down.  And look at their NCAA Tournament history.  Except for 2007, Gonzaga does best when they get a 10-12 seed and nobody’s looking.  Mark Few is spectacular when it comes to keeping numerous talented players happy and, perhaps better than anyone in the country, instilling in all of his players an immense pride in the name on the front of the jersey as compared with the one on the back.  When you watch Few’s Gonzaga teams, you can almost feel the love the players have for that uniform.  Matt Bouldin possesses this pride just as much as any of his Wooden-list predecessors like Morrison or Dickau.  We guarantee you — he will not go quietly.

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Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2009

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedcrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

Last week was a week of opportunities. Some took advantage while others did not. Boise State took their opportunities by the horns as they completed a home sweep to put themselves into third place. New Mexico State on the other hand did not falling twice on the road after having a chance to rise to third in the standings, instead of coming out of the week in fifth place. Idaho had an opportunity at redemption and took advantage by avenging an earlier loss to New Mexico State, a game that head coach Don Verlin felt they should have won. This week is another week of opportunities. Utah State has the opportunity to give themselves a two-game lead on the rest of the league. Idaho has the opportunity to lay claim to being the best team in the state of Idaho and then the opportunity to sweep Nevada for the first time since the 1998-1999 season.

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Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 15th, 2009

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

Current Standings:

  1. Utah State (3-0, 15-1)
  2. Boise State (3-0, 12-3)
  3. Nevada (2-1, 9-7)
  4. Idaho (2-1, 8-8 )
  5. New Mexico State (2-2, 8-9)
  6. Hawai’i (1-3, 9-7)
  7. San Jose State (1-3, 7-8 )
  8. Louisiana Tech (1-3, 7-10)
  9. Fresno State (0-2, 7-9)

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.

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Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 9th, 2009

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson from bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

Current Standings

  1. New Mexico State (2-0, 8-7)
  2. Utah State (1-0, 13-1)
  3. Boise State (1-0, 10-3)
  4. Hawai’i (1-1, 9-5)
  5. Idaho (1-1, 7-8 )
  6. Louisiana Tech (1-1, 7-8 )
  7. Nevada (0-1, 7-7)
  8. Fresno State (0-1, 7-8 )
  9. San Jose State (0-2, 6-6)

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.

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Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 1st, 2009

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

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.

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2008-09 Season Primers: #13 – WAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2008

Kevin McCarthy from Parsing The WAC and Sam Wasson from bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC. 

Predicted Order of Finish:

(Kevin’s Prediction)

  1. Nevada
  2. Utah State
  3. Louisiana Tech
  4. San Jose State
  5. New Mexico State
  6. Boise State
  7. Hawai’i
  8. Fresno State
  9. Idaho

(Sam’s Prediction)

  1. Nevada
  2. Utah State
  3. New Mexico State
  4. Louisiana Tech
  5. San Jose State
  6. Boise State
  7. Hawai’i
  8. Fresno State
  9. Idaho

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.

Boise State

  • @ BYU  (10.10.08)
  • @ San Diego (10.22.08)

Fresno State

  • @ St. Mary’s (11.17.08)
  • v. UNLV (12.03.08)

Hawaii

  • @ Illinois  (12.08.08)

Idaho

  • @ Michigan State  (11.16.08) 
  • @ Gonzaga  (11.18.08)
  • @ Washington State  (12.21.08)

Louisiana Tech

  • @ 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)

Nevada

  • @ 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)

Utah State

  • @ 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.

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