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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RTC Live: WAC Semis – Utah St vs. La Tech & Nevada vs. NMSU

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

Day 1 of the WAC tournament eliminated all the pretenders and now we are left with just the top four teams in the league battling it out.  The first matchup will feature the number one seed Utah State Aggies taking on the number four seed Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.  The Aggies have played the part of the steamroller lately, and after dispatching Boise State yesterday 84-60 have now run their winning streak up to 16 straight games.  Despite the blowout score, Boise State tested the Aggies, forcing an uncharacteristically high 15 turnovers with a full court pressure defense.  Louisiana Tech will likely try to exploit this by pressuring the Aggies as well, probably using the same 1-3-1 zone we saw in a previous RTC Live that features 6’11 Magnum Rolle at the top of the key trapping Utah State’s much smaller guard line.  The key for the Bulldogs will be generating offense.  Kyle Gibson still does not look like his old self, scoring just seven points yesterday, but backcourt mate Jamel Guyton scored 31 to lead the Bulldogs over Fresno State 74-66.  If the Bulldogs can get that kind of offensive explosion again it should be a great game to decide who moves onto the championship game tomorrow.

In the night cap in the WAC tournament the homestanding Nevada Wolfpack will take on the New Mexico State Aggies.  Neither team had any trouble in the opening round here in Reno as Nevada blasted Idaho 87-71 and New Mexico State had no problems with San Jose State winning 90-69.  These two teams met just a week ago here in Reno and the Wolfpack won in a shootout 100-92, led by Brandon Fields ‘career high 32 points.  If Nevada is getting scoring in bunches from players besides Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson then it’s going to be a long night for New Mexico State.  The Aggies need to get some big numbers out of guards Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson, and find someone to slow down Luke Babbitt.  Expect another high scoring, and fast-paced matchup between these two, with the winner moving on to face Louisiana Tech/Utah State for the championship tomorrow night. The game is on ESPN2 so tune and follow along with us on RTC Live.

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WAC Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

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

It’s finally here, do or die time. The WAC tournament will begin on Thursday, March 11, for the eight teams who earned their way in. All eight teams feel like they have a shot to win the whole enchilada but in reality there are probably only five teams that have a chance. History is also not on four teams’ side as only once has a team seeded lower than #4 won the conference tournament as #5-seed Hawai’i pulled off the feat in the 2001 WAC Tournament. Utah State is the favorite as they ran roughshod over the WAC for a second straight season. Nevada is also a favorite but their lack of depth and need to win three games in four days will be something to keep an eye on. New Mexico State is the league’s second highest scoring team and perhaps most physically talented team, however, they are also the league’s worst scoring defense having given up at least 80 points in seven of their 16 conference games. Louisiana Tech was strong in the first half of the season but faltered down the stretch. They could get hot and run the table as well as they have wins over every WAC team except New Mexico State (whom they would not potentially face until the championship game). San Jose State is the darkhorse in the equation. They boast the league’s leading scorer in Adrian Oliver and they have the pieces in place to make a run. However, they too have fallen on tough times losing three of the final four conference games. Unfortunately for them their path to the title game goes through New Mexico State and potentially top seeded Utah State and that’s even before playing in the title game.

There is one team missing from the conference tournament and that is the University of Hawai’i. Not only did Hawai’i not play its way into the WAC tournament last week losing twice on the road, they played their coach out of a job. The University of Hawai’i announced on Monday that head coach Bob Nash would not be returning next season. The Warriors have fallen on tough times since winning the conference tournament in back-to-back seasons to start the new century. The Warriors won in 2001 and again in 2002 earning the automatic bid and then were NIT bound in 2003 and 2004 but have gone 85-93 in their past five seasons combined after amassing an 85-45 record from the 2000-01 season through the 2003-04 season.

Final Standings (conference tournament seeding order)

  1. Utah State, 25-6 (14-2)
  2. Nevada 19-11 (11-5)
  3. New Mexico State, 19-11 (11-5)
  4. Louisiana Tech, 22-9 (9-7)
  5. Fresno State, 15-17 (6-10)
  6. San Jose State 14-16 (6-10)
  7. Idaho, 15-15 (6-10)
  8. Boise State, 15-16 (5-11)

OUT) Hawai’i, 10-18 (3-13)

All-WAC Honors

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 29th, 2010

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

At the halfway point of the conference race, Louisiana Tech continues to lead, posting a 6-1 record. A showdown between Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State looms large on Saturday. A victory by the Aggies could thrust the league into a three-way tie for first if Utah State is able to defeat a suddenly surging San Jose State squad. Utah State remains hot as they’ve gone from last place after the first weekend to a tie for second place at the midway point. Meanwhile the race to stay out of the WAC basement is currently a three-team battle between Boise State, Idaho and Hawai’i. The Broncos are currently the odd team out but notched an important victory over in-state rival Idaho earlier in the week in the first of two meetings between the schools.

Current Standings:

1) Louisiana Tech, 18-3 (6-1)

T2) New Mexico State, 12-8 (5-2)

T2) Utah State, 14-6 (5-2)

4) San Jose State 12-8 (5-3)

5) Nevada 12-8 (4-3)

6) Fresno State, 11-11 (4-4)

T7) Idaho, 9-10 (2-6)

T7) Hawai’i, 9-12 (2-6)

9) Boise State, 10-11 (1-7)

At the midway point there are several excellent candidates for Midseason Player of the Year. Instead of choosing a midseason POY and angering eight other fanbases in the process, we instead submit the Top 10 scorers and rebounders in the league (conference games only). Surprisingly, Utah State, tied for second place and certainly the league’s hottest team, has no player in the Top 10 in either scoring or rebounding.

Leading Scorers (Conference Games Only):

1. Adrian Oliver, SJSU – 25.1 PPG

2. Luke Babbitt, NEV – 24.7 PPG

3. Jahmar Young, NMSU – 22.9 PPG

4. Kyle Gibson, LT – 21.6 PPG

5. Jonathan Gibson, NMSU – 19.9 PPG

6. Paul George, FS – 17.7 PPG* (Injured, expected to be out 2-3 weeks)

7. Mac Hopson, ID – 17.5 PPG

8. Sylvester Seay, FS – 15.9 PPG

9. Magnum Rolle, LT – 15.4 PPG

10. Brandon Fields, NEV – 15.3 PPG

Leading Rebounders (Conference Games Only):

1. Luke Babbitt, NEV – 10.7 RPG

2. Magnum Rolle, LT – 10.3 RPG

3. Wendell McKines, NMSU – 10.0 RPG

4. Chris Oakes, SJSU – 9.4 RPG

5. Ike Okoye, BSU – 8.8 RPG

6. Hamidu Rahman, NMSU – 8.3 RPG

7. Dario Hunt, NEV – 7.3 RPG

8. Brandon Adams, UH – 7.0 RPG TIED WITH Olu Asaolu, LTU – 7.0 RPG

9. Greg Smith, FS – 6.9 RPG

Team Breakdowns:

Boise State (10-11, 1-7)

The week’s results: 01/25 W @ Idaho, 77-67 (OT)

Upcoming games: 01/30 vs. Fresno State

The Broncos finally notched a conference win, and it was a big one. Boise State traveled to Moscow, ID to face their in-state rival Idaho and the Broncos stunned the home team. Anthony Thomas hit a contested three pointer as time expired to send the game to overtime where they dominated the extra period. Boise State’s win saw them rally from a nine point second half deficit, and the win keeps the Broncos just one game behind Hawai’i and Idaho as they try to avoid missing the conference tournament. Up next for the Broncos is a game against an up and down Fresno State squad who is playing without their leading scorer, Paul George.

Fresno State (11-11, 4-4)

The week’s results: 01/23 W vs. Nevada, 87-77; 01/28 L @ Idaho, 74-59

Upcoming games: 01-30 @ Boise State

The Bulldogs split a pair of games this week, but it was not what anyone expected. The Bulldogs lost their leading scorer, Paul George, last week in the first half against Utah State and were soundly beaten by the Aggies. Just two nights later, the Bulldogs hosted Nevada in what was sure to be another sound beating. However, the Bulldogs rose up and stunned the visiting Wolf Pack, 87-77, behind a big night from Greg Smith (25 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists). Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they came crashing back down to earth when they traveled to Idaho. The Bulldogs were beaten badly by the Vandals, losing 74-59. The Bulldogs trailed by just two at halftime a 6-0 run by the Vandals to start the half put the Bulldogs in a hole of which they couldn’t dig out. Up next for the Bulldogs is a trip to Boise, ID to face the Broncos.

Hawaii (9-12, 2-6)

The week’s results: 01/24 L vs Louisiana Tech, 65-60; 01/28 L @ San Jose State, 83-60

Upcoming games: 01/30 @ Nevada

The Warriors have lost three in a row and now sit tied with Idaho in seventh place in the league. The Warriors hung tough with league leader Louisiana Tech in a home game, falling 65-60. The Warriors were down just two with 34 seconds to play but could get no closer. A rematch against San Jose State gave the Warriors their third straight loss after beating San Jose State 66-65 in overtime in Honolulu. The Warriors led just once at 7-6, but could not stop the Spartans. Things don’t get any easier for the Warriors as they travel to Reno to take on Nevada.

Idaho (9-10, 2-7)

The week’s results: 01/23 L vs. Utah State, 60-48; 01/25 L vs. Boise State, 77-67 (OT); 01/28 W vs. Fresno State, 74-59

Upcoming games: 01/30 @ Seattle; 02/03 @ Utah State

The Vandals snapped a six game losing streak with a victory over shorthanded Fresno State, winning handily, 74-59. The victory helped erase the pain of giving up a nine point lead late in the game against in-state rival Boise State and a hard fought 60-48 loss to Utah State. The Vandals’ victory over Fresno State was an important win in the league race as they moved into a tie with Hawai’i for 7th place in the league and strengthened their hopes of making the conference tournament. Idaho steps out of conference play with a game at Seattle before heading back to Logan, UT to face the USU Aggies.

Louisiana Tech (18-3, 6-1)

The week’s results: 01/24 W @ Hawai’i, 65-60

Upcoming games: 01/30 vs. New Mexico State; 02/04 vs. San Jose State

The Bulldogs continue to lead the WAC race as they picked up a victory over Hawai’i, 65-60. Magnum Rolle scored 23 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds. Kyle Gibson scored 19 points and Jamel Guyton recorded his first career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Bulldogs host the New Mexico State Aggies as they attempt to stay in solo first place in the league standings. Following their date with the Aggies, the suddenly hot San Jose State Spartans come to town.

Nevada (12-8, 4-3)

The week’s results: 01/23 L @ Fresno State, 87-77

Upcoming games: 01/30 vs. Hawai’i

The Wolf Pack were stunned by a short-handed Fresno State squad and they missed a golden opportunity to move into a tie for second place with New Mexico State and Utah State. Luke Babbitt scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the loss. The Wolf Pack will try to rebound when they host Hawai’i.

New Mexico State (12-8, 5-2)

The week’s results: 01/23 L @ San Jose State, 93-84

Upcoming games: 01/30 @ Louisiana Tech

The Aggies had their four game win streak snapped by San Jose State as the two teams had a shootout. Jahmar Young scored a career-high 34 points in the loss and the Aggies dropped into a tie for second place with Utah State. The Aggies finish up a three game road trip with a trip to Ruston, LA to take on league-leading Louisiana Tech.

San Jose State (12-8, 5-3)

The week’s results: 01/23 W vs. New Mexico State, 93-84; 01/28 W vs. Hawai’i, 83-60

Upcoming games: 01/30 @ Utah State; 02/04 @ Louisiana Tech

The Spartans knocked off New Mexico State in a shootout and then exacted revenge for a last-second loss at Hawai’i. The Spartans have won three in a row (and four out of five) but their hot streak will get a stiff test as they face Utah State in Logan, and then Louisiana Tech in Ruston. Adrian Oliver was named the WAC Player of the Week for his 39-point performance against Louisiana Tech, and 22-point performance against New Mexico State. He added a 31-point performance against Hawai’i.

Utah State (15-6, 5-2)

The week’s results: 01/23 W @ Idaho, 60-48

Upcoming games: 01/30 vs. San Jose State; 02/03 vs. Idaho

The Aggies continued their strong run with a victory over Idaho in Moscow. The game pitted teacher versus student at Stew Morrill’s Aggies took down Don Verlin’s Vandals. The win by Utah State was Morrill’s 500th career victory. The Aggies host a hot San Jose State team and then get a rematch at home against Idaho.

UPCOMING GAMES

* 01/30 – Utah State vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. MT (CW30-Utah)

* 01/30 – Seattle vs. Idaho – 7:10 p.m. PT

* 01/30 – Nevada vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. PT (ESPNU)

* 01/30 – Boise State vs. Fresno State – 8:15 p.m. MT (Bulldog Sports Network)

* 01/30 – Louisiana Tech vs. New Mexico State – 8:00 p.m. CT

* 02/03 – Utah State vs. Idaho – 9:00 p.m. MT (ESPN2)

* 02/04 – Louisiana Tech vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. CT (ESPN Regional)

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 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.

Standings

1) Louisiana Tech, 14-2 (2-0)
2) San Jose State, 8-5 (1-0)
3) Fresno State 8-7 (1-0)
T4) Idaho 8-5 (1-1)
T4) Nevada, 9-6 (1-1)
T4) Hawai’i, 8-7 (1-1)
T4) New Mexico State, 8-7 (1-1)
T8) Utah State, 10-6 (0-2)
T8) Boise State, 9-6 (0-2)

The league saw a significant drop in scoring in the first weekend of games.  Perhaps the familiarity of the offensive sets and plays had something to do with that but after two games Louisiana Tech leads the league in scoring and is averaging 79.5 points per game.  Five of the nine teams are averaging less than 70 points per game (in non-conference play seven of nine teams averaged at least 73 points per game) and Utah State has struggled to find their offense scoring just 56 points per game through two contests.

Team Breakdowns

Boise State (9-6, 0-2)

The week’s results:  01/02 L @ Fresno State, 71-68, 01/05 @ Hawai’i, 76-68

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. New Mexico State, 01/11 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Broncos opened conference play on the road and were dealt two losses.  The Broncos led Fresno State nearly the entire game but Fresno State’s Paul George hit a layup and drew a foul on Boise State’s Robert Arnold to give Fresno State a 68-66 lead with 48.5 seconds left.  After Boise State tied the game up with 22.6 seconds left Paul George got another layup and was fouled giving the Bulldogs a 71-68 lead.  The Broncos were unable to hit the three-pointer as time expired as they let one slip away.  Against Hawai’i the Broncos trailed big early falling behind 21-7 with 8:59 left in the first half but by halftime they had erased the 14 point deficit and took a 28-27 lead into the break.  The Warriors went on a 12-2 run in the second half and built a lead they would not relinquish.  Boise State’s Daequon Montreal leads the Broncos in scoring in league play averaging 20 points per game and is sixth in the league in scoring through two conference games.  The Broncos are the second best team in the league in steals and are averaging 6.5 steals per game.  Despite their two losses the Broncos lead the league in assists per game averaging 15.0 per game.  The Broncos host New Mexico State and league leading Louisiana Tech this coming week. A minimum split of these two games at home is a must if the Broncos want to keep from falling behind in the league race.

Fresno State (8-7, 1-0)

The week’s results:  01/02 W vs. Boise State, 71-68

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. Hawai’i, 01/11 vs. San Jose State

The Bulldogs played just one league game last week but they made it count as they rallied at home to defeat Boise State.  Paul George’s 21 points in the conference opener included two three-point plays in the final minute as they erased a 7 point deficit with 5:10 left to play.  George was 11-of-12 from the free throw line in the game.  The Bulldogs have a very favorable schedule to start league play with five of the first seven at home.  Fresno State leads the league in free throw percentage and are hitting 75 percent of their attempts. They are also fourth in the league in steals averaging 6.0 steals per game.  The Bulldogs host Hawai’i and San Jose State this coming week, a pair of games that the Bulldogs must win to establish themselves as an upper tier team in the conference.

Hawai’i (8-7, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/03 L vs. Idaho, 59-52, 01/05 W vs. Boise State, 76-68

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Fresno State, 01/11 @ Utah State

The Warriors split their opening weekend’s conference games as they fell 59-52 to Idaho in a defensive struggle.  The Warriors trailed 40-26 with 16:30 left to play but cut the Vandal lead down to four at 49-45 with 3:18 left to play but could get no closer.  The two teams combined to go just 26-of-43 from the free throw line as Hawai’i hit 14-of-21 and Idaho hit 12-of-22.  The Warriors rebounded two nights later as they hosted Boise State.  They used a 12-2 run early in the second half to put themselves comfortably ahead and then used a 14-for-15 performance from the free throw line in the final seven minutes to seal the deal.  In stark contrast to their previous game the Warriors hit 20-of-26 free throws (76.9 percent).  The Warriors lead the league in scoring defense through two games allowing just 63.5 points per game.  They are also third in the league in free throw percentage at 72.3 and have attempted the most free throws in the league with 47 attempts.  Paul Campbell leads the league in field goal percentage at 87.5 percent having hit 14-of-16 shots through two games.  The Warriors go on the road to Fresno State and Utah State this week.  A split of the two games would be considered a huge plus for the team.

Idaho (8-5, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/03 W @ Hawai’i, 59-52, 01/04 L @ San Jose State, 78-75

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. Louisiana Tech, 01/11 vs. New Mexico State

The Vandals split their road trip to Hawai’i and San Jose State as they held on for a hard fought 59-52 victory over Hawai’i but fell to the Spartans by three in a back-and-forth battle in San Jose.  Both teams shot above 50 percent for the game.  Mac Hopson led Idaho with 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.  Idaho held a six point lead early in the second half but were undone by a six-minute offensive drought.  Idaho is second in the league in three point percentage hitting 37.8 percent of their threes (14-of-37) and tops in the league in three point defense as opponents have hit just 7-of-28 through two league games.  The Vandals host league leading Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State this coming week and a sweep at home would put the Vandals in prime position as they play five of their next six conference games at home.

Louisiana Tech (14-2, 2-0)

The week’s results:  01/02 W vs. Nevada, 77-71, 01/04 W vs. Utah State, 82-60

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Idaho, 01/11 @ Boise State, 01/14 vs. Fresno State

Doubters of Louisiana Tech’s gaudy 12-2 record in non-conference play were quickly silenced as the Bulldogs had a pair of statement victories to open league play.  The Bulldogs held off Nevada 77-71 and then obliterated preseason favorite Utah State 82-60.  Jamel Guyton led the way for the Bulldogs against the Wolf Pack scoring 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 6-of-7 shooting from the free throw stripe he added six rebounds and three steals and played 38 minutes.  Kyle Gibson played all 40 minutes against the Pack and added 17 points, seven rebounds and a pair of steals.  Against Utah State the Bulldogs trailed 2-0 but a three pointer gave them a 3-2 lead five minutes into the game and they would not trail for the remainder.  The Bulldogs held a 33-point lead at 69-36 before eventually winning by 22.  Magnum Rolle finished the game with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and added 14 rebounds for another double-double.  Louisiana Tech hit 53.3 percent of their field goals, 50 percent of their three point attempts (7-of-14) and 73.3. percent of their free throws (11-of-15) in the rout.  The Bulldogs lead the conference in scoring at 79.5 points per game and have a +14.0 scoring margin per game, the second best margin in the league is +3.0 (Fresno State and San Jose State).  The Bulldogs are second in the legaue in field goal percentage having hit 50 percent of their shots, they are also the best field goal percentage defense allowing just 41.6 percent of their opponents shots to go in.  To go along with the defensive effort the Bulldogs lead the league in steals per game at 7.5.  The Bulldogs will look to further silence their critics as they travel to the state of Idaho this weekend to face Idaho and Boise State.

Nevada (9-6, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/02 W @ Louisiana Tech, 77-71, 01/04 W @ NMSU, 77-67

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. San Jose State, 01/13 vs. Utah State

The Wolf Pack earned a road split in one of the most difficult road trips in the WAC, the Ruston/Las Cruces trip.  After dropping a game to Louisiana Tech to start the conference season, the second consecutive season in which they’ve dropped the season opener, the Wolf Pack rebounded with a commanding victory over New Mexico State.  Though the final margin in the victory over New Mexico State was just 10 points, there was little drama in the second half.  Leading by just seven at the break the Wolf Pack never allowed the Aggies to get closer than five points (41-36) and held a 17-point lead at 71-54 with 3:43 remaining to play.  Luke Babbitt played 39 minutes and scored a game high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.  He finished 10-of-14 from the floor and a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the three point arc.  It was Babbitt’s seventh 20-plus point performance and fifth consecutive.  It was also his 10th double-double in 15 games this season.  The Wolf Pack lead the league in rebounding margin at +8.0 per game and are averaging 40.5 rebounds per game.  They also lead the league in offensive rebounds per game at 13.5 and defensive rebounds per game at 27.0 per game.  Lack of bench production continues to be a concern for the Wolf Pack as an article earlier this week by the Reno Gazette-Journal’s beat writer Chris Murray reported that Nevada’s bench contributes just 43 minutes per game, lowest in the league.  They score just 11.7 points per game, third worst in the league.  The Wolf Pack host their next three conference games as San Jose State, Utah State and Idaho all come to Reno.

New Mexico State (8-7, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/02 W vs. Utah State, 55-52, 01/04 L vs. Nevada, 77-71

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Boise State, 01/11 @ Idaho

New Mexico State grinded out a 55-52 victory over Utah State to string together their fifth victory of the season.  Jonathan Gibson’s jumper with 17 seconds remaining gave the southern Aggies a three point lead and when Utah State’s three pointer with three seconds left hit iron New Mexico State fans breathed a sigh of relief.  The Aggies went through a six minute scoring drought allowing Utah State to climb back into the game but solid defense down the stretch, a rarity in Las Cruces this season, enabled the southern Aggies to hang on for the victory.  Unfortunately for Marvin Menzies and his crew the euphoria was short lived as Luke Babbitt and Nevada strolled into town two nights later.  The Wolf Pack dominated the Aggies from start to finish.  The Aggies never led in the game and there was just one tie, 2-2, 2:18 into the game.  The Aggie defense had no answer for Luke Babbitt and he scored inside and outside on the Aggies and finished with 26 points.  The Aggies did have five players finish in double-figures in scoring, generally a stat that leads to a win, however, the Aggies’ high-scoring combo of Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson mustered only 27 points combined (the duo averaged nearly 40 points per game combined in non-conference play).  The Aggies lead the league in turnover margin at +4.0 and are second in the league in scoring defense giving up 64.5 points per game.  The high flying Aggie offense has been grounded through two league games and are averaging 61.0 points per game, only bettering the 56.0 points per game their fellow Aggies from Logan have put up through two games.  New Mexico State takes the trip to the state of Idaho as they face Boise State and Idaho this weekend.  The Aggies and Broncos have had some wild affairs the past several seasons and the Aggies have never had a particularly easy time in Moscow, even when the Vandals were way down.  Their largest margin of victory over Idaho is just 10 points and last season they suffered their first loss at Idaho since joining the league in the 2005-06 season.

San Jose State (8-5, 1-0)

The week’s results:  01/04 W vs. Idaho, 78-75

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Nevada, 01/11 @ Fresno State, 01/14 vs. Boise State

The Spartans played just one conference game on opening weekend but they made it count.  SJSU squeaked by Idaho in an offensive slugfest.  Both teams shot above 50 percent from the game but it was Adrian Oliver’s three pointer late in the game that proved to be the difference maker.  The Spartans won a conference opener for the first time since the 1998-99 season.  Adrian Oliver led the Spartans with 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting.  C.J. Webster added 21 points and 11 rebounds on 10-of-14 shooting.  The Spartans are second in the league in scoring at 78.0 points per game and are second best in the league in free throw shooting hitting 73.3 percent of their attempts.  The Spartans will fully kick off the conference season with road trip to face Nevada and Fresno State followed by a home contest against Boise State.  A 2-1 stretch in the three games could signal that San Jose State is ready to get out of the WAC basement.

Utah State (10-6, 0-2)

The week’s results:  01/02 L @ NMSU, 55-52, 01/04 L @ Louisiana Tech, 82-60

Upcoming games:  01/11 vs. Hawai’i, 01/13 @ Nevada

Shellshocked. That’s what the Aggie faithful must be feeling after a shocking 0-2 road trip to open conference play.  After losing a grinder against New Mexico State in a game that favored the northern Aggies, Utah State went on the road and suffered their second worst loss in conference play since joining the WAC (a 100-70 loss at New Mexico State in the 2007-2008 season was the worst).  The last time the Aggies started 0-2 in the WAC they were 10-3 heading into league play and finished just 9-7 but advanced to the conference championship game before falling to host New Mexico State by two.  It’s no time to panic if you’re a Utah State fan. History is on your side.  Two games into the conference season the Aggie offense is nowhere to be found.  The Aggies are averaging a league worst 56 points per game.  The Aggies are second worst in the league in three point shooting 23.1 percent a departure from their normally hot three point shooting.  Utah State hosts Hawai’i as they try to get in the win column and then two days later they travel to Reno for they always contentious battle with the Wolf Pack.

UPCOMING GAMES

  • 01/09 – Idaho vs. Louisiana Tech – 5:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/09 – Fresno State vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/09 – Boise State vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 01/09 – Nevada vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/11 – Fresno State vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/11 – Idaho vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. PT (ESPNU)
  • 01/11 – Boise State vs. Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 01/11 – Utah State vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 01/13 – Nevada vs. Utah State – 8:00 p.m. PT (ESPN2)
  • 01/14 – San Jose State vs. Boise State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/14 – Louisiana Tech vs. Fresno State – 8:00 p.m. CT (ESPN Regional)
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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 11th, 2009

checkinginon

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

CURRENT STANDINGS:

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

Mediocrity continues for the WAC as the league came up largely empty against the toughest competition they faced this week and they now stand 38-32 in non-conference play.  Last week we talked about eight games and eight chances earn RPI boosting victories for the league.  The end result of those eight games was a 2-6 record.  Boise State lost to Illinois, New Mexico State was thumped by New Mexico, St. Mary’s snapped Utah State’s 37-game home winning streak, Pacific was snakebitten at Pacific, Idaho rocked then No. 25 Portland but got crushed on the road by Washington State, Louisiana Tech lost at Arizona and Fresno State knocked off San Diego.

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Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 3rd, 2009

checkinginon

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

CURRENT STANDINGS:

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

The WAC finally got another win over the Mountain West as Utah State struck down BYU, 71-61, in Logan, UT.  The league is now just 3-8 against the Mountain West.  As for the rest of the WAC?  The non-conference has been unkind. The top four teams in the standings are 18-6 in non-conference play.  The other five teams, however, are just 10-18 and the league as a collective whole is just 28-24.  Aside from Idaho’s win over Utah (3-4)  — which is has lost some of its luster following Utah losses to Seattle and Weber State — Utah State’s win over BYU (5-1), and San Jose State’s win over Pacific (5-1), the marquee wins have not been there.  Nevada came oh-so-close last week as they fell to VCU 85-76 and hung tough with defending national champion North Carolina 80-73, but the league went 7-8 over the past seven days.

The WAC, however, can redeem itself as it prepares for perhaps its toughest week of non-conference play.  Boise State travels to Illinois (5-2), New Mexico State travels to New Mexico (7-0), Utah State hosts St. Mary’s (5-1), Nevada travels to Pacific (5-1), Fresno State hosts San Diego (4-3), Idaho hosts #25 Portland (5-2) and then faces border rival Washington State (6-1), and Louisiana Tech heads to Arizona (3-3).  Eight games, eight chances to notch RPI-boosting victories.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South, Mid-South, Lower Midwest, Upper Midwest and Mountains) are located here.

It’s time for the ninth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of hot, dry, desert-y states known as the Southwest Region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Southwest Region (NM, AZ, NV, HI, southern CA)

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  • Rihards Kuksiks – F, Jr – Arizona State. Advice to Pac-10 coaches writing up their scouting reports for when they go up against Arizona State this season: when Rihards Kuksiks enters the building, get a man on him. Don’t bother waiting until the game actually starts. You don’t want him getting comfortable, because he’s the kind of shooter who can change a game just that quickly. The guy can touch the ball a few times and the next thing you know you’re down nine before the first TV timeout. Or you get a little comfortable with your late-game lead and after Kuksiks gets a couple of touches the lead is gone and you’re wondering how time can tick so slowly. You want numbers? Fine. Kuksiks is third in terms of returning individual leaders in 3-point field goal percentage (44.3%) in the country among players who hit at least two threes a game and finished 8th in that category last year. A recent article on FoxSports.com by Jeff Goodman reveals some other incredible stats: in games decided by 2 points or less, Kuksiks shot 47% from behind the 3-point line; against ranked opponents he shot 46% from beyond the arc, and in the loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament’s second round last year, he put up his career high in points with 20, with 18 of those coming from long range. In other words, the man steps up during big games. If the numbers don’t interest you, then consider the fact that many of these threes are not from a hair behind the line. They are often from distance. And they are often clutch (ask Arizona about a couple of late ones he nailed in that February game last year). Most importantly, watch the form. It should be an instructional video. He gets good height on his jumper but doesn’t overdo it, and you can see how he gets his legs into the shot. He releases the ball out in front just a little bit, but then the follow-through is a perfect example of that “reach into the cookie jar” that basketball coaches start teaching kids from the moment they can lift a basketball. By the way, he’s 6’6 and more than happy to mix it up in the paint, if needed. My favorite bit about Kuksiks comes from an interview he did for a site called EuropeanProspects.com in which he was asked what kind of player he was. The first words out of his mouth? “I am a sharpshooter.”  This is confidence, not cockiness, from the big man from Riga, Latvia. But I think it’s just fine if there actually is a little cockiness there. Long-range shooters are like neurosurgeons. They’re often asked to do the most difficult things in their field…and if I get to the point where I need to depend on one, I want them a little bit cocky.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #12 – WAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2009

seasonpreview

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

Travis’ Predicted Order of Finish:

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

Sam’s Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. New Mexico State (13-3)
  2. Utah State (12-4)
  3. Nevada  (11-5)
  4. Idaho (11-5)
  5. Louisiana Tech  (9-7)
  6. Fresno State  (6-10)
  7. Boise State  (5-11)
  8. San Jose State  (3-13)
  9. Hawaii  (2-14)

All-Conference Team:

  • Mac Hopson (G), Idaho
  • Jahmar Young (G), New Mexico State
  • Luke Babbitt (F), Nevada
  • Sylvester Seay (F), Fresno State
  • Magnum Rolle (C), Louisiana Tech

6th Man. Kyle Gibson (G), Louisiana Tech

Impact Newcomer. Steffan Johnson (G), Idaho

wac logoWhat You Need to Know. Once a solid multi-bid league, the WAC has struggled to gain national traction in recent years but appears poised to send multiple teams to the Big Dance after graduating just eight starting seniors in the entire league after last season. Five of the nine WAC teams return at least four starters and New Mexico State returns all five starters. The league also returns 14 of the 15 top scorers this season.

Travis’ Predicted Champion. Idaho (NCAA #12) — one and done.  The Vandals have a storied tradition in college hoops — in the early 1980s, Idaho dominated the Big Sky under legendary coach Don Monson, leading an unlikely charge to the 1982 Sweet 16. But that remains the high-water mark for Idaho basketball. In the first three seasons after joining the Western Athletic Conference in 2005, the Vandals were a perennial bottom-feeder.

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WAC Tournament Semifinals Wrapup

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2009

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

The semifinal games featured the top two seeds Utah State and Nevada taking on the five and six seeds New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. NM State and La. Tech were attempting to become the lowest seeds to ever face each other in the conference tournament finals. It was not to be however as both Utah State and Nevada held serve. Utah State defeated New Mexico State on a baseline jumper by Tyler Newbold with 3.1 seconds remaining to propel Utah State to the title game. Nevada meanwhile overcame an early first half deficit of 10 points to pull away from La. Tech 77-68.

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WAC Quarterfinal Recap & Semifinal Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 13th, 2009

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

Note: Rush the Court will be live-blogging tonight’s WAC Semifinals, which starts at 8:30 PM ET.

The quarterfinals of the 2009 WAC Tournament are in the books and the league’s top two seeded teams–Utah State and Nevada–advanced. The #3 and #4 seeds Idaho and Boise State? Not nearly as fortunate. Each session brought its own upset as in the tournament’s first game #5 seed New Mexico State upended #4 seed Boise State. The Broncos had won the first two meetings of the season and were looking to make it three straight and looked to be off to a good start when they built a 30-20 lead midway through the first half. However, New Mexico State found its shot and took a 38-36 lead into the break. Boise State tied the game at 38 apiece less than a minute into the game after a pair of made free throws but that’s as close as they would get the rest of the way. Spurred by an 8-0 run, New Mexico State seized control of the game and timely free throws and a second half barrage of three pointers by junior guard Jonathan Gibson helped the Aggies to advance to the semifinals. Gibson finished with a team high 22 points for the Aggies. Boise State was led by Mark Sanchez who scored a game high 25 points. In all four Aggies finished with double figures in scoring while three Broncos achieved that mark. Boise State finishes the season at 19-12 and will await their postseason fate. The Aggies improve to 17-14 and will face top seed Utah State at 6:00 p.m. PT.

In the first session’s second game the regular season champion Utah State took on #9 seed Fresno State. Most Aggie fans approached this game with a bit of guarded optimism not normally seen in a 1 vs. 9 matchup. However, there was due cause for their concern as Fresno State had pushed Utah State to the brink in both regular season meetings. The Bulldogs had lost by just four in the always tough Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum in Logan and then later took Utah State to overtime before eventually losing. After Fresno State escaped the 8/9 play-in game against Hawai’i, they looked to spring the upset. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the Aggies had different plans. Utah State jumped out to a 16-3 lead and never looked back. Utah State hit a season high 13 three pointers en route to an 85-68 victory. Utah State’s Stavon Williams finished with 22 points on 8-11 shooting including 6-8 from three point distance. Gary Wilkinson and Jared Quayle each pitched in 18 for the Aggies. Fresno State had four players reach double figures led by freshman Paul George with 16. Senior Dwight O’Neil, playing in his final game scored 14 points. Utah State rekindles their rivalry with New Mexico State in the first semifinal game at 6:00 p.m. PT.

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Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2009

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

Current Standings (Updated through games played on 02/05/09):

  1. Utah State (10-0, 22-1)
  2. Nevada (6-6, 13-9)
  3. Boise State (5-3, 15-6)
  4. New Mexico State (5-5, 11-12)
  5. Idaho (4-4, 10-11)
  6. San Jose State (4-5, 10-10)
  7. Hawai’i (3-7, 11-11)
  8. Louisiana Tech (3-7, 9-14)
  9. Fresno State (1-7, 9-14)

Official WAC Player of the Week — Jahmar Young

The sophomore Young did just about everything but pop the popcorn and take tickets at the Pan-American Center last week and rightly came away with the WAC Player of the Week award. Young averaged 28.5 points per game on 72.7% shooting from the floor in wins against San Jose State and Hawaii. He was ‘en fuego’ from three-point range — seven for ten — and sank 18 of 20 free throws. Young also grabbed 10 rebounds and made four steals.

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