Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 25th, 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

  • Fast Starts: Louisiana Tech, Hawaii and San Jose State 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 State hired 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.

Power Rankings

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.  Malik Story 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.  Nedeljko Golubovic had 12 points and eight rebounds in the Bulldogs’ first game, Bennie Rhodes 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.

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RTC Conference Primers: #14 – WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 22nd, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net is the RTC correspondent for the WAC.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. New Mexico State (13-3)
  2. Utah State (11-5)
  3. San Jose State (10-6)
  4. Nevada (9-7)
  5. Boise State (8-8)
  6. Fresno State (7-9)
  7. Idaho (6-10)
  8. Louisiana Tech (4-12)
  9. Hawai’i (4-12)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Adrian OliverSan Jose State (22.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.9 APG)
  • G: Hernst LarocheNew Mexico State (6.3 PPG, 3.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.1 A/TO)
  • F: Troy GillenwaterNew Mexico State (14.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.3 BPG)
  • F: Tai WesleyUtah State (13.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.3 BPG)
  • C: Greg SmithFresno State (11.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 1.2 APG)

6th Man

F: Wendell McKines, New Mexico State (10.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.1 APG in 2009-10): McKines played a pivotal role as a junior in the Aggies’ run to the Big Dance. However, he suffered a broken foot in practice on October 18 and may not be back until mid-to-late January. The Aggies will miss him in the early part of conference play, but if he comes back healthy, he’ll make a major splash.

Impact Newcomer

Duke transfer Olek Czyz returns home to Reno, but won't be eligible for the Wolf Pack until the start of conference play.

Olek Czyz (F) - Nevada: Czyz, a native of Poland who graduated from high school in Reno, NV, is a 6’7 redshirt sophomore who left Duke to return to Reno, where he won two high school championships. Czyz will miss the first part of the semester fulfilling transfer requirements (he transferred from Duke midseason) but should have an immediate impact in conference play.  Even though Czyz only played in six games for the Blue Devils in 2009-10, the WAC is not the ACC and Nevada is certainly not Duke in terms of history nor talent level. Czyz will likely work himself into a starting spot for the Wolf Pack this season.

What You Need to Know

  • The 2009-10 season was in many ways a banner year for the league. Four teams saw postseason action, with two teams making the NCAA Tournament (New Mexico State and Utah State) while Louisiana Tech played in the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament and Nevada played in the NIT postseason tournament.  The 2010-11 season figures to be a much different year for the WAC. Four players were selected in the NBA Draft and only Utah State and New Mexico State return more than three starters.
  • The league also welcomes two new head coaches, as Boise State hired Gonzaga top assistant Leon Rice and Hawai’i hired former USC assistant Gib Arnold.
  • This season will also be the final season of the current WAC. The league lost three teams to conference expansion with Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada all headed to the Mountain West. Boise State will play their final season in the WAC while Fresno State and Nevada are working on an exit strategy that would also see this as their final season.
  • Changes were not limited to coaching transitions and conference affiliations either. The WAC Tournament format will change along with its location this season from on-campus sites to neutral sites. The WAC followed the West Coast Conference’s lead and decided to take the tournament to The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. They also adopted the WCC’s postseason format by giving the top two seeds double byes into the semifinal round.  The first day will see the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th place teams play in the first round, while day two will see the day one winners take on the 3rd and 4th place teams in the quarterfinal round.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Summer School in the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 12th, 2010

 

 

Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net is the RTC correspondent for the WAC.

Around The WAC:

  • Ch-Ch-Changes: Change is the only constant in the WAC and this year is no different. New coaches, new players, a new tournament format and a farewell tour for one WAC school all headline the offseason ticker.
  • Realignment: The WAC wasn’t the biggest story in this summer’s conference realignment, but it was more of an unwilling participant as Boise State announced its intention to join the Mountain West Conference beginning in 2011. The decision led to the WAC’s announcement that they will play as an eight-team league during the 2011-12 season.  Unlike on the football side, Boise State is not one of the perennial powers in the WAC, despite their co-co-co-co regular season title and conference tournament title in the 2007-08 season. The 2010-11 year will not be a “one final shot at the bully” tour for Boise State basketball opponents, as it will be for Boise State football opponents.
  • Out With The Old, In With The New:  Two programs, Hawai’i and Boise State, find themselves with new head men after saying adios to a pair of longtime associates.  Hawai’i hired USC assistant Gib Arnold after three lackluster seasons (34-56 record) from Bob Nash.  Nash had been associated with the Hawai’i program as a player, longtime assistant and then head coach.  Boise State got rid of one of the WAC’s elder statesmen in Greg Graham and brought in Gonzaga’s top assistant, Leon Rice.  Graham had served as the Bronco head man for the past eight seasons, compiling a 142-112 record.
  • Protecting The Top Seeds: The WAC announced a change to the conference tournament format which will put more emphasis and reward on the regular season standings.  The format is identical to the one used by the West Coast Conference, in which the top two seeds get byes through the semifinal round.  Day one of the tournament will see the 5-seed vs. the 8-seed and the 6-seed vs. the 7-seed.  Day two of the tournament will see the winners of the 5-seed vs. 8-seed and 6-seed vs. 7-seed take on the 4-seed and 3-seeds, respectively.  Day three of the tournament will then see the top two seeds finally get some tournament action as they’ll take on the winner of the quarterfinal games.  As was the case last season, only the top eight teams advance to the conference tournament.
  • The Association:  The WAC boasted two first-round NBA draft picks, plus a second-round draft pick this year as Fresno State‘s Paul George went tenth to Indiana, Nevada‘s Luke Babbitt went 16th to Minnesota (and was subsequently traded to Portland) and Armon Johnson landed in Portland with his college teammate Babbitt with the 34th pick, signing a contract with the Blazers on August 2.

Adrian Oliver will be a major weapon for the Spartans, but he can't carry them on his own.

Power Rankings:

  1. Utah State – If the WAC power rankings had been published immediately after the season ended, the northern Aggies might have been ranked third.  Instead, they find themselves at the top of the heap and it’s a ranking that has almost as much to do with defections from two other teams (New Mexico State and Nevada) as it does with Utah State.  The Aggies return four seniors from last year’s NCAA Tournament team and are stockpiling junior college talent for the 2011 season, one in which they’ll have to replace half their roster due to graduations.
  2. New Mexico State: The southern Aggies would have likely landed in the top spot in the power rankings but the unexpected loss of would-be senior guard Jahmar Young means New Mexico State will have to replace two 20-point scorers instead of just one.  The Aggies have added Cristian Kabongo (Canada) and Tshilidzi Nephew (South Africa) to an already internationally flavored roster.  New Mexico State is also taking a preseason trip to Canada and as a result, had 10 extra practice days, something that will certainly help as the staff looks to build early chemistry with the squad.
  3. Nevada: With Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson off to the NBA, Brandon Fields, Joey Shaw and Ray Kraemer gone after graduation, Nevada welcomes eight new players to the roster. Those eight newbies, plus the returning Wolf Pack players must figure out a way to replace the departed 84% of the team’s scoring.  Junior college transfer Illiwa Baldwin and Olek Czyz (eligible in December after transferring from Duke) should have an immediate impact on the Wolf Pack squad. Read the rest of this entry »
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