Yesterday morning we mentioned the pending imaging studies on Ryan Kelly (foot)and Laurence Bowers (knee). Even though it seems like most of the concern from the public was for Bowers (likely due to the fact that he missed last season with an injury to his other knee) it was Kelly who appears to have suffered the more significant damage as he will be out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury to his right foot. With no additional information on what Kelly’s injury is we will not even bother speculating as to how long he will be out other than to say that we doubt he will be playing at North Carolina State on Saturday. Meanwhile, Bowers will be held out for the next two games and then be reevaluated after an MRI revealed that he had a sprained MCL in his right knee and nothing more serious. While Bowers will miss the next two games he could be back just in time for the Tigers’ showdown in Gainesville with Florida.
Some of you may be a little perplexed by how much time Luke Winn spend on free throws in his power rankings this week, but he also has some interesting non-free throw shooting analysis including some statistics that suggest that Jeff Withey could be having a better defensive season than Anthony Davis did last year and looks at how much worse Phil Pressey is in pick-and-roll situations this season without the type of shooters he had last season. If numbers make your eyes glaze over and you are into more juvenile humor (see his sidenote about J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison for an example), Mark Titus has his own power rankings that provide inside in the way that only The Shark can. Overall, their rankings are fairly similar with the exception of Arizona as Titus, who isn’t just looking at the numbers (just kidding, Luke), considers their game against Colorado to essentially be a loss.
Boise State picked up a huge win yesterday night as they knocked Wyoming from the ranks of the unbeatens, but they may have ended the night as losers after they suspended Derrick Marks, Mikey Thompson, Kenny Buckner, and Darrious Hamilton indefinitely just before their trip to Wyoming. Marks, the team’s leading scorer, is obviously a huge loss, but both Thompson and Buckner both see significant playing time in a rotation that is not particularly deep. While the Broncos escaped with a last second win last night, the loss of these players will make things extremely difficult for them in a challenging Mountain West Conference.
As if things were not bad enough for Illinois State, which has started 0-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference after coming in as a potential threat to Creighton, things appear to be on the way to getting worse before they get better as the team announced yesterday that it had suspended senior guard Tyler Brown indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. After starting 9-3 with their three loses coming against stiff competition (three-point overtime loss versus Northwestern, three-point loss at Louisville, and a 14-point loss against Montana in which the Redbirds led by three with five minutes left), the team has completely fallen apart. While their first two losses in conference (by two at Indiana State and by seven against Creighton) are excusable their next two losses, which came against Northern Iowa and Missouri State, have raised some serious questions about the team. We are not sure how the loss of their second leading scorer (15.3 points per game) will do anything, but make things worse, but perhaps Brown’s absence will bring the team closer together and get them back on track.
Now that we are about halfway through the season, it is a good time to reevaluate which conference games are worth your attention as there have been some significant surprises both for better and for worse. To that end, Jeff Borzello counts down the 30 best conference games this season. Now this list comes with the caveat that Borzello didn’t want to feature the same teams over and over again or this could have easily turned into a countdown of the best Big Ten games. One thing that is definitely worth pointing out is that several of these games are coming up very soon including three this Saturday.
Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences; he is also a staffer on the Pac-12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.
Reader’s Take I
Tectonic Shifts in the MW: As the landscape of college sports continues to shift, the Mountain West continues to change. This year, the conference is without BYU and Utah for the first time in its history. Aside from the fact that the state of Utah was sort of the center of the conference for many years, the impact on the basketball side of things cannot be overstated. In the 12 years that the two schools were a part of the conference, they won five outright regular season titles between them and twice shared the regular season title. TCU will join the two Utah schools as ex-MW members after this year when it joins the Big 12.
Temporary Fixes? As old schools depart, new schools come in. Boise State joins the conference this season, although there are already rumors that its stay may be short-lived, as other conferences including the Big 12 and the Big East, woo the Broncos. Fresno State and Nevada are due to join the conference in 2012-13, but as the ground continues to move under the feet of college athletics, one never knows what changes will come next.
Scheduling: With just eight conference teams this year, each team will play just 14 conference games. So while the Pac-12 and Big Ten and other major conferences are kicking off games against their conference rivals on or before New Year’s, MW schools will wait until the middle of January to get into conference play, filling the interim with games against schools like Johnson & Wales, Texas-Pan American, Nebraska-Omaha, Houston Baptist, San Diego Christian and Utah Valley. This is not a good thing for a conference, not a good thing for the fans, and not a good thing for college basketball.
Changes On The Sidelines: Aside from having a new team in the conference, we’ve got a couple returning teams with new coaches. The most high profile coaching change comes at UNLV with Lon Kruger gone for Oklahoma, and Dave Rice, the former associate head coach under Dave Rose at BYU, returning to Vegas where he played and served as an assistant under Jerry Tarkanian. The other coaching change is at Wyoming, where Larry Shyatt returns to town after spending the last several years as the associate head coach at Florida.
Drew Gordon Looks to Lead New Mexico to a Mountain West Title
New Favorites. Last year, it was more or less a two-horse race for the conference title between BYU and San Diego State. This year, there is no BYU and SDSU has graduated its four most important players. As a result, it looks to be two new horses who head the pack in search of a conference title with UNLV and New Mexico far and away the favorites. In the MW preseason basketball poll, the Lobos got 22 of the 26 first place votes from the media, with the Rebels snagging the other four. Those two schools also dominated the all-conference team selections, each putting two players on the list.