Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 16th, 2010

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

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

Current Standings:

  1. Louisiana Tech, 17-2 (5-0)
  2. New Mexico State, 10-7 (3-1)
  3. Fresno State 10-8 (3-1)
  4. Utah State, 12-6 (2-2)
  5. Nevada, 10-7 (2-2)
  6. San Jose State 9-7 (2-2)
  7. Idaho 8-7, (1-3)
  8. Hawai’i, 8-9 (1-3)
  9. Boise State, 9-9 (0-5)

After the first two weekends of play there has been some significant shifting among the top and bottom.  Louisiana Tech continues to lead the league race starting out 5-0 while on the opposite end of the spectrum, Boise State is really behind the eight ball after losing their first five games of conference play.  With this year’s tournament no longer having a play-in game between the 8th and 9th place teams, the Broncos will be fighting for their postseason lives the rest of the way.

Boise State (9-9, 0-5)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 L vs. New Mexico State, 88-85
  • 01/11 L vs. Louisiana Tech, 79-64
  • 01/14 L @ San Jose State, 76-74

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 @ Utah State
  • 01/20 vs. Nevada

Disaster.  After entering league play at 9-4 the Broncos are on a five game skid and, even though it’s only a quarter way through the league schedule, they have to be in a bit of a panic mode.  Only the top eight teams in the league will participate in the WAC tournament this season as the league has gotten rid of the play-in game between the 8th and 9th place team.  The Broncos’ road does not get any easier with games at Utah State and then versus Nevada at home followed by the in-state rivalry game at Idaho.  It is entirely possible that the Broncos could be 0-8 midway through the conference race.

Fresno State (10-8, 3-1)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 W vs. Hawai’i, 78-64
  • 01/11 W vs. San Jose State, 80-70
  • 01/14 L @ Louisiana Tech, 81-73

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 @ New Mexico State
  • 01/21 vs. Utah State

The Bulldogs won two of three games over the past week and sit tied for second with New Mexico State.  The Bulldogs picked up a solid win over San Jose State and made one of the longest road trips in the WAC when they faced Louisiana Tech in Ruston.  The Bulldogs made the trip a man down as starting guard Steven Shepp did not make the trip to Ruston due to “academic” reasons as outlined in a statement from head coach Steve Cleveland.  Fresno State found themselves down big in the second half, falling behind by 20 points at 53-33 with 14:33 left to play.  Fresno State, however, showed some fight in the face of adversity and close the gap to just six at 74-68 with three minutes left — but couldn’t climb any closer over the final stretch.  Sylvester Seay and Paul George combined to score 37 points while Mychal Ladd and Greg Smith each pitched in 27.  Backup guard Brandon Sperling filled in for Shepp with five points.  The Bulldogs got just four points off the bench in the loss. Fresno State travels to New Mexico State on Saturday where they’ll battle the suddenly resurgent Aggies as both teams try to keep pace with Louisiana Tech.

Hawaii (8-9, 1-3)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 L @ Fresno State, 78-64
  • 01/11 L @ Utah State, 98-54

Upcoming games:

  • 01/18 vs San Jose State

Back-to-back losses by Hawai’i on the mainland have dropped the Warriors below the .500 mark.  They suffered a 14 point defeat at Fresno State and then made the trip to Logan, UT where they were punished from start to finish by Utah State.  While there is certainly no shame in losing in Logan — most teams that enter the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum do not leave victorious — it was the observation of the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Tony Jones that is cause for concern.  Jones stated after the game, “Hawaii flat out quit in this game and that’s pretty embarrassing for a Division I team to do with 30 minutes remaining in a basketball game.” The Warriors host San Jose State as the try to get back on the positive side of things.

Idaho (8-7, 1-3)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 L vs. Louisiana Tech, 77-71
  • 01/11 L vs. New Mexico State, 75-72

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 @ Nevada

After splitting their conference-opening road trip the Vandals’ regular season title hopes took a big hit as they were swept by Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State at home.  Both games were within reach for the Vandals down the stretch but the inability to make free throws (or any shot, for that matter) in the latter stages of the second half against Louisiana Tech and then the inability to make a defensive stop against New Mexico State in the same time frame cost the Vandals both games.  With a 1-3 record Idaho sits effectively four games behind Louisiana Tech — three games in the  loss column, plus losing the first head-to-head matchup.  The road does not get any easier as they face Nevada at Lawlor Arena in Reno on Saturday, a place where they have only won once since joining the WAC (it was just last season).

Louisiana Tech (16-2, 4-0)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 W @ Idaho, 77-71
  • 01/11 W @ Boise State, 79-64
  • 01/14 vs. Fresno State, 81-73

Upcoming games:

  • 01/21 @ San Jose State

The Bulldogs continue to impress after a road sweep in the state of Idaho and a home victory over second place Fresno State.  After securing a hard fought victory over Idaho, the Bulldogs ran roughshod over the Broncos, winning 79-64.  At 17-2 the Bulldogs are off to their best start since the 1984-85 season and have rattled off ten consecutive victories.  Their 5-0 league record is their best start since joining the WAC.  Kyle Gibson scored a career-high 33 points in the victory over visiting Fresno State. Louisiana Tech takes their show back on the road as they’ll face San Jose State on the 21st, part of their longest road trip of the season as they’ll face Hawai’i two nights later.

Nevada (10-7, 2-2)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 W vs. San Jose State, 96-67
  • 01/13 L vs. Utah State, 79-72 (OT)

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 vs. Idaho
  • 01/20 @ Boise State

After splitting their opening road trip in conference play the Wolf Pack did the same in their first two home conference games.  After picking up an impressive 96-67 victory over a better-than-their-record San Jose State squad the Wolf Pack hosted Utah State on Wednesday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN2.  While the two teams did not disappoint on the court for most home viewers, it was the Wolf Pack fans who went home disappointed.  Nevada gave up a 10-point second half lead and were pushed to overtime where Utah State took over the game.  The Wolf Pack hit just 9-18 free throws in the game.  The loss evened the Wolf Pack’s record to 2-2 in league play but with games against the two Idaho schools coming up, they could put themselves in a good position nearly midway through the league race.

New Mexico State (10-7, 3-1)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 W @ Boise State, 88-85
  • 01/11 W @ Idaho, 75-72

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 vs. Fresno State

New Mexico State erased the disappointment of their home loss to Nevada by sweeping the state of Idaho in a pair of down-to-the-wire games.  The Aggies faced off against Boise State in a game in which neither team seemed to be able to hold a lead.  In the first half the Aggies led by six, then trailed by ten, but cut the lead to four by halftime.  Then in the second half the Aggies led by two early in the second half, but then trailed by seven shortly thereafter…only to go up by nine with under nine minutes left.  They then gave up the lead and trailed by four with just under two minutes left before finally rallying to win by three.  It was the sixth consecutive game between the two that the victorious team scored at least 80 points.  Against Idaho, the Aggies’ Jahmar Young scored 32 points, one shy of his career high; every point was critical as the Aggies held off Idaho down the stretch.  The Aggies have never had an easy time in Moscow but continued their dominance over the Vandals, having now won nine of the last ten meetings. The Aggies host Fresno State on Saturday with second place in the standings on the line.  With Louisiana Tech threatening to make the league race a fight for second, the Aggies and Bulldogs will both be hungry for the win to try to keep pace with Louisiana Tech.

San Jose State (9-7, 2-2)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 L @ Nevada, 96-67
  • 01/11 L @ Fresno, 80-70
  • 01/14 W vs. Boise State, 76-74

Upcoming games:

  • 01/18 @ Hawai’i
  • 01/21 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Spartans played three games over the past week and came away with a 1-2 record.  After getting blown out by Nevada and losing on the road to Fresno State, the Spartans bounced back with a win over Boise State at home.  Adrian Oliver led the way with a season-high 33 points.  It was SJSU’s first win over Boise State in their past 15 games and just their second win in the past 21 meetings.  San Jose State makes the trip to the islands to face a reeling Hawai’i squad before returning home to host league leader Louisiana Tech.

Utah State (12-6, 2-2)

The week’s results:

  • 01/11 W vs. Hawai’i, 98-54
  • 01/13 W @ Nevada, 79-72 (OT)

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 vs. Boise State
  • 01/21 @ Fresno State

Shellshocked no more. Whatever the Aggies were missing on offense in their first two league games in averaging just 55 points per game, they found it when they returned to Logan.  The Aggies stomped visiting Hawai’i, scoring 98 points –  43 above their average in the first two games.  They followed it up with a gritty road victory over Nevada in overtime.  The Aggies erased a 10-point deficit late in the second half to force overtime,  subsequently outscoring Nevada 10-3 as Jared Quayle and Tyler Newbold each hit three pointers for the Aggies.  Utah State found their shot as they hit 50% of their three point attempts in the game (8-16) and were 11-13 from the free throw line.

UPCOMING GAMES

  • 01/16 – Nevada vs. Idaho – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/16 – Utah State vs. Boise State – 7:00 p.m. MT (CW30-Utah)
  • 01/16 – New Mexico State vs. Fresno State – 7:00 p.m. MT (AggieVision, Bulldog Sports Network)
  • 01/17 – Hawai’i vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. HT (KFVE Honolulu)
  • 01/20 – Boise State vs. Nevada – 7:00 p.m. MT (Comcast SportsNet California)
  • 01/21 – Fresno State vs. Utah State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/21 – San Jose State vs. Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/21 – Hawai’i vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. HT (KFVE Honolulu)
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