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 »
Share this story

Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2012

Sam Wasson is the RTC correspondent for the Western Athletic Conference.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

  • Nevada wrapped up at least a share of the regular season title with a win over Fresno State
  • New Mexico State strengthened their grip on second place with a pair of wins over Hawai’i and San Jose State
  • Idaho lost big at Utah State but gained ground in the battle for third place
  • Utah State picked up a win over Idaho avenging an earlier loss to the Vandals
  • Hawai’i got shellacked in their two road games
  • Louisiana Tech swept their two home games
  • Fresno State lost a tight one at home against Nevada
  • San Jose State was swept on the road

Power Rankings

  1. Nevada (23-5, 11-1): The Wolf Pack survived a stiff challenge on the road from Fresno State, survived a horrid shooting night from backcourt mates Deonte Burton and Malik Story (5-for-29) and survived getting just one point from their bench. It all added up to a 79-76 triple-overtime victory and at least a share of the regular season WAC crown and also the #1 overall seed in next week’s WAC Tournament. Nevada’s second half run through the WAC has not been nearly as easy as their 7-0 stroll through the first half. The Wolf Pack won those first seven games by an average margin of 10.7 points per game but the second half run through has included a loss to Idaho and a winning margin of just 4.75 points per game. Nevada appears to be losing just a little bit of steam heading into the gauntlet that is the WAC Tournament.

    Malik Story (34) and Deonte Burton Continue To Help Nevada Lead The Pack (Nevada Athletics)

  2. New Mexico State (22-8, 9-3): New Mexico State dominated its week of WAC play busting Hawai’i 115-73 and then keeping San Jose State at bay (no pun intended) 79-68.  The story of the week for New Mexico State revolved around their trio of seniors and one very talented freshman. The seniors, Wendell McKines (1000-plus points, 1000-plus rebounds), Hernst Laroche (1,000-plus points, soon-to-be all-time leader in games played) and Hamidu Rahman (1,000-plus points, second all-time in blocks) played their final game at home in the win over San Jose State but two nights earlier freshman Daniel Mullings stole the show with a 28-point, 12 rebound, 10-assist triple double, just the second in the school’s history and just the 13th in conference history. New Mexico State is peaking at the right time (if you’re an Aggie fan, the wrong time if you’re not) and as noted last week, they could be the odds-on favorites to steal the WAC’s auto-bid. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 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

It was all non-conference games last week in the WAC as everyone participated in the annual ESPNU BracketBusters event and a few teams scheduled mid-week non-conference games (filling the empty slot in the schedule left by Boise State’s departure). Nevada fell to Iona on the road in their televised BracketBuster game while New Mexico State manhandled Drake at home in their televised game.

Power Rankings

  1. Nevada (22-5, 10-1): The Wolf Pack was unable to take advantage of an opportunity to solidify their at-large resume losing to Iona 90-84.  The loss wasted a 28-point performance from Olek Czyz and a 21-point game from Deonte Burton. The Nevada bench provided just five points in the loss and continues to be a non-factor, something to keep an eye on when the conference tournament rolls around. The league championship goes back to a hectic format of three games in three days after a double-bye format for the top two seeds last year required just two wins in two days to win the title. The Wolf Pack now fix its eyes back on the regular season title where either a pair of wins this week or any combination of a win and a New Mexico State loss will lock up the top seed in the conference tournament.

    Barring A Major Collapse, Deonte Burton and Nevada Are On Their Way To A WAC Title (AP)

  2. New Mexico State (20-8, 7-3): The Aggies are hitting their stride at the right time and they love the bright lights of ESPN.  Two of their past three games were televised on the ESPN family of networks and the Aggies not only won both but also had two of their best three point shooting performances of the season, 7-11 at Utah State and 7-13 versus Drake. The three ball has been an issue for New Mexico State (last in the league in three-point percentage) but if the Aggies able to keep up the hot shooting, they may find themselves as odds on favorites to win the tournament title. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking In On… The WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 16th, 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

Nevada essentially locked up the regular season title with a road sweep of Hawai’i and San Jose State and has road wins at Idaho, Hawai’i, New Mexico State and Utah State, all contenders coming into the season. The Wolf Pack has a two-game lead with three to play and all the head-to-head tiebreakers. While it is still mathematically possible for the southern Aggies to tie or even overtake Nevada for the regular season title, it would likely take a collapse of epic proportions — a loss to New Mexico State coupled with a loss to either (or both) bottom-feeders Louisiana Tech or Fresno State. New Mexico State notched a road win at Utah State, though it followed a one-point loss against Idaho two nights earlier. Idaho stayed in contention for a two-seed by picking up wins over New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech and remains a half-game ahead of Hawai’i in the standings. San Jose State finally notched a conference victory taking down fellow golden-stater Fresno State.

Kyle Barone Put Up Stellar Lines To Earn Him Conference Player Of The Week Honors.

Power Rankings

  1. Nevada (22-4, 10-1): The Wolf Pack successfully navigated the treacherous Honolulu/San Jose road swing coming out with a pair of wins and regaining a two-game advantage over second place thanks to an Idaho victory over New Mexico State. Perhaps a little road-weary against San Jose State, the Wolf Pack overcame a 26-point night from the Spartans’ James Kinney thanks to a “just-a-little-better” 27/10 outing from Olek Czyz and 23 points from Malik Story.
  2. New Mexico State (19-8, 7-3): It was a tale of two 12-minute periods for New Mexico State on their most recent road trip. The final six minutes of each half at Idaho did them in, getting outscored by a combined 27-10, but it was the exact opposite at Utah State, outscoring the northern Aggies 30-5 in the final six minutes of each half to propel them to victory. Hamidu Rahman joined the 1,000-point club this week and he’s the third member of the squad to do so this season joining fellow seniors Wendell McKines and Hernst Laroche.
  3. Idaho (15-11, 7-4): A home sweep of New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech kept the Vandals in the mix for a second-place finish in league play as Kyle Barone had two magnificent outings en route to WAC Player of the Week honors. His stat line for the two games read 16 points, eight boards, four assists, and two blocks on 7-13 shooting against New Mexico State and 14 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocked shots on 6-10 shooting against the Bulldogs. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

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 »
Share this story

Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 19th, 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

New Mexico State swept its home conference opening weekend to improve to 3-0 while Nevada dispatched their visitors to improve to 4-0 in league play.  The two remain as the only unbeatens left in WAC play.  Utah State had a troubling trip eastward, getting thumped by 20 in Las Cruces and barely squeezing by Louisiana Tech by four.  Idaho likewise split the Las Cruces/Ruston roadie and both are at .500 in conference play.  LA Tech and San Jose State both remain winless in conference play while Fresno State notched a win over SJSU to get out of the WAC basement for the time being.

Wendell Mckines And New Mexico State Keep Pace With Nevada For The Top Spot In The WAC.

Power Rankings

  1. Nevada (15-3, 4-0): The Wolf Pack hang on to the top spot, barely, thanks to their home sweep last week over San Jose State and Hawai’i.  Deonte Burton continues to terrorize opposing defenses, stating his case for WAC Player of the Year honors.  Burton is not only scoring points, but hitting big shots and taking over games when he needs to.  His 25 points against Hawai’i helped keep the Wolf Pack on top of the WAC.  Despite getting most of their scoring from their starting five, opposing teams haven’t been able to shut those players down and until a team does so, the Pack should be able to stay on top of the league.
  2. New Mexico State (13-5, 3-0): The Aggies had arguably the most impressive weekend, sweeping a home stand of Utah State (by 20) and a better-than-their-record-indicates Idaho squad (by a dozen).  Wendell McKines posted back-to-back double-doubles, his 10th and 11th of the year against Utah State and Idaho, respectively, and got some extra help from fellow post players Hamidu Rahman (23 points, nine rebounds) and Tshilidzi “Chili” Nephawe (22 points, eight rebounds) in the two wins.  When the Aggies head to Honoulu this week, it will mark the second lengthy road trip this season, as they participated in the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage in November. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 5th, 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

  • The WAC finished off non-conference play with a few near-misses. Utah State lost by two, 66-64, at Mississippi State, Hawai’i was unable to overtake UNLV, falling 74-69, Idaho came up just short against Boise State, 76-73, but Fresno State extracted some revenge for the conference, shellacking the Broncos 72-59 in Fresno.
  • Meanwhile New Mexico State needed a miracle to overcome Cal State-Bakersfield 73-72. In the game, NMSU lived out a “Butler over Pitt” scenario, giving up a go-ahead free throw with 2.4 seconds to go, but got fouled on the ensuing possession with 0.9 seconds left and hit a pair of free throws to escape with a win. The WAC heads into conference play as the 16th-best conference as rated by the RPI and a 56-50 record in the non-conference.

Utah State Fell By Just Two To An Improved Mississippi State Squad, But Enters WAC Play With Confidence. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Nevada (10-3): The preseason pick to win the WAC heads into league play with the best record in the non-conference portion of play but has not played since December 28. The Wolf Pack open up league play on the road at Idaho and Utah State and a pair of victories to open league play there would definitely put them in the early driver’s seat. Why they won’t win the WAC: Lack of depth. The starters for Nevada score 82.8 percent of their points (56.4 of 68.1). Conference play is a grind and the Wolf Pack starters may eventually succumb to the wear and tear of the pressure of having to produce night in and night out with no scoring help from the bench. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

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%.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Conference Primers: #14 – WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 22nd, 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 I

 

Top Storylines

  • Utah State Looks To Maintain Dynasty: Will someone finally break Utah State’s stranglehold on the league?  The northern Aggies have won at least a share of the regular season conference title four straight seasons but return only two key players from last year’s championship squad, point guard Brockeith Pane (the only starter) and forward Brady Jardine.  Nevada, New Mexico State and Hawai’i all have a legitimate shot at dethroning the Aggies. Will one of them finally step up and do it?

Can Stew Morrill's Aggies Keep Their Grip on the WAC Another Season?

  • It’s The End of the WAC As We Know It: Boise State has already transitioned to the Mountain West, and Fresno State and Nevada will join the MWC as well next season. On top of that, Hawai’i is headed for the more travel-friendly confines of the Big West.  The WAC will welcome Denver, Seattle, UT-San Antonio, UT-Arlington and Texas State in the 2012-13 season, not exactly an equal trade in terms of prestige and history.  Can the WAC make some noise nationally before it slinks into relative obscurity next season?  It’s up to New Mexico State, Utah State, Nevada and Hawai’i to make it happen.
  • New Faces:  Once again, the WAC welcomes some new coaches to the league.  By all accounts, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech landed themselves a pair of good ones when they hired Rodney Terry and Michael White, respectively.  Like the past hires at Idaho, New Mexico State, Nevada and Hawai’i, neither of them have any previous head coaching experience, but the hires were praised on a national level.  Terry spent the past several seasons as an assistant coach at Texas while White, the son of Duke Athletic Director Kevin White, spent the past seven seasons as an assistant on the Ole Miss coaching staff.  White is a youngster at just 34 years of age but finding that new hot coach seems to be the trend these days (Brad Stevens at Butler and Shaka Smart at VCU being the two prominent examples).

Predicted Order of Finish

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

WAC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 9th, 2011

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.

Postseason Preview

It’s Utah State and everyone else.  At least that’s what it looks like on the outside looking in.  However, this could be one of the most wide open tournaments in years.  Anyone can beat anyone.  Heading into the final week of play, there was a scenario in which five teams could have finished 9-7 and tied for second.  While it didn’t turn out that way, the teams are still tightly bunched and it should lend itself to a few upsets.

The hottest team coming into the tournament is Boise State, having won seven in a row.  Right behind them is Utah State with five in a row.  Idaho earned the 4-seed and is the only team to have handed Utah State a loss.  Hawai’i could be the darkhorse in this tournament as the 5-seed.  If they make it past Adrian Oliver and San Jose State, they certainly will have revenge on their minds against Idaho, who swept the season series.  The Warriors are the only team to push Utah State in both regular season meetings and have what it takes on a neutral court to upset the regular season champs.

On the other side of the bracket, an exciting showdown between New Mexico State and Boise State looms in the semifinals.  That is, if the Aggies can get past their quarterfinal game.  They face the winner of the Nevada/Fresno State game and both of those teams beat the Aggies this year.  Should fans be lucky enough to see a Boise State/New Mexico State game, it could be the game of the tournament in terms of excitement.  These two teams played an epic triple-overtime championship game in the 2008 tournament, with Boise State coming out on top.  The Broncos and Aggies split the season series and the average final score of the past nine games is 92-85.

New Mexico State is the defending tournament chance and could make a run to its second straight title and third in five years IF they play with a higher level of energy.  Head coach Marvin Menzies is 10-3 in his tournament career and knows how to get his players up for tournament games.  The Aggies have made it to at least the semifinal game each year they’ve been in the WAC.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 19th, 2011

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

  • Utah State took over sole possession of first place in the WAC as they took down Boise State in the showdown of conference unbeatens.  Idaho ran their win streak to five in a row and is a half-game behind USU for first place and New Mexico State is doing what Marvin Menzies-led teams have done in the past, win in conference.  The crimson-clad Aggies are 4-1 in league play and a game behind the UtAgs for first place with an ESPNU-televised showdown on Saturday looming.  New Mexico State and Idaho provided the highlights of the week as Idaho’s Jeff Ledbetter buried a buzzer-beating three in overtime to down CS-Bakersfield 78-77 and New Mexico State sophomore Bandja Sy delivered a game-opening thunder-dunk on the baseline against San Jose State, the dunk made SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays that evening.
  • Road Cooking?: The friendly confines haven’t been so friendly early as the road teams hold a 13-12 record through the first three weekends of conference play.  The top five teams in the standings are an amazing 10-2 on the road.  Just one team, Louisiana Tech, is without a road victory in league play.
  • Player of the Week: Idaho’s Jeff Ledbetter was named the Player of the Week for January 10-16 as led Idaho to a pair of wins against Nevada (72-67) and Cal State Bakersfield (78-77, OT). The win over Nevada extends Idaho’s WAC winning streak to a school-record four games. Against Nevada, Ledbetter went 4-8 from the field and a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line, scoring 17 points with a career-high three steals and two assists.  At Cal State Bakersfield, Ledbetter hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Idaho the 78-77 victory.  On the week, Ledbetter averaged 15.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.5 steals per game. He shot 50.0 percent (9-18) from the field and 54.5 percent (6-11) from three-point range. He also hit 100 percent (6-of-6) of his shots at the free throw line.

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (16-2, 5-0)

Up Next: 01/20 vs. Louisiana Tech, 01/22 vs. New Mexico State (ESPNU, 9:00 p.m. MT)

Utah State has downed all comers so far through the first five conference games.  They dispatched of potential upstarts Hawai’i and San Jose State to start the season and have denied rival Nevada, surprise contender Boise State (68-59) and Fresno State (52-39).  Against Boise State the Aggies had just three points through the first seven minutes and missed their first eight shots from the field but still shot 44.8 percent in the half and held a 33-21 advantage at the break.  They’d shot 59.1 percent in the second half to win by nine.  Against Fresno State the UtAgs held the Bulldogs to just four first half buckets en-route to the 13-point victory.  Utah State hosts winless Louisiana Tech on Thursday night before the big showdown with New Mexico State on Saturday night.

2. Idaho (12-6, 5-1)

Up Next: 01/22 vs. Boise State (WAC Sports Network/ESPN Full Court)

The Vandals defeated Nevada 72-67, CS-Bakersfield 78-77 in overtime and Fresno State 67-57 to run their winning streak to five games.  Idaho held Nevada’s Olek Czyz to just 14 points nearly 11 points below his conference average.  Kyle Barone‘s double-double (20/13) against Bakersfield was made better Jeff Ledbetter’s buzzer-beating triple in overtime.  Idaho held Fresno State’s Greg Smith to just 11 points as he attempted just four shots from the field.  Kyle Barone followed up his 8-of-10 performance against Bakersfield with a perfect 6-of-6 performance scoring 18 points as the Vandals shot a sizzling 69.6 percent in the second half.  The Vandals are at home on Saturday as they host in-state rival Boise State for what could be the final meeting for a while as the series’ future is in limbo with Boise State heading to the Mountain West Conference.

3. New Mexico State (10-9, 4-1)

Up Next: 01/20 at Nevada, 01/22 at Utah State (ESPNU, 9:00 p.m. MT)

It must be conference time as the Aggies are once again on a roll in WAC play.  New Mexico State has won three straight league games and had no trouble with visiting Hawai’i (82-64) or San Jose State (78-53).  The Aggies held both Hawai’i and SJSU to under 40 percent shooting and added to their national free throw attempt lead with a combined 82 free throws attempted in the two games.  Up next for the Aggies is the annual trek to Reno and Logan where the Aggies will try to avoid a similar fate as last year’s Reno/Logan haul, a sweep that cost them a share of the league title.  New Mexico State has emerged as the best three point shooting team in the league (38.9 percent) but unlike previous seasons, they have the best three point defense in the league allowing just 24.5 percent.  Aggie freshman big man Tshilidzi Nephawe has defied the laws of basketball as he is third in the conference in free throw shooting percentage at 90 percent (18-20) as only guards Jeff Ledbetter (Idaho) at 14-15 (93.3 percent) and Zane Johnson (Hawai’i) at 19-21 (90.5 percent) have done better from the charity stripe.

4. Nevada (5-13, 2-3)

Up Next: 01/20 vs. New Mexico State, 01/22 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Wolf Pack finally broke through on the road this season notching their first road/neutral win in 11 tries this season as they knocked off Boise State 69-67.  Point guard Deonte Burton played well on the week as the Pack split their road trip to the state of Idaho.  Burton had 23 points against the Vandals and 20 against the Broncos.  Could the road victory over Boise State prove to be the turning point in the Wolf Pack’s season?  The team will get a stern test from New Mexico State on Thursday night and then a lesser test against a crumbling Louisiana Tech team on Saturday night.  A home sweep would put the Wolf Pack in the thick of things for a top four finishing spot.

5. Boise State (11-7, 4-2)

Up Next: 01/22 at Idaho

After winning their first four conference games, the Broncos have come back to earth a bit losing at home twice last week to Utah State and Nevada.  The Broncos held the UtAgs to just three points through the first seven minutes of their showdown but could only muster a six-point lead as they were nearly equally as cold from the field.  Boise State trailed by a dozen at halftime and could never get closer than five points in the final six and a half minutes before losing by a final score of 68-59.  Against Nevada, it was the Broncos who could not find the basket early as they scored just six points through the first 10 minutes of the game and fell behind by 14.  The Broncos rallied and cut the deficit to five by halftime and held a four-point lead with six minutes left to play but could not hang on losing 69-67.  The Broncos will try to avoid a three-game losing streak as they travel north to Moscow to take on in-state rival Idaho on Saturday.

6. Fresno State (7-9, 3-3)

Up Next: 01/20 at Hawai’i, 01/24 vs. Seattle

Monday night saw Idaho come to town to face Fresno State, with the Bulldogs trying to end a two-game conference losing streak (80-68 to New Mexico State on the road and 52-39 against Utah State in Raisintown, with a 15-point first half ensuring defeat) after opening conference play with a trio of victories. The Vandals were down by two at the half but pulled ahead and won 67-57.  It’s off to Hawaii next for Fresno State.  A positive trend: sophomore center Greg Smith is displaying an uptick in his numbers in league play, including a 14/9 assist-to-turnover ratio.  The play of the Bulldogs this season can best be summed up by the following scoring numbers and the eligibility status of each player:  Tim Steed, junior 12.3 PPG.  Greg Smith, sophomore 12.0 PPG.  Kevin Olekaibe, freshman 11.8 PPG.  So two underclassmen and a junior college transfer newcomer are carrying the offense for coach Steve Cleveland and such a troika screams inconsistency in any program.

7. San Jose State (9-8, 1-5)

Up Next: 01/22 at Hawai’i

Just like Hawaii, San Jose State found Ruston’s home-cooking quite tasty, garnering a 79-74 win over Louisiana Tech. That victory also gave the Spartans an initial W in conference play and was their first league road victory since 2009. But then venturing into Las Cruces to face New Mexico State ended up in a 78-53 defeat. SJSU shot 2-17 from three-point range to 11-26 for the Aggies.  What’s key here: Star backcourter Adrian Oliver missed both the LA Tech and New Mexico State contests with concussion-like symptoms.  Word is that he will be back for the next game.  It’s Hawaii in Honolulu on Saturday for the Spartans.

8. Hawai’i (10-8, 1-5)

Up Next: 01/20 vs. Fresno State, 01/22 vs. San Jose State

UH is off the WAC shneid, having nabbed its first league victory with a win over Louisiana Tech in Ruston but the question remains: who and what is Hawaii? The team that went 9-3 in non-conference games, the squad currently 1-5 in the WAC or somewhere in between? Upcoming are home contests versus Fresno State and then San Jose State this week.  Confounding is the best description for what was supposed to be a strength this season — outside-shooting. In the last four WAC matchups, the Rainbow Warriors have shot 29% against Nevada, 17% in the Boise State matchup, 20% versus New Mexico State and 21% in the Louisiana Tech contest.   Senior frontcourter Bill (Famous) Amis has not only returned but seemingly has finally shaken off the rust built up during his time out with a foot injury. He went for a 22/12 double-double against Louisiana Tech.  Backcourter/wing Zane Johnson leads the Rainbow Warriors at 14.7 ppg. Amis checks in at 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds a contest. Senior point Hiram Thompson has been injured and may be wearing down a bit as his shooting has suffered of late. Good news is that frosh point Bobby Miles has a 49/44 assist-to-turnover ratio — not anywhere near outstanding but solid enough for a anyone a year out of high school.

9. Louisiana Tech (9-10, 0-5)

Up Next: 01/13 vs. San Jose State, 01/15 vs. Hawai’i

Last week, we asked if it was time to hit the ol’ panic button in Ruston.  The answer is a resounding “yes!”  After dropping both home games to San Jose State (79-74) and Hawai’i (56-48), arguably the two most winnable home conference games remaining, an 0-16 WAC stanza is not out of the question.  The Bulldogs head out for the brutal Reno/Logan roadie this week.  The Dogs are dead last in point production at 57 per conference game, their -12.2 scoring margin is second worst only to Hawai’i at -12.3.  They’re the worst free throw shooting team in the league at an abysmal 52.8 percent, they sport the worst field goal shooting percentage at 37.8 percent and are the second-worst defense allowing 47 percent shooting by their opponents.  All those factors add up to an 0-5 start in the league and of their next seven conference games, just one, at Nevada (2-3), comes against a team with a losing conference record.  They must face Utah State (5-0), Idaho (5-1), Boise State (4-2), New Mexico State (4-1) twice and Fresno State (3-3).  Their final four conference games after that are the brutally lengthy San Jose/Honolulu road trip where they traverse three time zones followed by a close homestead against Utah State and Nevada.  Sadly for the Bulldogs, 0-16 is not out of the question.

A Look Ahead

All eyes and TV sets in the WAC will be on Logan on Saturday as the clash of the Aggies takes place at 9:00 p.m. (MT) on ESPNU.  Should New Mexico State take care of business in Reno on Thursday night, Saturday’s battle will be for a share of first place in the league.  Meanwhile, in Moscow, Idaho will host the other big rivalry game of the night as they take on Boise State.  That game will also have major implications in the league title race as Idaho sits at 5-1 in conference play while Boise State stands at 4-2.  A Vandal loss would drop them at least one game behind the league leader (depending on the outcome of the Aggie vs. Aggie showdown) while a Bronco win would help them keep pace with the leaders and on-track for a top four finish.

Elsewhere around the league, it’s a big homestand for both Nevada and Hawai’i.  Nevada can turn things around with wins over New Mexico State and LA Tech while Hawai’i can get back on track with wins over Fresno State and San Jose State.

Share this story