It may sound cliché, but the tournament is wide open.
Even though top seed Nevada ran away with the league, the second half of the conference schedule was not a cakewalk. The Wolf Pack won the first seven games by over 10 points per game, but won by just under four points per game in the second go-round (and took a loss against Idaho). There was much jostling in the final weekend of play with seeds two through six up for grabs heading into the final game this past Saturday.
The first round boasts three intriguing matchups with upset potential (seed-based) in all three. New Mexico State struggled to put away Fresno State in both regular season meetings, winning by four and then by five in overtime (overcoming a 19-point second half deficit in the process).
Idaho and Hawai’i split the regular season meetings with each winning on the other’s home floor.
Utah State swept the season series with Louisiana Tech, but the Bulldogs lost by just four points in the first meeting and has won five of their last six games.
With apologies to San Jose State, they don’t stand much of a chance against Nevada and this one should be a breeze although the Spartans did play tough in the game in San Jose losing by just six points.
Can Wendell McKinnes And New Mexico State Defend Their WAC Tourney Crown? Based On How NMSU Has Been Playing Lately, Don't Bet Against Them (AP)
Favorites: Nevada and New Mexico State. They’re the top two seeds and it would be a shame if the two didn’t meet in the championship game.
Dark Horses: Idaho and Utah State. Two schools with similar styles of play, well coached (Idaho’s head coach Don Verlin was Stew Morril’s understudy at Utah State) tons of sets in their offense, not likely to beat themselves. Utah State boasts the league’s best coach in Stew Morrill. Read the rest of this entry »
I. Renko is an RTC columnist. You can normally find him kicking off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.
In this special mid-week edition of The Other 26, we take a look at all of the premier (read: televised) Bracketbuster matchups that were announced on Monday and offer a guide to the uninitiated on what to watch for. The annual mid-major hoops feast typically offers a host of compelling contests, and this year is no different. In roughly descending order of interest/excitement:
Main Event — St. Mary’s at Murray State (2/18, 6 PM, ESPN or ESPN2) — I was hoping we would get a double main event with St. Mary’s at Creighton and Wichita State at Murray State. Perhaps the Bracketbuster selection committee didn’t rate Wichita State that highly or was intent on giving the undefeated Racers a ranked opponent against whom they could prove their quality. So they sent top 20, 21-2 St. Mary’s to Murray, Kentucky, to set up the undisputed headliner of this year’s Bracketbuster event. Murray State will have a clear advantage from playing at home, but apart from that, this looks like a very close matchup. Offensively, both teams rely heavily on the two lines — the three-point line and the free throw line. Defensively, both teams are pretty good at not giving up many attempts from either of those lines, with the notable exception of Murray State’s tendency to foul too much. Both teams are also somewhat turnover prone, but only the Racers play the kind of defense that is likely to exploit such a weakness. Finally, the Gaels may look to get easy points off of the offensive glass, as defensive rebounding is a liability for Murray State. Which, if any, of these games within the game will determine the outcome? Only one way to find out: tune in at 6 PM on February 18.
Can St. Mary's End Murray State's Undefeated Season?
Battle of the Supporting Casts — Long Beach State at Creighton (2/18, 10 PM, ESPN2) — Most eyeballs will be trained to watch Casper Ware and Doug McDermott, two of mid-major hoops’ most recognizable players. But I hope that fans will also tune in to get a glimpse of the extent to which these conference-leading teams depends on their supporting casts. LBSU has three other players who average in double figures — Larry Anderson (who also stuffs the stat sheet with 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, while shooting 44% from three-point range), T.J. Robinson (who adds 10.2 rebounds a game), and James Ennis. Creighton, meanwhile, has discovered that they can be just as potent, maybe even moreso, when McDermott scores less than 20 a game. Antoine Young’s dribble penetration, Greg Echinique’s inside banging, and the marksmanship of Grant Gibbs and Jahenns Manigat make the Bluejays a much more multi-dimensional team than they’re often portrayed to be. It’s worth noting, too, that each of these teams will be trying to bolster their at-large bona fides in the event that they don’t win their conference tournaments — an especially distinct possibility for Creighton, who will have to get through three games in the always tough MVC to cinch an auto bid.
Utah State Looks To Maintain Dynasty: Will someone finally break Utah State’s stranglehold on the league? The northern Aggies have won at least a share of the regular season conference title four straight seasons but return only two key players from last year’s championship squad, point guard Brockeith Pane (the only starter) and forward Brady Jardine. Nevada, New Mexico State and Hawai’i all have a legitimate shot at dethroning the Aggies. Will one of them finally step up and do it?
Can Stew Morrill's Aggies Keep Their Grip on the WAC Another Season?
It’s The End of the WAC As We Know It: Boise State has already transitioned to the Mountain West, and Fresno State and Nevada will join the MWC as well next season. On top of that, Hawai’i is headed for the more travel-friendly confines of the Big West. The WAC will welcome Denver, Seattle, UT-San Antonio, UT-Arlington and Texas State in the 2012-13 season, not exactly an equal trade in terms of prestige and history. Can the WAC make some noise nationally before it slinks into relative obscurity next season? It’s up to New Mexico State, Utah State, Nevada and Hawai’i to make it happen.
New Faces: Once again, the WAC welcomes some new coaches to the league. By all accounts, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech landed themselves a pair of good ones when they hired Rodney Terry and Michael White, respectively. Like the past hires at Idaho, New Mexico State, Nevada and Hawai’i, neither of them have any previous head coaching experience, but the hires were praised on a national level. Terry spent the past several seasons as an assistant coach at Texas while White, the son of Duke Athletic Director Kevin White, spent the past seven seasons as an assistant on the Ole Miss coaching staff. White is a youngster at just 34 years of age but finding that new hot coach seems to be the trend these days (Brad Stevens at Butler and Shaka Smart at VCU being the two prominent examples).
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our newest update comes courtesy of our WAC correspondents, Sam Wasson of Bleed Crimsonand Kevin McCarthy of Parsing The WAC.
Revolving Door. The revolving door in the WAC consists of schools, coaches and players. Last summer, it was the defection of four schools to the Mountain West and the addition of three schools (Denver, TexasState and UT-San Antonio). This summer, there are no more defections (thankfully) but there have been additions. SeattleUniversity will join the WAC for basketball starting in the 2012-13 season and the latest development has UT-Arlington joining their old Southland Conference brethren, Texas State and UT-San Antonio, in the WAC for the 2012-13 season. While it’s still one full season away, the signs are pointing to an eventual East/West split of the WAC. A pair of hopefuls in Utah Valley and Cal State-Bakersfield could bring the basketball league to 12 teams, but whether that comes to fruition remains to be seen.
Early Entries. On the personnel front, the WAC once again saw several underclassmen declare for the NBA Draft, but unlike last season, which saw four get drafted, none of the 2011 early entries were selected. New Mexico State scoring leader Troy Gillenwater was one of those who opted to enter early but he withdrew his name from the draft. However, he will not be returning to New Mexico State after hiring an agent and will likely seek out options in either the NBDL or overseas. Greg Smith from FresnoState opted to leave the Bulldogs after just two seasons but the 6’9″, 250-pound center did not hear his name called. One other big name is no longer with his team and that is Louisiana Tech‘s OluAshaolu who has transferred to the University of Oregon. Ashaolu averaged 14.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game last season for the injury and suspension-depleted Bulldogs and was one of the conference’s top talents. Ashaolu will be eligible immediately for the Ducks as he earned his undergraduate degree from LA Tech and because Oregon offers a graduate program not available there.
Coaching Carousel. For coaching changes, it was a busy offseason for a few teams as Fresno State and Louisiana Tech both opted for a fresh start, hiring new head coaches. Both schools drew high praise for their hires. The Fresno State Bulldogs lured Texas assistant RodneyTerry to Fresno while their namesake counterparts in Louisiana, the LA Tech Bulldogs, hired Ole Miss assistant Michael White. At just 34 years old, White is one of the youngest head coaches in the country joining familiar names Josh Pastner (Memphis) and Brad Stevens (Butler) at that age. New Mexico State also saw some major turnover in their staff as the Aggies lost a pair of assistants in MickDurham, who took the head men’s basketball position at Division II Alaska-Fairbanks, and assistant GeraldLewis, who returned to his alma mater, SMU, as the Director of Basketball Operations. The Aggies filled one of the two assistant positions by hiring former Kentucky standout Tony Delk who spent the past two seasons at his alma mater alongside John Calipari and staff in a non-coaching role. Delk figures to have an immediate impact on recruiting, having played in the NBA and also owning a national championship ring while with the Wildcats.
The Dee Glen Smith Spectrum will have to rock even harder than usual in 2011-12 after Utah State lost several contributors from its sterling campaign last season.
Sam Wasson, Co-Founder and Editor of bleedCrimson.net covering New Mexico State athletics and Kevin McCarthy, Founder of Parsing The WAC, are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.
A Look Back
Despite a down year in the WAC, the league still took care of business on Bracketbusters weekend finishing 8-1 with the lone loss by New Mexico State against the Big Sky’s Northern Colorado. The marquee game of the weekend slate saw Utah State rally from a nine-point halftime deficit and dominate the St. Mary’s Gaels in the second half, winning 75-65. The game also provided a “Dunk of the Year” candidate as USU’s Brady Jardine posterized Mitchell Young.
After the Bracketbusters romp, the WAC heads into the final two weeks of conference play with spots two through nine still up for grabs.
Player of the Week: Utah State’s Tai Wesley was named the Player of the Week for Feb. 14–20 after leading Utah State to a pair of wins last week over Montana Western (100-66) and No. 23 Saint Mary’s (75-65) on the road. Against Montana Western, Wesley had 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot in 21 minutes. Against Saint Mary’s, he posted his sixth double-double of the season with 22 points and 11 rebound and added two blocked shots and an assist.
Sitting Out: There are currently three players who have been suspended indefinitely from WAC play by their respective head coaches, Fresno State‘s TimSteed , Louisiana Tech‘s DeAndre Brown and San Jose State‘s Brylle Kamen. In addition, JostonThomas took the weekend off to decide whether Hawai’i was truly the place he wanted to be (he went with “Yes”).
1. Utah State (25-3, 12-1)
Up Next: 02/26 vs. Idaho
The Aggies finally picked up a statement win this season as they endured a 20-2 Gael run in the first half and smoked St. Mary’s in the second half (48-29) snapping SMC’s 19-game home win streak in the process. Whether the win will be enough to ensure an at-large bid remains to be seen, but the UtAgs would rather win their final three regular season conference games and the WAC Tournament than have to sit through Selection Sunday to find out. Idaho comes calling on Saturday and you can be sure the head coach Stew Morrill will have an offense in place to counter the box-and-one defense used against him by his protege, Don Verlin, in the last meeting.
2. New Mexico State (14-13, 8-4)
Up Next: 02/23 at San Jose State (ESPN2), 02/26 at Hawai’i
The Aggies were the lone team to lose on Bracketbusters weekend as Northern Colorado stunned the Aggies 82-80 in Las Cruces and snapped a five-game Bracketbusters win streak. Northern Colorado hit nine first half treys but didn’t hit a single three in the second half, but poor free throw shooting (9-16) in the second half by the Aggies prevented them from a comeback victory. Troy Gillenwater returned from his ankle injury but was hampered by foul trouble and produced only 13 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes of action. The Aggies made the difficult trip to San Jose and Honolulu this week with second place hopes hanging in the balance. New Mexico State holds a one game lead in the standings over Nevada with the Wolf Pack having won the first meeting. A pair of wins is a must with Nevada and Utah State coming to Las Cruces to end the regular season next week. Tonight’s game will be a battle of the league’s two best scorers. Adrian Oliver leads the way averaging 23.9 PPG (22.1 in conference) and Troy Gillenwater at 20.0 PPG (21.8 in conference). The Aggies have made the Honolulu/San Jose swing twice and split both times.
3. Nevada (11-15, 7-5)
Up Next: 02/24 vs. Idaho, 02/26 vs. Boise State
Nevada took care of business against UC-Irvine in the Bracketbusters, winning 74-63 behind 20 points from Dario Hunt. The Wolf Pack host Idaho and Boise State, the two teams directly behind them in the conference standings as they try to put a little distance between themselves and fourth place. The Wolf Pack lost at Idaho (72-67) but defeated Boise State (69-67) in the first meetings. A home sweep by the Pack will set up a potential showdown next week for second place as Nevada travels to LA Tech and New Mexico State to end the regular season.
4. Boise State (15-11, 7-6)
Up Next: 02/24 at Fresno State, 02/26 at Nevada
After a mid-schedule swoon, the Broncos have reeled off three in a row, including a 78-76 overtime win at UC-Santa Barbara. The Broncos head out on the road to take on Fresno state and Nevada as they try to move up into third place in the conference standings. A pair of victories could have them sitting as high as second place after the weekend depending on what happens to New Mexico State and Nevada. There is still much to play for for Leon Rice’s club and a road split is the minimum requirement this week to stay in the top four
5. Idaho (15-11, 7-6)
Up Next: 02/24 at Nevada, 02/26 at Utah State
After thumping Montana State 65-50 on the road, the Vandals have their work cut out for them as they travel to Reno and Logan to take on third place Nevada and first place Utah State. The Vandals are the only team that has beaten both Nevada and Utah State and a road sweep would send shockwaves through the league. We’ll have to wait and see what tricks DonVerlin has up his sleeves this time around when the team travels to Logan to take on his mentor, StewMorrill.
6. Hawai’i (15-10, 5-7)
Up Next: 02/24 vs. Louisiana Tech, 02/26 vs. New Mexico State
A BracketBuster contest on the mainland against UC Davis turned into a second half rout for the Rainbow Warriors, as wing Zane Johnson buried nine treys (in 15 attempts) on his way to 32 points. Plus, this was accomplished minus starting point Hiram Thompson out due to injury and forward Joston Thomas away apparently deciding on his membership with the team. Hawaii shot 61% for the game. Jeremiah Ostrowski filled in for Thompson with nine points, seven assists and a trio of steals. Moving up in the rotation, freshman forward Trevor Wiseman matched eight points with eight boards in 26 minutes of play. Louisiana Tech comes in on February 24 (minus the services of starting PG DeAndre Brown, who has been suspended indefinitely) followed New Mexico State on the 26th. Thomas will be back with the team after having a heart-to-heart with head coach Gib Arnold and deciding that Honolulu was indeed the place he wants to be.
7. Fresno State (13-14, 5-8)
Up Next: 02/24 vs. Boise State
Going outside of conference play, the Bulldogs got healthy feasting on Cal State Bakersfield (73-55) and UC Riverside 68-49), the latter a BracketBuster matchup. Despite just nine foul shots against the Roadrunners in addition to being out-boarded by seven, FSU shot a remarkable 30-60 from the floor while holding Bakersfield to 17-61 accuracy. TimSteed scored 23 points and grabbed seven boards. Versus Riverside, a Steed-less Bulldog squad utilized center Greg Smith‘s 23/14 double-double in lowering the Highlanders. A 46-26 rebound differential plus a 40-22 points-in-the-paint margin paved the way to success. Coach Steve Cleveland announced prior to the Riverside matchup that Steed was on suspension — his return date unknown. Next up is Boise State coming to town on February 24. FSU lost 75-61 up in Boise on February 10.
8. San Jose State (13-12, 3-9)
Up Next: 02/23 vs. New Mexico State (ESPN2), 02/26 vs. Louisiana Tech
It was “Pick on the Big Sky Conference Week” for SJSU, as the Spartans got past Montana State 77-73 and then waxed Weber State 62-46. The former was a tale of two halves as the Spartans led 46-25 at the half but were outscored by 17 points in the second 20 minutes. Adrian Oliver totaled 35 points for San Jose State. The Weber matchup was a fizzle for the Wildcats as they entered the game shooting 51% from the floor on three-pointers as part of a six-game winning streak but were held to 23% from long distance. Spartan forward Wil Carter posted a 16/14 double-double and freshman guard Keith Shamburger led the way with 21 points. New Mexico State is in February 23 with Louisiana Tech arriving on the 26th. The latter may prove critical as SJSU is currently one game ahead of LT in the WAC standings and it appears one or the other will miss the conference tournament since the last place finisher doesn’t receive an invite. San Jose State defeated the Bulldogs 79-74 in Ruston on January 13.
9. Louisiana Tech (12-16, 2-10)
Up Next: 02/24 at Hawai’i, 02/26 at San Jose State
It’s the last chance to dance for the Bulldogs as their conference tournament hopes hinge greatly on their performance this week against Hawai’i and SJSU. With Nevada and Utah State visiting next week, two wins this week are a must. It won’t be an easy task as leading scorer DeAndre Brown (15.8 PPG in conference) has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Kerry Rupp. The Bulldogs lost at home to both Hawai’i and San Jose State earlier this season.
A Look Ahead
The conference tournament looms for the WAC teams and the seeding is still up in the air for spots two through eight. The team with the most to lose this week is New Mexico State, who currently occupies the second place spot, and has a tough road trip at San Jose State and at Hawai’i. Two wins and they’ll head back to Las Cruces feeling very good about themselves. Two losses and they could drop from second to fifth and go from looking at a double bye into the semis to facing the prospect of having to win four games in four days to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Nevada, Boise State and Idaho are also all fighting for byes as all three could conceivably finish as high as second.
Sam Wasson, Co-Founder and Editor of bleedCrimson.net covering New Mexico State athletics, and Kevin McCarthy, Founder of Parsing The WAC, are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.
A Look Back
Utah State all but locked up the regular season title this past week as they swept their road trip to San Jose and Honolulu, then downed Nevada at home. The trip wasn’t easy, as they were once again pushed to the brink by the Warriors, but they pulled out an 89-84 double-overtime victory and with two losses by Idaho and BoiseState, the UtAgs have a healthy three-game lead over the rest of the field with New MexicoState three games behind in the loss column with just seven conference games remaining. New Mexico State made the biggest jump of the week as they effectively went from fifth place (after tiebreakers) to solo second place with a home sweep of Boise State (96-87 OT) and Idaho (73-65). The southern Aggies should send their eastern neighbors, Louisiana Tech, a “Thank You” card as the Bulldogs pulled out of a seven-game nosedive to stun Idaho (71-56) and Boise State (70-60). Nevada sits a half-game behind NM State after avenging a conference loss to Fresno State. Just past the midway point of conference play, the top of the standings look strangely familiar as Utah State, New Mexico State and Nevada inhabit the top three spots, just as they have during the past five seasons.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: With 14 of the Top 25 teams losing last week, Utah State did itself a favor by winning both road games. Even though it wasn’t easy, the UtAgs climbed #21 in the Coaches Poll and #22 in the AP Poll.
Bracketbusters: Utah State and St. Mary’s will battle in the lone ESPNU Bracketbusters televised game involving a WAC team. Their battle will take place at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday of Bracketbusters Weekend on ESPN2. The UtAgs are the lone ranked team in the Bracketbusters field, with St. Mary’s being one of the 14 Top 25 teams that were victimized.
The remaining eight WAC teams will play on Saturday, February 19, in non-televised Bracketbusters matchups.
Boise State at UC Santa Barbara
Hawai‘i at UC Davis
Idaho at Montana State
UC Riverside at Fresno State
Georgia State at Louisiana Tech
UC Irvine at Nevada
Northern Colorado at New Mexico State
Weber State at San Jose State
Player of the Week: Utah State’s Brian Green was named the Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 25 points and tied his career high with six rebounds, finishing 8-9 from the field, 5-5 from three-point range and 4-4 at the free throw line against San Jose State. Green also tied a school record for shooting percentage from three in the game, which is remarkable, considering Utah State produced prolific three-point shooter Jaycee Carroll. Against Hawai‘i, Green posted 22 points, three rebounds and three assists. Green hit a pair of game-tying shots as he tied it at 66 to send the game to overtime on a long two-pointer, and then hit a 30-footer late in the first overtime to tie the game at 73, sending the teams into the second extra period. Green then sank four straight free throws in the final six seconds of the second overtime to seal the UtAgs’ victory. In the two games Green averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He shot 68.2 percent (15-22) from the field, 68.2 percent (8-13) from beyond the arc and 90 percent (9-10) from the free throw line.
1. Utah State (21-2, 10-0)
Up Next: 02/05 vs. Boise State
We mentioned last week that the trip to the islands could spell an upset for the UtAgs and it nearly did. Utah State escaped the island of O’ahu thanks to the heroics of Player of the Week Brian Green. The Broncos handled Nevada with ease at the Spectrum on Wednesday night in an ESPN2 showdown, and Boise State comes knocking on Saturday. The Aggies have now won 16 consecutive games, which is the third-longest active win streak in the country behind only Ohio State (22) and Coastal Carolina (18). For those college basketball fans who didn’t stay up for Wednesday’s game or are otherwise unfamiliar with the atmosphere at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, it is one of the toughest in college basketball and the student section is second to none, as can be seen in the videos below.
2. New Mexico State (12-11, 6-3)
Up Next: 02/03 at Fresno State, 02/07 vs. Louisiana Tech
The roller coaster ride continues for the Aggies, who jumped from fifth place to second with a pair of home victories last week against Boise State (in overtime) and Idaho. New Mexico State rallied from deficits in both games. Against Boise State the Aggies shot 47 free throws and did not miss a shot in overtime, going 5-5 from the floor and 13-13 from the free throw line while scoring an astounding 23 points in the five extra minutes. Against Idaho, hometown senior Gordo Castillo notched a game-high 19 points and hit three crucial three pointers down the stretch in the second half. The Aggies hit the road to take on struggling Fresno State and then return home to face a suddenly rejuvenated Louisiana Tech squad.
3. Nevada (8-14, 5-4)
Up Next: 02/05 vs. San Jose State
Nevada once again had some difficulty with Fresno State but unlike the first meeting, the young Wolf Pack were able to close out the game. Dario Hunt put on a clinic, finishing 9-11 from the field with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman point guard Deonte Burton continues to light up the scoreboard, with a 17-point outings. The Pack couldn’t avenge an earlier defeat in Reno, falling 67-45 on national television. The Wolf Pack led the first meeting by ten points with 14 minutes left to play, but could not seal the deal. Nevada now has a few days to lick its wounds before hosting San Jose State on Saturday.
4. Boise State (12-9, 5-4)
Up Next: 01/27 at New Mexico State, 01/29 at Louisiana Tech
Boise State lost another barnburner against New Mexico State falling 96-87 in overtime. A 3-20 performance from three-point distance spelled doom for the Broncos. Perhaps suffering a bit of a hangover from the loss in the desert, Boise State dropped their second straight conference game, falling to Louisiana Tech 70-60. The Broncos shot just 3-17 from three in that game and for the road trip shot just 6-37 (16.2 percent). Boise State hosts Hawai’i and then travels to Logan to take on league-leader Utah State.
5. Idaho (12-9, 5-4)
Up Next: 02/03 vs. San Jose State, 02/05 vs. Hawai’i
After a disastrous road trip that saw them give up the first league victory to Louisiana Tech and lose to New Mexico State (losing the season series in the process), the Vandals return home where they’ll try to regroup against San Jose State and Hawai’i. A home sweep could put them into the coveted top four as in-state rival Boise State must take on Utah State this week.
6. Hawai’i (12-9, 3-6)
Up Next: 02/03 at Boise State, 02/05 at Idaho
A pair of homecourt victories against Fresno State and San Jose State led to a packed house and major enthusiasm versus visiting league power Utah State. The Rainbow Warriors played tough, losing 89-84 in two overtimes. Bill Amis has been a double-double machine, posting 15 and 12 against USU. Guard/wing Zane Johnson has been in-and-out offensively but nailed six treys in seven attempts versus the Aggies. Next comes a road trip to the land of Famous Potatoes and matchups against Boise State and Idaho. Can UH maintain the momentum on foreign courts where they sport just a 1-3 record in conference play?
7. Louisiana Tech (11-12, 2-7)
Up Next: 02/05 at Fresno State (ESPNU), 02/07 at New Mexico State
A brief reprieve from the WAC power rankings basement for the league’s eastern Bulldogs as they stunned both Idaho schools last week winning by 15 over Idaho and by 10 over Boise State. Olu Ashaolu had a monstrous game against the Vandals with 24 points and 18 rebounds in 37 minutes. He also had three assists, two steals and a block. Ashaolu followed that up with a 15-point, ten-rebound performance against the Broncos. Kenyon McNeaill scored 21 points against Idaho and followed it up with 10 against Boise State. The Bulldogs will look to continue their newfound momentum as they head back out on the road for the Battle of the Bone Part II against Fresno State and then to Las Cruces to take on second place New Mexico State.
8. San Jose State (10-10, 2-7)
Up Next: 02/03 at Idaho, 02/05 at Nevada
A 67-61 loss in Hawaii was followed by an 84-65 L against visiting Utah State. However, the Spartans turned it around versus Fresno State, powered by Adrian Oliver‘s 28 points, 11 boards and eight assists. The Spartans buried 10-of-18 three-point attempts versus the Bulldogs. Justin Graham missed the Utah State game with ankle difficulties but returned in the win over Fresno State. Former starting center Brylle Kamen is still suspended indefinitely. Roadin’ it to Idaho followed by Nevada are the next contests.
8. Fresno State (8-12, 3-6)
Up Next: 01/20 at Hawai’i, 01/24 vs. Seattle
Coming off four consecutive WAC losses (and a trio of league victories prior to that), the Bulldogs hosted Seattle and downed the Redhawks 86-56. Then, it was back to WAC action. A trip to Nevada produced a 79-76 loss and tripping to San Jose State became a 78-60 L. Rx: Greg Smith needs a pair of other point producers, preferably from middle distance and longer, in order to produce the space in which he can maneuver inside. But that hasn’t been occurring. Smith placed third in the number of shot taken on his team versus the Spartans. Junior wing Tim Steed has enjoyed some high-scoring games but dipped a bit in the last two. Freshman backcourter Kevin Olekaibe poured in 29 points against SJSU but is up-and-down. Steven Shepp possesses a 32/10 assist-to-turnover ration and is excellent on the break, but his shooting percentages are mired around 25%. Coach Cleveland needs to land another solid big … and keep Smith from turning pro. Hosting New Mexico State and then Louisiana Tech come up next.
A Look Ahead
Boise State invades Logan this weekend to try to slow Utah State’s momentum, but after the big win over Nevada, it’s tough to picture any WAC team coming to Logan and escaping with a win. The race for the 2-4 spots in the conference is heating up with four teams fighting for three spots and all are within a game of each other in the loss column. The same can be said for the bottom half of the league as four teams battle for three spots and all four are within a game of each other.
Sam Wasson, Co-Founder and Editor of bleedCrimson.net covering New Mexico State athletics, and Kevin McCarthy, Founder of Parsing The WAC, are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.
A Look Back
The WAC finished up non-conference play and no team did better than the Hawai’i in closing out its non-conference season. Playing shorthanded, the Warriors hung tough with the ACC’s Florida State and then picked up wins over Utah (just its tenth in 57 tries) and a short-handed Mississippi State team from the SEC (playing without Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey). New Mexico State lost by 20 to St. Mary’s and Nevada lost by 30 at Washington and by four at Portland while Boise State also lost by nine at Portland.
Player of the Week: San Jose State’s Adrian Oliver was named the Player of the Week for the week of Dec. 20-26. Oliver scored a career-high 42 points in just 25 minutes of play in a 95-62 win over Puget Sound. The 42 points broke the 30-year old San Jose State single-game scoring record of 40 points. Oliver also broke the SJSU single-game mark for the most points in a half with 30, besting his own mark of 25 which he set last season. He also set a San Jose State record for most consecutive three-point baskets made in a game with seven and tied the school record for most threes made in a single game. Oliver out-scored Puget Sound by himself in the first half of the contest, 30-29. In the game, Oliver tallied 42 points on 12-of-15 (80 percent) shooting from the field. He hit 7-of-9 (77.8 percent) shots from three-point range and was 11-of-13 (84.6 percent) from the free throw line. He also recorded three rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal.
Top 10 Scorers Heading Into Conference Play:
Adrian Oliver (SJSU) – 25.8 PPG
Robert Arnold (BSU) – 16.2 PPG
DeAndre Brown (LTU) – 16.1 PPG
Justin Graham (SJSU) – 16.1 PPG
Olu Ashaolu (LTU) – 15.4 PPG
Zane Johnson (UH) – 14.4 PPG
Tai Wesley (USU) – 13.8 PPG
La’Shard Anderson (BSU) – 13.5 PPG
Malik Story (NEV) – 13.3 PPG
Dario Hunt (NEV) – 13.1 PPG
Top 10 Rebounders Heading Into Conference Play:
Dario Hunt (NEV) – 10.2 RPG
Olu Ashaolu (LTU) – 9.1
Brady Jardine (USU) – 8.6
Tai Wesley (USU) – 8.3
Wil Carter (SJSU) – 7.9
Joaquim Vander (UH) – 7.1
Shawn Henderson (UI) – 6.4
Matt Ballard (SJSU) – 6.2
Brandon Wiley (UI) – 6.0
Greg Smith (FSU) – 6.0
1. Utah State (11-2)
Up Next: 12/29 vs. Hawai’i, 12/31 vs. San Jose State
Utah State heads into conference play as the only WAC team in the RPI Top 100 (56th) but has dropped over 20 spots in the last two weeks despite not losing any games. Utah State sports the league’s best record at 11-2, however, they haven’t exactly played a murderer’s row schedule-wise. Believe it or not, their best win (based on RPI) is a win over 4-8 Long Beach State and four of their last five victories have come against teams with RPIs higher than 230 including last week’s pastings of Western Michigan and Troy. The UtAgs open up conference play at home versus a resurgent Hawai’i squad on Wednesday night and then host San Jose State, also a team playing well, on Friday night. Tai Wesley is one of just three WAC players currently in the Top 10 in both scoring and rebounding in the league.
2. Hawai’i (7-2)
Up Next: 12/29 at Utah State, 12/31 at Nevada
Home cooking has aided the sparkling record (8-1 in games in the islands) but regardless, nobody expected such a record, especially early on with a mostly brand new team. The Warriors head into conference play as one of the hotter teams in the league with solid wins over Utah and Mississippi State in the very competitive Diamond Head Classic (won by Butler). Forward Bill Amis remains sidelined but seemingly should be back soon and guard Hiram Thompson is also hurting but still playing major minutes and performing effectively. Counting Amis, Gib Arnold‘s squad has five players scoring in double figures and boasting a 45% overall shooting percentage, plus 40% on three-pointers — this is not last year’s UH roster. Hawaii is also holding opponents to 37% shooting. But 213 turnovers in 12 games needs roundball liposuction. UH opens up at Utah State and at Nevada so we’ll know very quickly how much momentum they generated from their 5th place showing at the Diamond Head Classic.
3. Louisiana Tech (9-5)
Up Next: 12/29 at Boise State, 12/31 at Idaho
Louisiana Tech, 8-5 against Division I teams, their best win is against 6-5 Houston (RPI 216). They’ve played one game against a team with an RPI in the Top 100 and that was against Texas (10-2, RPI 26) to start the season. The Bulldogs have two players in the Top 10 in the league in scoring, DeAndre Brown (3rd) and Olu Ashaolu (5th) and two of the Top 12 rebounders in the league, Olu Ashaolu (2nd) and Brandon Gibson (12th). The Bulldogs are 3rd in the league in scoring averaging 71.3 points per game and they are third in the league in field goal percentage defense with opponents hitting 41.4 percent of their shots. The Bulldogs open up conference play at Boise State and at Idaho.
4. San Jose State (8-3)
Up Next: 12/29 at Fresno State, 12/31 at Utah State
The split for the Spartans is 4-1 at home and 4-2 roadin’ it, the best away record in the league so far. SJSU leads the conference in scoring offense (yes, pick yourself up off the floor) at 75.9 points per game and star backcourter Adrian Oliver is coming off a 42 point performance. It a backcourt-led team with Justin Graham averaging 16.1 points a game on 51% overall shooting and 58% with his 33 trey attempts. But frontcourters Wil Carter and Matt Ballard must do better than 37% and 24% shooting respectively or such deficiencies may prove harmful especially when matched up against the bigs of Utah State and New Mexico State. SJSU meets Fresno State in Fresno on Wednesday and then heads to Logan for a New Year’s Eve matchup with Utah State on Friday.
5. Boise State (7-5)
Up Next: 12/29 vs. Louisiana Tech, 12/31 vs. New Mexico State
The Broncos dropped their final non-conference game of the season at Portland but head into conference play with a chance to make an early statement with home games versus Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. The Broncos are one of the four surprise teams in the league thus far. While their record is just 6-5 and they’ve lost five of their last six games, first year head coach Leon Rice has them playing competitive ball. They lost by just three against UNLV (11-2, RPI 13) in Vegas and by nine at Portland (10-3, RPI 36). The Broncos are the league’s second best scoring team (74.9 PPG) and the third best scoring defense team (64.0 PPG).
6. Idaho (6-5)
Up Next: 12/29 vs. New Mexico State, 12/31 vs. Louisiana Tech
Idaho looks to get off to a good start in conference play against the outpost schools, New Mexico State and LA Tech. Idaho head into league play as the lowest scoring team in the league averaging just 64.4 points per game but are second in the league in assists per game (13.4) and are the second best three point shooting team in the league (38.5 percent). The Vandals are allowing just 66.0 points per game. Not surprisingly the Vandals do not have a player in the Top 15 in scoring, however, they have three of the top 15 rebounders in the league in Shawn Henderson (7th), Brandon Wiley (9th) and Luiz Toldeo (15th).
7. New Mexico State (6-8)
Up Next: 12/29 at Idaho, 12/31 at Boise State
The Aggies’ struggles have come because of a spate of injuries that at one point had wiped out four of their five projected starters, Troy Gillenwater, Hamidu Rahman, Gordo Castillo and Wendell McKines. Castillo is back on the court but McKines has not played all season due to the broken foot, Gillenwater has not played since the first half of the New Mexico game in Albuquerque on December 11th and Rahman has not played since the December 13th game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Aggies have played eight games against teams in the Top 125 RPI but have lost all eight. The four wins have come against Louisiana twice (1-8, RPI 309), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-11, RPI 279) and Pacific (5-5, RPI 126). Head Coach Marvin Menzies believes that two of the remaining three players who are out with injury could see action in the next couple of games. Under Menzies, the Aggies have tied for the regular season title (’07/’08), reached the conference tournament semifinals (’08/’09) and won the conference tournament (’09/’10) in his first three seasons and has led the Aggies to a 32-16 record in conference play. The Aggies have just one player in the Top 15 in scoring, Christian Kabongo (11.5 PPG, 13th) and just one Top 15 rebounder, Tyrone Watson (5.6 RPG, 11th). The Aggies open up on the road making the Idaho swing first in Moscow then to Boise.
8. Fresno State (4-6)
Up Next: 12/29 vs. San Jose State, 01/03 vs. Nevada
The Bulldogs are actually in the positive at home with a 3-2 record but the road hasn’t been so hospitable at 1-4. Taking heed of the admonition that a child shall lead them, frosh backcourter Kevin Olekaibe tops the squad in scoring at 10.7 a contest. The Greg Smith Funk remains ongoing as he is mired at 9.7 points per game along with 6.3 boards each time out. Point guard Steven Shepp just returned from academic exile and should help with the assist-to-turnover ratio. Believe it or not, Steve Cleveland‘s team lacks a familiar name in the top 15 point producers in the WAC, indicating just how much Paul George and to a lesser extent Sylvester Seay are missed offensively. League play commences with San Jose State coming to town on Wednesday, followed by Nevada on Monday.
9. Nevada (3-10)
Up Next: 12/31 vs. Hawai’i, 01/03 at Fresno State
Nevada’s struggles have come because they lost 83 percent of their scoring through the NBA Draft and graduation. They have really struggled to find consistency and their two Division I wins have come against Montana (6-4, RPI 140) and Portland State (6-5, RPI 247). Nevada opens up conference play versus resurgent Hawai’i and then heads to Fresno to take on Fresno State.
A Look Ahead
The league did not look good in non-conference play so the WAC will revert back to a one-bid league. It’s the swan song for Boise State as it completes its farewell tour in the WAC before jumping to the Mountain West next season. Everyone is 0-0 starting tonight and with the change in format to the conference tournament, finishing in the top four in the league assures playing no more than three games in three days (just two games if you’re the first or second place finisher) whereas a bottom four finish means a trip to the Big Dance will require winning a four-game in four days gauntlet.
Sam Wasson, Co-Founder and Editor of bleedCrimson.net covering New Mexico State athletics, and Kevin McCarthy, Founder of Parsing The WAC, are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.
A Look Back
Heading into the final week and a half of non-conference play the WAC has an RPI ranking of 19 out of 32 teams, and worse yet, has the weakest strength of schedule among the 31 conferences and independents, according to RealTimeRPI. The league has no victories over Top-100 RPI opponents and just four victories over opponents with RPIs in the Top 150. Utah State is the only league member in the RPI Top 100 (#29) and just one of two schools along with Louisiana Tech (#130) in the Top 150. To further illustrate the tough times the league is encountering this season, the longest current winning streak in the league is two, by Fresno State and Utah State. Nevada and New Mexico State recently ended seven-game losing streaks by defeating San Francisco State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, respectively.
Player of the Week: Tai Wesley, Utah State – Wesley takes the honors after leading Utah State to a pair of home wins last week against Long Beach State (81-53) and Cal State Bakersfield (77-58). Against the 49ers, Wesley posted his first double-double of the season with 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds to go along with a season-high six assists. Against the Roadrunners, he recorded another double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, to go along with three assists. For the two games, Wesley averaged 16.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.0 steals. He also shot 63.2 percent (12-19) from the field and 61.5 percent (8-13) from the free throw line.
1. Utah State (7-2)
Up Next: 12/18 at Utah Valley, 12/21 vs. Idaho State, 12/22 vs. Western Michigan, 12/23 vs. Troy
The UtAgs rolled past visiting Cal State-Bakersfield 77-58 getting a double-double from Tai Wesley. The Aggies led 37-16 at halftime while holding UCSB to just 23.1 percent shooting (6-26). The Aggies did, however, allow Bakersfield to shoot 51.4 percent in the second half (18-of-35). Utah State got a game-high 18 points from Tyler Newbold in the victory. Up next for Utah State is another in-state rival in Utah Valley on Saturday and the following week the Aggies host the Basketball Travelers Invitational.
2. Hawai’i (6-2)
Up Next: 12/17 vs. Chicago State, 12/22 vs. Florida State, 12/23-12/24 vs. TBA
Hawai’i bounced back from a pounding at BYU with a pounding of Division-II Hawai’i-Pacific, winning 72-50. Hawai’i got 18 points and nine rebounds from former Arizona Wildcat Zane Johnson in the victory. The Warriors made more news off the court than on the court this past week, losing a pair of players to transfers. Guards Anthony Salter (6.2 minutes per game in five appearances) and Jordan Coleman (0 points and just eight minutes played in two games), bolted, while UH football player Miah Ostrowski joined the roster. Topping off the eventful week, Hawai’I announced that they’re joining the Big West Conference in 2012-2013 for all sports other than football, which will be joining the Mountain West. The Warriors also got good news when it was announced that senior center Bill Amis could return to action against Chicago State. Amis has been out with an injury since just prior to Thanksgiving and he had been their leading scorer, averaging 15.8 points in addition to being their leading rebounder at 6.8 rebounds per game. The return of Amis is also just in time for the Warriors’ toughest stretch of non-conference games as they host the Diamond Head Classic during Christmas week. The hosts will play Florida State first and then a pair of opponents, which are TBA pending the outcome of the games. And they said finals week is slow.
3. Louisiana Tech (8-4)
Up Next: 12/18 vs. UT-Arlington, 12/21 at Iowa
The Bulldogs dropped a tough one at McNeese State, falling 80-70 as McNeese hit 62.5 percent of their shots (10-16), 83.3 percent of their three pointers (5-6) and 76.9 percent of their free throws (20-26) in the second half. Lonnie Smith led the Bulldogs with 19 points. Louisiana Tech bounced back with an 80-57 drubbing of Houston Baptist and got 21 points and 13 rebounds from Olu Ashaolu. They held the Huskies to just 31.6 percent shooting in the game and just 26.7 (8-30) in the second half, a far cry from the lights-out shooting the Bulldogs allowed in the second half against McNeese State. The Bulldogs host UT-Arlington and then travel to Iowa City to take on the Big Ten’s Hawkeyes, a chance for the WAC to pick up a rare win against a Power Six school.
4. San Jose State (6-3)
Up Next: 12/18 at Seattle, 12/22 vs. University of Puget Sound
The Spartans split a pair, losing 67-63 to cross-town rival Santa Clara. The Spartans held a two-point lead with 2:40 left and were tied with 42 seconds but could not come away with the victory. Adrian Oliver led the Spartans with 25 points in the losing effort. SJSU bounced back with a one-point victory over Eastern Washington in the teams’ second meeting of the season. Oliver poured in 29 points and Justin Graham buried a jumper with seven seconds let for the one-point win. The Spartans head north to take on Seattle, who has already defeated a team from the WAC this season (Idaho). The Spartans then return home to take on the University of Puget Sound.
5. Boise State (6-3)
Up Next: 12/17 at Utah, 12/19 vs. Texas-Pan American, 12/22 at Portland
Three is an unlucky number for Boise State. Their football team saw its BCS hopes dashed by a pair of missed field goals, and now the basketball team has lost three in a row, each by three points. The Broncos fell behind 15-0 against UNLV and trailed by 20 in the second half before rallying late from an 11-point deficit with under two minutes to play. The Broncos got to within two points with 23 seconds left before running out of time. Prior to UNLV’s loss to Louisville this past Saturday, the Broncos’ three-point margin was the closest game the Rebels had played all season. Boise State then traveled to Des Moines, Iowa to take on Drake where they once again lost by three points. Paul Noonan led the Broncos with 20 points but 72.7 percent shooting in the second half (16-22) by Drake was too much to overcome. The Broncos travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes before returning home to host Texas-Pan American. A game at wraps up the non-con schedule.
6. Idaho (5-4)
Up Next: 12/18 vs. Montana, 12/21 at Oregon.
The Vandals had their four-game win streak snapped at the hands of Seattle this week. Idaho trailed by eight at halftime, but took a 51-50 lead with 7:40 left to play but would score just five points the rest of the way. Shawn Henderson scored 17 points in the loss. The Vandals wrap up conference play as they host Montana, where they’ll try to extract revenge for an ugly 75-33 loss to the Grizzlies in Missoula. They’ll then travel to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks.
7. Fresno State (3-5)
Up Next: 12/18 vs. North Dakota State, 12/21 vs. Pacific
The Bulldogs have won two in a row thanks to a return to the west coast. Fresno State defeated Pepperdine 64-51 behind 17 points from Tim Steed. The Bulldogs trailed by one point with 13:10 left to play, but took the lead with 12:47 left to play and never looked back. The Bulldogs have just one player, Greg Smith, averaging double-digits in points. Smith is averaging 10.5 points per game while Garrett Johnson at 9.9 PPG and Kevin Olekaibe at 9.3 PPG are closing in on double-digit averages. The Bulldogs host North Dakota State and Pacific to wrap up non-conference play.
8. New Mexico State (3-7)
Up Next: 12/16 vs. Oklahoma Panhandle State, 12/18 vs. Pacific, 12/21 vs. Louisiana, 12/23 vs. St. Mary’s
The good news for New Mexico State is that they are no longer on a losing streak. The bad news for New Mexico State is that players are dropping like flies. The biggest loss is that of leading scorer Troy Gillenwater (18.4 PPG) who suffered an ankle injury in a loss at in-state rival New Mexico. Gillenwater played just eight minutes in the first half of the Aggies’ loss. Also suffering an ankle injury in that game was senior guard Gordo Castillo (7.7 PPG). The Aggies’ junior center Hamidu Rahman (9.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG) returned to action from a calf injury that caused him to miss the three previous games. He scored 14 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the loss. The Aggies snapped their seven-game losing streak against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, winning easily, 83-49. However, Rahman re-injured his calf in the first half and did not return. The Aggies will be without the trio of Rahman, Gillenwater and Castillo for at least this week’s games and possibly longer. Also in limbo is the return of forward Wendell McKines, who has been out all season after suffering an ankle injury of his own prior to the start of the season. The Aggies have four non-conference games remaining, with the two toughest games figuring to be against Pacific and St. Mary’s.
9. Nevada (2-7)
Up Next: 12/17 vs. Arizona State, 12/22 at Washington, 12/27 at Portland
The Wolf Pack likewise ended a seven-game skid with a 78-64 win over San Francisco State. Dario Hunt scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked five shots in the win. The victory did not come easy for the Wolf Pack, as SFSU trailed by just one at halftime. However, a quick spurt out of the gates in the second half put San Francisco State into a double-digit hole from which they would not climb. The Wolf Pack also have a tough non-conference finish, playing a pair of Pac-10 teams and Portland. The Wolf Pack will welcome the addition of Duke transfer Olek Czyz who becomes eligible now that the first semester has completed.
A Look Ahead
All nine teams wrap up non-conference play over the next week and a half and the WAC has a chance to notch some much-needed quality wins and up the aforementioned poor conference RPI. There will be opportunities as opponents include Iowa (9-1, RPI 4), Arizona State (6-2, RPI 28), Washington (4-3, RPI 165), Oregon (5-2, RPI 101), St. Mary’s (5-6, RPI 115), and Florida State (8-1, RPI 34). Conference play is right around the corner and no team has really established themselves as the dominant team to watch for once conference play begins.
***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.
Tonight is one of the lightest nights of the season as teams recover from many recent games and finals are approaching on campus. Not to mention it’s a Monday. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
The Wolf Pack have lost six straight games as turnovers and poor offense have limited them. Nevada averages 16 turnovers a game and shoots just 42% from the floor as a team. Malik Story has been a bright spot however, hitting over 50% of his threes while averaging 11 PPG (6 PPG last year). Dario Hunt has been Nevada’s best player at 13/8 a game. For Houston, 6’9 forward Maurice McNeil (11/9) started hot but has seen his minutes and production fall over the last four games. Getting McNeil going should be a goal against a weak Nevada team. Look for Adam Brown to continue his hot shooting from the arc (55% this year). He’s hit 13 of his last 21 shots (62%) and leads the team in scoring at 14 PPG. The Cougars struggle with turnovers too (18 per game) but are the better team on both ends of the floor. Houston shoots 46% overall and 38% from three, plus they get to the line effectively. The homestanding Cougars should win this game but a hot shooting night from Nevada could snap their losing streak.
Portland @ Washington – 10 pm on FSN Northwest/FCS Pacific (**)
The high-octane Huskies have put up 100+ points in their last two games, both blowout wins at home. On the season, Washington averages 96 PPG, shoots 51% and 46% from three, #2 in the nation. Portland will look to slow the game down with their tempo (ranked #295) and the rebounding of Luke Sikma (12/12, 49% FG). Sikma will have his hands full with Washington’s big frontline that includes Matthew Byran-Amaning and seven-footer Aziz N’Diaye coming off the bench. Washington’s vulnerability is defensive rebounding and foul trouble. With Sikma, the Pilots have somebody who can compete with the Huskies on the glass and can get offensive rebounds for second chance shots. Sikma grabs about four offensive boards a game but he’ll need to have more than that in order for Portland to compete tonight. Ball control will also be a big key for Portland. Washington has a great turnover margin (+7) through forcing 20 turnovers a game and the Pilots just cannot afford to turn the ball over and create more transition opportunities for the Huskies. At the same time, Portland must be aggressive as Washington fouls a lot and doesn’t get to the line often enough themselves. An advantage at the stripe could keep Portland in the game, plus Washington ranks just #308 in free throw shooting. Both teams shoot the three ball extremely well, each ranked in the top five. C.J. Wilcox and Abdul Gaddy have been terrific from the arc, both at 59%. For Portland, Jared Stohl must at least match them for the Pilots to have a chance. He’s capable, averaging 15 PPG and 53% shooting the three. Washington is a heavy favorite in this game and it’s hard to see Portland competing. Eric Reveno’s team has won three straight but they face a Huskies team that has blown the doors off every inferior team they’ve faced so far. Washington has two losses but those were to Kentucky and Michigan State, two high quality clubs. The Huskies have won five games by an average of 36 points with no margin under 26, even against two teams ranked in Pomeroy’s top 100. Washington should win this one comfortably as Portland needs career games from more than one player in order to stay close.
Sam Wasson, Co-Founder and Editor of bleedCrimson.net covering New Mexico State athletics, and Kevin McCarthy, Founder of Parsing The WAC, are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.
A Look Back
Fast Starts: Louisiana Tech, Hawaii and SanJoseState all got off to hot starts as Hawaii posted a 4-0 record to open the season and is off to their best start in six seasons winning the 2010 Rainbow Classic. San Jose State picked up wins on Eastern Washington and Oregon and is off to a 3-0 start to the season. Louisiana Tech won the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Irvine Subregional and is 5-1 on the season.
New Coaches, New Results: Both Hawaii and Boise Statehired new coaches and both are seeing immediate dividends as the two teams are a combined 7-0 to start the season. Leon Rice has the Broncos rolling with a 3-0 start, including road wins at UC Davis and San Diego. Gib Arnold and his Warriors are undefeated start the season including a solid 65-62 win over Central Washington, which was televised on ESPN as part of the network’s 24-hour tipoff marathon.
Player of the Week
Louisiana Tech’s DeAndre Brown earns the Western Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week for the week of November 15-21 as he led the Bulldogs in four wins last week, scoring double-digits in all four games. He scored ten points in a 60-54 win over Houston, 18 in an 85-72 win over Seattle, 15 points with a career-high five three-pointers in an 80-65 win against Navy and a career-high 26 points in a 76-72 win over UC Irvine. He was also was named MVP of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer Irvine subregional. Over the four games, Brown averaged a team-high 17.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.5 APG and 1.5 SPG per game. He also shot 42.6 percent (26-of-61) from the field, including nine makes from three-point range.
1. San Jose State (4-0)
Up Next: 11/24 at CS-Bakersfield, 11/28 vs. UC-Riverside, 11/30 at UT-San Antonio
Taking down Eastern Washington 67-60 on the road and San Francisco at home, 74-64, produced positive feelings for Spartan fans. Oregon was next on the schedule and, although the Ducks are down (this is no attempt to equate the Oregon basketball team members to comforter filling), any game on venerable McArthur Court is an experience for opponents due to both the rabidity (yes, Ducks with rabies is our next national nightmare) and the closeness of the vociferous UO fans. A three-point play (the traditional kind) by Justin Graham with 2.8 seconds to play allowed San Jose State to depart Eugene with a 75-72 victory. Like Hawaii, the Spartans remain undefeated. Adrian Oliver opened the season with 34 points, then tallied 25 versus San Francisco and put 19 on the scoreboard against Oregon.
2. Louisiana Tech (5-1)
Up Next: 11/26 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock, 12/01 at Southern Methodist
After losing 89-58 to Texas to start the season, the Bulldogs have rattled off five straight victories including wins over Houston (60-54), Seattle (85-72) and UC-Irvine (76-72). Forward Olu Ashaolu has picked up where he left off last season and leads the team in rebounding averaging just over 10 rebounds per game. Point guard DeAndre Brown has picked up his scoring pace and is averaging 16 points per game after averaging 10.6 PPG last season. Thus far the Bulldogs have answered the question of how they would respond to losing their top three scorers and top three rebounders.
3. Hawaii (3-0)
Up Next: 11/24 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 12/01 at Cal Poly
UH basketball fans are giddy over Gib. Here’s a prime example: on one of the message boards, someone has posted a query asking how UH can keep coach Gib Arnold from moving on up elsewhere? This after just four games have been played! In the Rainbow Classic, Montana State fell first (77-59), then Fullerton (84-70) and finally Central Michigan succumbed to the ‘Bows (65-62). The latest to fall short? Central Arkansas 83-69, thus making Hawaii undefeated so far. The squad is a band of newcomers anchored by experienced seniors Hiram Thompson (14.0 PPG/22 assists) and Bill Amis (15.8 PPG/6.8 RPG). So, who among the newbies has contributed? Freshman Bo Barnes, once thought of as a redshirt candidate, for one. he’s shooting 54% on 26 three-point attempts, Josten Thomas, a 6’7 junior college transfer sophomore, is currently checking in at 12.5 PPG and 6.3 RPG.
4. Boise State (3-0)
Up Next: 11/24 vs. Eastern Washington, 11/27 vs. Denver, 11/29 at Northern Illinois
Like their football brethren, the Boise State Broncos have yet to lose a game. While they’re only three games into the season, former top Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice has injected new life into the men’s basketball program. The Broncos opened up with an easy win over Western State (78-52) and then picked up a strong 65-60 road win at WCC foe San Diego and then followed that up with a second road win at UC-Davis winning handily 67-47. La’Shard Anderson and Robert Arnold lead the way for the Broncos in scoring, as Anderson is averaging 18.3 PPG and Arnold is averaging 18.0 PPG.
5. Utah State (2-1)
Up Next: 11/24 vs. Utah, 11/27 vs. Northeastern, 12/01 at Denver
The defending regular season champions and preseason favorites are off to a 2-1 start after picking up a pair of in-state wins over Weber State (77-65) and Southern Utah (66-53) while falling at BYU, 78-72. Tai Wesley is leading the way once again for Utah State averaging 16.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG. Newcomer Brockieth Pane has been solid thus far for the Aggies averaging 11.7 PPG. Brian Green scored a career-high 19 points off the bench in the Ags’ win over Southern Utah. The Ags will be tested as three of their next four games come against NCAA-caliber teams in Utah, Northeastern and Georgetown.
6. Nevada (1-4)
Up Next: 11/30 at South Dakota State
It’s been a struggle early for the Wolf Pack as they set out to replace 84% of their lost scoring from last season. The Pack won their season opener against Montana, 81-66, but have since dropped four straight games in the Preseason NIT Tip-Off losing to Pacific (64-53), Pepperdine (76-75), George Washington (58-56) and Boston (66-57). Dario Hunt leads the way for Nevada averaging 14.6 PPG and 8.0 RPG. MalikStory is averaging 11.2 PPG but no other Nevada players are in double-digits in point production.
7. Fresno State (1-2)
Up Next: 11/26 vs. Washington State, 11/30 at Utah
Returning to his home away from home in a road opener, coach Steve Cleveland was treated rudely by BYU to the tune of a 83-56 rout. Then, the Vanguard Mutual Funders (for the ultra literal, we’re kidding about the nickname) came to town and the Bulldogs routed the Lions (shouldn’t it have been the Bears?) 74-42. A visit to Santa Barbara followed and it wasn’t what the Bulldogs desired — a 69-54 loss. The Bulldogs were down 35-24 at the half with the Gauchos opening the game by scoring the first 13 points. Coach Cleveland’s squad pulled within four opening the second half but the momentum didn’t hold. Sophomore Greg Smith put up 15 points and grabbed eight boards. The Bulldogs shot 40% for the game and 22% from long distance. Santa Barbara shot 51% overall. But for a team losing Paul George, at least one if not two seasons early, plus Sylvester Seay, any consistency, especially at the offensive end, will take time. Someone has to step up from the outside and be a threat.Interestingly enough, in the first three games of the season, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer has also been the top rebounder in each game but it has been a different player each game. NedeljkoGolubovic had 12 points and eight rebounds in the Bulldogs’ first game, BennieRhodes scored 17 points and grabbed eight boards in the second game and Greg Smith had 15 points and eight rebounds in Fresno State’s third game.
8. Idaho (1-3)
Up Next: 11/27 at Eastern Washington
The Vandals have lost three straight since an 86-74 opening season victory against Eastern Oregon. The Vandals were blown out, 88-71, by Washington State in the cross-border rivalry game then fell, 66-53, Portland but nothing compared to the Vandals’ abysmal performance against Montana earlier this week. Idaho went into Missoula and was throttled, 75-33. The 42-point loss was one of the worst in the program’s history. Luiz Toledo scored nearly half of the team’s points (16) in the loss. UI put up statistics that one will likely never again see in a collegiate basketball game. The Vandals hit just six shots from the floor and were 3-22 in the first half (13.6 percent) and 3-28 (10.7 percent) in the second half. If not for 20 free throw makes in the game, Idaho would not have even reached 20 points.
9. New Mexico State (2-4)
Up Next: 11/30 vs. UTEP
The New Mexico State Aggies have thus far been the league’s most disappointing team. After opening up the season with a 92-76 win over the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and a 95-62 win over Division-II Western New Mexico, the Aggies have been pounded in four straight games and have been called out by their head coach for quitting in the second half against Arizona. To make matters worse, their top returner, Troy Gillenwater was benched for the second half of a loss against USC in the Hall of Fame Tip-off. Meanwhile, the Aggies have lost by 26, 14, 19 and 17 points to Arizona, UMass, Southern Cal and UTEP, respectively. The road does not get any easier for the Aggies as their next three games are against rivals UTEP and then a home-and-home against New Mexico. Gillenwater is averaging 18.2 PPG while point guard Hernst Laroche is averaging 11 points and 4.83 RPG. Freshman Christian Kabongo is averaging 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
A Look Ahead
Non-Con Rivalries:New Mexico State gets a return trip from UTEP before an in-season home-and-home against New Mexico. Utah State will face their out-of-conference nemesis Utah. The rest of the league will look to continue their solid play in non-conference, though the big opportunities to make some noise will come in December.