WAC Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2012

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing The WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC. You can follow Sam on Twitter @AgsBleedCrimson.

WAC Tournament Glance

Conference Tournament Preview

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 »
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Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 2nd, 2012

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing The WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC. You can follow Sam on Twitter @AgsBleedCrimson.

Reader’s Take


Looking Back

  • Last Week’s Action: Nevada stayed perfect, sweeping their Las Cruces/Ruston road trip, and sits comfortably atop the WAC standings with a two-game lead over second place New Mexico State. There’s a three-way logjam in third behind the Aggies as Idaho, Hawai’i and Utah State all sit at 4-3 while surprising LA Tech is 3-4. Fresno State and San Jose State bring up the rear as the Bulldogs and Spartans both went winless last week in league play.
  • Busting Brackets: Nevada and New Mexico State were pegged for two of the 13 televised BracketBuster games. The Wolf Pack will travel to take on Iona while the Aggies will host Drake on February 18.

Power Rankings

  1. Nevada (18-3, 7-0): The Wolf Pack head into the second half of conference play unblemished as they manhandled New Mexico State in Las Cruces in a bit of a shocker. The 68-60 final doesn’t necessarily reflect the point disparity present for the majority of the game. Nevada led this one by double-digits throughout, but a late run by New Mexico State cut the lead to just five before the Wolf Pack hung on for the eight-point win. Then perhaps suffering a little bit of a letdown, the Wolf Pack escaped by a deuce in Ruston as they were pushed to the brink by the Bulldogs in escaping with a 65-63 victory. The Wolf Pack’s bench delivered just two points in the win over LA Tech, a season low for any team in the WAC in terms of bench production this season. Pre-conference assessment (Why they won’t win the WAC): Lack of depth. Mid-conference assessment:Thus far, their bench production (or lack thereof) has not hurt them, though they won’t go through the second half unscathed if their bench has a repeat performance of their game against LA Tech.

    Deonte Burton And Nevada Sit Atop The WAC (AP)

  2. New Mexico State (16-7, 5-2): The big showdown was a big letdown for New Mexico State as another flat start in a big game cost the Aggies. Head coach Marvin Menzies was at loss in the postgame presser, stating, “I just don’t have a good feeling about how we are playing that first half,” Menzies said. “We have to come out with better execution, especially after timeouts. It’s frustrating.”  The Aggies were pushed by Fresno State two nights later, but came away with the victory, 60-56. Pre-conference assessment (Why they won’t win the WAC): The three-point line. Mid-conference assessment: Entering conference play the Aggies were sixth in three-point shooting percentage and last in three-point percentage defense. In the Aggies’ two losses, they shot just 5-15 (33.3 percent) and 5-22 (22.7 percent) from distance and allowed Hawai’i and Nevada to shoot 9-17 (52.9 percent) and 7-17 (41.1 percent) respectively from three. Though their three-point defense has been fairly very good in their five conference wins, their shooting in the seven conference games is a league-low 28 percent. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 16th, 2011

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing The WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.  You can follow Sam on Twitter @AgsBleedCrimson.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

Another mixed bag for the WAC as Nevada posted a win at Montana 70-64, Idaho won at Oregon State 74-60, New Mexico State lost at UTEP 73-69, and Utah State lost at Wichita State 83-76.  The WAC is 38-38 overall as the conference is just under three weeks away from starting conference play.

Stew Morrill's Aggies Have Struggled In Transition From Their Memorable 2010-11 Campaign.

Power Rankings

  1. Nevada (7-3): Don’t look now but the Wolf Pack are on a roll having won four in a row and seven of their last eight. Deonte Burton has led the Pack in scoring in the past three games with outbursts of 31, 28, and 21. The Wolf Pack are making the “winning plays” down the stretch, according to head coach David Carter, and shooting percentages of 44% and 53.6% in the last two second halves attest to that.
  2. Idaho (6-4): The Vandals are starting to find themselves as well having won three of their last four with the loss coming by just a bucket against Washington State.  Deremy Geiger‘s 27 point against Oregon State and Stephen Madison‘s 17 points against Seattle led to a pair of road victories for Idaho.  The two wins have seen Idaho shoot 15-of-29 (51.7%) from behind the three-point arc. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2011

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing The WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.  You can follow Sam on Twitter @AgsBleedCrimson.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

Aside from Nevada‘s wins over Washington and Arizona State, it was a tough week for the WAC. New Mexico State fell to Arizona 83-76 then at Southern Miss 74-66 and Utah State lost to Denver 67-54 ending their 33-game home winning streak in the process then lost at Pacific 65-57 and Louisiana Tech lost to Southeastern Louisiana 72-69 in overtime.  The WAC’s wins were against the likes of UTSA (future WAC member), Academy of Art University, UC Davis, UL-Monroe, Utah Valley and Northwestern State… oh and a win against a truly abysmal Utah Utes team by Fresno State.

Power Rankings

1. Nevada (6-3): The Wolf Pack notched the WAC’s most impressive victory of the season to date knocking off Washington 76-73 in overtime. Deonte Burton looked very much like a WAC Player of the Year candidate finishing with a stat-sheet-stuffing 31 points on 9-18 shooting, 4-6 from three, 9-14 from the free throw line with six assists and six rebounds. If Burton plays like the rest of the year, the Wolf Pack may very well fulfill the lofty preseason expectations. Since losing their first two games of the season the Wolf Pack have reeled off six wins in their last seven games with the only loss coming against BYU. The reserves contributed just eight points in the OT win over the Huskies. The question still remains for Nevada as to whether their bench can score on nights when the shots aren’t falling for the starters.

2. New Mexico State (5-3): The Aggies have fallen on tough times as of late and their road weariness may have caught up to them. After starting the season out 4-0, the Aggies have dropped three of their last four including a pair to Southern Miss. The Aggies’ early season successes were due in large part to their propensity for sharing the ball (63 assists through four games), rebounding (175 through four games), and getting to the charity stripe (167 attempts through four games). However, the last four games have seen a significant decrease (43 assists, 136 rebounds, 103 free throws attempts– 44 of which came in one game). It should be noted that the Aggies have played at home just twice through their first eight games with trips taking them from Greeley, CO to Anchorage, Alaska to Hattiesburg, MS, but frequent flier miles aside, the Aggies simply haven’t been as effective in those three areas as they had in the first four games and until they get back to dominating those statistics, their struggles may very well continue.

Deonte Burton Is A One-Man Wrecking Crew For The Surging Wolf Pack, Winners Of Six Straight. (Seattle Times)

3. Idaho (4-4): The Vandals continue to be steady winning games that they should and not losing games that they shouldn’t. It has accounted for a 4-3 record thus far. Four different players have led them in scoring but it has been the arrival of sophomore forward Stephen Madison that has been the pleasant surprise for the Vandals. Madison is averaging 12.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and is 11-24 from three point distance (45.8 percent) and has been a nice complement to Deremy Geiger (14.6 PPG) and Kyle Barone (13.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG) after seeing action in all 32 games last season, but averaging a modest 11.6 minutes while contributing 3.7 points and just 2.0 rebounds per game.  One area the Vandals need to seriously improve in is at the charity stripe. They are a dismal 63.2% with only Deremy Geiger shooting it well (80%). Nobody else on the team is better than 68%.

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RTC Summer Updates: Western Athletic Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 15th, 2011

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 Crimson and Kevin McCarthy of Parsing The WAC.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

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, Texas State and UT-San Antonio). This summer, there are no more defections (thankfully) but there have been additions.  Seattle University 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 Fresno State 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 Olu Ashaolu 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 Rodney Terry 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 Mick Durham, who took the head men’s basketball position at Division II Alaska-Fairbanks, and assistant Gerald Lewis, 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.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 9th, 2010

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 top six teams in the WAC are 34-13.  The other three are a miserable 5-18 and two of those five victories are over non-Division-I teams.  New Mexico State and Nevada, two teams accustomed to playing in the top third of the league are currently on a combined 13-game losing streak.  The Wolf Pack are losers of seven straight, while the Aggies are losers of six straight.  Both teams had schedules that, if they had navigated them with an above-average winning record, could have lent themselves to a potential at-large berth.  However, as they limp toward the middle of December, their combined record of 3-13 has guaranteed the necessity of winning the WAC Tournament to receive an NCAA bid.  None of the other teams have done enough to warrant at-large consideration, despite the solid records.  Utah State has come up short in both of its resume-boosters (BYU and Georgetown), meaning that the league will likely go back to being a one-bid league this season after seeing both Aggies dance last season.

Player of the Week:

San Jose State’s Justin Graham earned his first career Player of the Week honors after back-to-back 20-plus point outings, also a career first.  Graham posted 20 points with a career-high 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals in a 72-63 loss at UT-San Antonio. Graham led the Spartans with 21 points, a team-high five assists and four steals, plus six rebounds in 37 minutes of play in an 85-70 road win at UC Irvine.

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (6-2)

Up Next: 12/11 vs. CS-Bakersfield

The cream has risen to the top so to speak as the Aggies have won four of five defeating in-state rival Utah 79-62, holding off Northeastern 56-54, and escaping Denver 61-53 before losing 68-51 to nationally ranked Georgetown.  The Aggies rebounded from the loss by pounding Long Beach State 81-53.  Brady Jardine has led Utah State in rebounding in five of their eight games so far and enjoyed career-highs in points and rebounds against Utah before backing it up with a 15-point, 13-rebound performance against Northeastern.  The UtAgs are experiencing a rare statistical oddity, as opponents are outshooting the Aggies from the three point line so far this season, hitting 36.4 percent to Utah State’s 36.0 percent.  The Roadrunners from Bakersfield invade Logan for what should be another victory for Utah State.

2. Boise State (6-1)

Up Next: 12/08 at UNLV, 12/12 at Drake

The Broncos tasted their first defeat under head coach Leon Rice, as they were tripped up by Long Beach State 69-66, losing a 12-point lead with 9:22 left in the game.  While their success has come at the defensive end, holding opponents to just 55.0 points per game while scoring 72.0 points per game themselves, in the loss to LBSU they allowed 48 second half points to the 49ers.  Despite holding a 7.0 rebound per game advantage on their opponents, just twice in their first six games has their leading rebounder been in double-digits in the category.  The Broncos are rebounding from every position, and no player is averaging more than 4.9 rebounds per game.  Things will get significantly more difficult in the next week as the Broncos take to the road to face nationally ranked UNLV followed by Drake and Utah.

3. Louisiana Tech (7-3)

Up Next: 12/11 at McNeese State, 12/14 at Houston Baptist

A little luster was taken off the fast start by the Bulldogs after they lost 74-65 to Arkansas-Little Rock last Friday after holding a 29-22 lead at halftime.  The Bulldogs held UALR to just 14.8 percent shooting (4-27) in the first half but allowed 70 percent shooting in the second half (16-23).  Foul trouble was a problem for the Bulldogs as they had two players foul out, Brandon Gibson and Olu Ashaolu and two other players with four fouls.  The Bulldogs defeated SMU 69-64 and Louisiana-Monroe 67-58 before falling to in-state foe Northwestern State 85-78.  Ashaolu recorded 22 points and DeAndre Brown exploded for a career-high 31, but 50 percent shooting by the Demons was too much for the Bulldogs to overcome.  The two teams combined to hit 15 of 21 three-pointers in the second, which also saw 40 free throws and 102 combined points.

4. Hawai’i (5-2)

Up Next: 12/11 vs. Hawai’i-Pacific

Hawai’i posted another victory over a team from the state of Arkansas, as they dispatched Arkansas-Pine Bluff 70-63, but has lost the two games off the islands. First, they dropped from the ranks of the unbeatens with a 54-53 to Cal Poly on a disputed last-second Mustang basket.  They followed that up with a 78-57 loss to BYU in Salt Lake City.  The Warriors lost senior big man Bill Amis to a stress fracture during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, and he will remain out for around five weeks.  His absence wasn’t noticed as much, given the strong work of Vander Joaquim (16 rebounds) against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but the stability provided by Amis was certainly missed in the two losses.  The Warriors return to the friendly confines of the islands, as they’ll host Hawai’i-Pacific and Chicago State before a very tough Christmas test sees them participate in their holiday Diamond Head Classic which will feature No. 11 Baylor, Mississippi State, Washington State, Florida State, Butler, Utah and San Diego battling over Christmas week. Believe it or not (based on recent history), the Rainbow lead the WAC in field goal shooting at 47%, rank second in field goal percentage defense at 40% and is cruising in three-point shooting with a 38% mark. On the boards, UH tops the conference with a +9.1 figure.

5. San Jose State (5-2)

Up Next: 12/10 vs. Santa Clara, 12/12 vs. Eastern Washington

The Spartans have lost two of their last three as they dropped an 82-77 decision at CS-Bakersfield, then won 80-77 at home against UC-Riverside behind a 35 point night from Adrian Oliver, but fell 72-63 to future WAC member UT-San Antonio.  A trip down to Orange County most recently resulted in an 85-70 victory over Big West Conference foe UC Irvine. Friday brings Santa Clara coming over from crosstown for a rivalry game.  SJSU leads the WAC in scoring offense at 74.4 points per game and free throw percentage at 79%.  Oliver is averaging 24.9 PPG but needs to get more help from his teammates as Justin Graham at 15.0 PPG and Keith Shamburger at 11.1 PPG are the only other two in double-figures scoring per game. Frontcourt newcomer Wil Carter is tops in rebounding at 9.7 per contest.  It’s all west coast teams from here until the start of conference play and the Spartans will have two of their next three at home.

6. Idaho (5-3)

Up Next: 12/11 at Seattle

Don’t look now, but the Vandals have won four in a row, currently the longest winning streak in the WAC.  Idaho became the third WAC team to beat Eastern Washington this year, as they rebounded from their pasting at the hands of Montana to hand Eastern Washington a 70-60 loss.  Deremy Geiger scored 24 points for Idaho in becoming the sixth different Vandal to lead the team in scoring.  Idaho swept the Basketball Traveler’s Classic in Moscow (casual readers, calm down – that’s Moscow, Idaho) as their victims included North Dakota (63-42), Monmouth (69-66) and Eastern Michigan (75-60).  The Vandals travel to Seattle on Saturday, where they’ll try to improve their record to 4-0 over Cameron Dollar’s Redhawks.

7. Fresno State (2-5)

Up Next: 12/11 vs. Pepperdine

The Bulldogs dropped games against Washington State (66-55), Utah (76-63) and Colorado State (87-74) before picking up their first win over a Division-I team, prevailing 74-70 at San Diego.  The Bulldogs trailed WSU by just four points with a shade over four minutes remaining but could not draw any closer before falling by 11.  The game against Utah was a rout all the way.  The Bulldogs trailed by 11 at halftime and by 24 with 12:00 left in the game.  Greg Smith had just nine points and five rebounds in 35 minutes of play against the Utes.   For a team known for offensive prowess, the Bulldogs rank last in both scoring offense at 64.3 points per contest and free throw percentage with a jaw-dropping 57.8%. Yes, you read that correctly. Smith is shooting a very respectable 57% to date but has only 33 attempts in six games and is averaging 8.8 PPG.  That has to change — within the context of a team effort — for the Bulldogs to turn it around.  The ‘Dogs will try to make it two in a row over the West Coast Conference as Pepperdine comes in on Saturday.  It’s just Fresno State’s third home game of the season and starts a five-game homestead that will take them into conference play.

8. New Mexico State (2-6)

Up Next: 12/11 at New Mexico, 12/13 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Things aren’t getting much better for New Mexico State, as they were swept by their I-10 rivals and lit up by UTEP guard Randy Culpepper who scored 32 points in his Battle of I-10 swan song.  The Aggies also lost starting center Hamidu Rahman to a calf injury in practice and has missed two consecutive games.  His status is day-to-day (aren’t we all?).  The Aggies lost the first half of their rivalry series with in-state rival New Mexico in overtime 84-78, rallying from an early 17-point hole in the first half.  New Mexico has now won six straight in the series and with a trip to The Pit looming on Saturday, it’s not looking good for the Aggies; New Mexico State has not won in Albuquerque since 2002.  The Aggies can take some solace in some improvement in their play.  The Aggies played both rivals without sRahman (9.2 PPG/5.3 RPG) and were in the game right down to the wire.  There is still no news on the potential return of preseason All-WAC forward Wendell McKines from his ankle injury.  McKines has been sidelined the entire season after suffering the broken ankle in the first week of practice.

9. Nevada (1-7)

Up Next: 12/11 vs. San Francisco State

The struggles also continue for the Wolf Pack, as they were handed an 82-65 loss by South Dakota State on the road and then lost 82-70 to rival UNLV and 64-61 at Houston.  No Pack player played more than 26 minutes in the loss against South Dakota State. Head coach David Carter emptied the bench, with 12 different players seeing action and 11 of the 12 seeing at least ten minutes of action.  Nevada shot 48.9 percent (23-47) but could not overcome 23 points from the Jackrabbits’ Jordan Dykstra, who finished 8-12 from the field, 2-3 from behind the three-point line and 5-7 from the free throw stripe.  A poor first half doomed Nevada against UNLV as 20.8 percent shooting gave way to a 21-point halftime deficit.  Nevada led Houston at halftime by a single point, but UH scored the second half’s first basket and never relinquished the lead, sending the young Pack to its seventh consecutive loss.  Nevada could potentially lose four of their final five with Arizona State, Portland State, Washington and Portland on tap before WAC play begins.  One reason for Nevada’s struggles? According to Ken Pomeroy, they are the nation’s least experienced basketball team (via Reno Gazette-Journal’s Chris Murray). Another issue could simply be a few whiffs on the recruiting trail As this blog post notes, recruiting top-flight talent to Nevada hasn’t been a concern in ten years, but Carter has his work cut out for him on couches across the region.

A Look Ahead

The WAC’s competition level takes a step down with teams wrapping up finals and preparing for the last of non-conference play.  WAC play starts the final week of December this season, the earliest start in recent memory.  The likes of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, San Francisco State, Houston Baptist, Eastern Washington, Hawai’i-Pacific, CS-Bakersfield litter the schedule in the coming week.

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