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 »
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Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 31st, 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

 

Looking Back

Hawai’i picked up the league’s best non-conference win of the season knocking off No. 14 Xavier (albeit a slightly shorthanded Musketeer squad) in the Diamond Head Classic en-route to a 2-1 finish in their home tournament.  New Mexico State got thumped by in-state rival New Mexico at home and Utah State had a relatively easy time in its home tournament.

Zane Johnson Led Hawaii Over Xavier Before Falling To Auburn In The Diamond Head Classic. (AP/Marco Garcia)

Power Rankings

  1. Nevada (10-3): The Wolf Pack avoided a Cedarville trap game and has eight days off to rest before starting WAC play. The Wolf Pack have the best record in non-conference play and boast the best defense in the league allowing just 0.91 points per possession.  Nevada continues to get it done with seemingly little help from the bench in terms of scoring production. That’s something that could hurt them down the road when the rigors of conference play and WAC travel start to take their toll. One thing in the Wolf Pack’s favor is the conference schedule. They’ll get the Idaho/Utah State and New Mexico State/Louisiana Tech road trips out of the way in the first half of the league schedule.
  2. Hawai’i (7-5): The Warriors vault into the number two spot thanks in large part to a solid showing at the Diamond Head Classic where Hawai’i won two out of three: a 65-62 loss to Auburn, an 84-82 overtime victory over 14th ranked Xavier and finally a 75-68 win versus Clemson. In the latter contest, Zane Johnson regained his accuracy and finished with 27 points, bolstered by going 6-12 long distance shooting and center Vander Joaquim produced a 14/10 double-double. UH shot 49% overall and committed just 12 turnovers. It was forward Joston Thomas scoring 26 points and Joaquim scoring 20 in the win over Xavier. Last year’s strong performance in the DHC set the Warriors up for a better-than-expected conference season and their 2-1 record this year could be the catalyst for a strong run through the WAC again. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Transfer Effect: What the Statistics Say about Missouri and Iowa State’s Recruiting Methods

Posted by dnspewak on December 27th, 2011

No matter how established the program, every college basketball coach eventually takes a chance on a transfer. Jim Boeheim, for example, plucked Wesley Johnson from Iowa State and turned him into the Big East Player of the Year in 2009-10. Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski’s current rosters both include transfers with Brandon Wood (Valparaiso) and Seth Curry (Liberty), and in 1979, a former Indiana Hoosier named Larry Bird nearly won a title with Indiana State just a few years after quitting basketball (and Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers) altogether.

Hoiberg and Haith Are Recruiting Transfers Heavily to Their Programs

Normally, coaches take one or two transfers at a time to fill immediate holes, but that’s not everybody’s philosophy. Meet Missouri’s Frank Haith and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, a pair of coaches who have abandoned traditional recruiting methods at their new schools in favor of Division I transfers. Haith, hired in April to replace Mike Anderson, is using three open scholarships in 2011-12 on players who will not appear in a single basketball game this season by signing Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Jabari Brown (Oregon). Hoiberg, on the other hand, has four transfers on his roster in his second year with the Cyclones: Chris Allen (Michigan State), Chris Babb (Penn State), Royce White (Minnesota), and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois). The two coaches have energized their fan bases by signing big names from major schools, but Haith and Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics cannot be accurately judged at this point. Iowa State’s Fab Four will begin Big 12 play next month, and Missouri’s three transfers will not all be eligible until December 2012.

Instead of speculating as to whether the two teams will suffer from dreaded chemistry problems with so many transfers, why not crunch the numbers to see if The Transfer Effect really exists? Although finding aggregate data for Division I transfers is virtually impossible, recent anecdotal evidence shows that the recruiting strategy is an enormous risk for both coaches. Seven teams from both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons welcomed three or more transfers to their programs at the same time, and only two teams (San Diego State and UNLV) finished above .500 in league play. Seton Hall, the only power conference team in the group, missed the NCAA Tournament.

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Checking In On… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 16th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

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

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

Power Rankings

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

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

Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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Checking In On… The WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 28th, 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

It’s been a relatively disappointing start to the season for WAC teams. Outside of New Mexico State‘s win over in-state rival New Mexico and Utah State‘s win over BYU, the league has fallen flat in the early going. The USU win over BYU was tempered by losses at Weber State and a horrendous loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Preseason favorite Nevada has also struggled with closer-than-expected wins over Prairie View A&M and Longwood. On the bright side, the league has protected home court with the eight teams combining for a 14-2 home record.

Christian Kabongo And The Aggies Are Looking Impressive In An Otherwise Middling WAC. (Credit: NMStateSports.com)

Power Rankings

1. New Mexico State (5-1): The question mark surrounding the Aggies entering the season was two-fold. First, would they be able to find scoring after losing leading scorer Troy Gillenwater and second, would the team commit itself on the defensive end?  They’ve answered both with a ‘Yes’.  The Aggies have topped the 80-point mark three times this season but have also shown the ability to lock down a team on the defensive end holding in-state rival New Mexico to their worst offensive performance under head coach Steve Alford (53 points on just 28% shooting) and Central Michigan to just 49 points. The Aggies finished third in the Great Alaska Shootout by dismantling Central Michigan before losing to Southern Mississippi in the semifinals. The Aggies bounced back with a come-from-behind win over San Francisco. The Aggies have been getting to the free throw line at an alarming rate (at least for their opponents), a whopping 36% of their points are coming from the free throw line and the team shot an eye-popping 131 free throws in three days in Alaska.

2. Idaho (3-2): The Vandals find themselves at number two on the power rankings not as much for their wins but for their losses.  Of the teams below them, they have the least egregious losses of the bunch.  Their two losses on the season have both come on the road– one at Long Beach State (who beat then #4 Pitt on the road) and at Montana. The Vandals are hitting nearly 50% of their shots from the field this season but need to do a better job at the charity stripe where they’re hitting just 63.3% for the season.

3. Utah State (3-2): Utah State has faced a trio on in-state opponents, beating BYU and Southern Utah but losing at Weber State. Senior point Brockeith Pane leads the Aggies in scoring at 15.3 points a game followed by Morgan Grim at 11.7 and Preston Medlin with 11.0 per game. It’s obviously early and they are replacing four starters, but Utah State is at an uncharacteristic 29% from three-point range and a paltry 60% at the foul line. USU also has just 25 assists to date. Those numbers will rise as the newcomers blend in and roles are earned.  The biggest concern in the immediate term is finding production in the absence of forward Brady Jardine, who is out 2-4 weeks with a foot injury.  The Aggies clearly missed his presence in the close win over Southern Utah and a stunning loss on the road at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

4. Nevada (4-3): One thing has become clear after seven games: if the Wolf Pack starters aren’t scoring, the Wolf Pack won’t win. Nevada hasn’t had much help from its bench this season. The Wolf Pack starting five is accounting for nearly 80% of the team’s offensive production and if you can hold those five in check, chances are you’re coming out with a ‘W’.  The Wolf Pack absolutely have to find some help for their starters or they run the risk of having a dead tired group of starters by the middle of conference play. A concern for Wolf Pack fans should be that two of their wins, Prairie View A&M and Longwood, have come by 13 and two points, respectively. Those are two teams who are usually scheduled for easy wins.

5. Hawaii (2-2): Hawaii handily beat Northridge, but reversed course by getting blown out by Gonzaga and was manhandled at home by Eastern Washington. Three Rainbow Warriors are averaging in double figures with Zane Johnson‘s 17.8 points per game at the expected head of the pack, freshman point Shaquille Stokes is second with 11.8 a contest, and sophomore Trevor Wiseman surprising checking in 11 points each time out. The biggest surprise? Sophomore point Bobby Miles has started three of four games, is averaging 28.5 minutes of action, and has compiled a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio. Hawaii’s defensive effort is strong so far, holding opponents to 39% shooting overall and just 27.3% from long distance. One key-to-the-season-component, mercurial power forward Joston Thomas is averaging just 13.8 minutes a game. He could become a big help to Coach Gib Arnold or blow out, there appears to be no middle ground for him.

6. Fresno State (2-4): There’s not necessarily any rhyme and/or reason early in the season as the Bulldogs have handled Illinois State and SMU but fallen to Manhattan, Stanford, Texas San-Antonio, and North Dakota State. It’s been the Kevin Olaikabe show to date as the sophomore is averaging 21.3 points per game with Jonathan Wills as the only other teammate in double figures at 11.3 points per game. JC transfer Kevin Foster is the best big man that coach Rodney Terry has, but he has been and is putting up just 7.0 points (on 32% shooting) and 4.7 rebounds per game.  Senior point Steve Shepp is usually among the best in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio but stands at 1.4 right now. However, some of that may be due to Fresno State shooting just 38.6% as a team.

7. Louisiana Tech (2-3): It’s been a bit of a rough start for first year head coach Michael White as his team has a couple of wins early in the season against less than stellar competition. Despite running an up-tempo offense, the Bulldogs haven’t been able to score many points averaging just 66.4 points per game and they are a terrible free throw shooting team hitting just 57.1% on the season, 342nd out of 344 teams. One positive for the Bulldogs has been their perimeter defense which is allowing just 15.9% from behind the arc, tops in the country. They’re also forcing 19 turnovers per game, ranking 21st in the country in that category. The Bulldogs need to score a few more points to help out their efforts on the defensive end.

8. San Jose State (2-3): The Spartans have been involved in close games and blowouts so far with a 27-point loss to Cal Poly, a one-point win versus Irvine, a two-point loss to USF, and a 26-point defeat to crosstown rival Santa Clara. Sophomore guard Keith Shamburger tops the team with 15.0 points per game followed by JC newcomer Jay Kinney‘s 12.6 points per game average. Will Carter has been steady averaging 10.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. However, outside of Carter, rebounding has been an issue as the Spartans own a -9.6 rebounding differential.

Looking Ahead

There are a few marquee matchups on the slate for the WAC.  New Mexico State plays host to Arizona and then ventures on the road to take on Southern Mississippi in a rematch of their semifinal game at the Great Alaska Shootout that was won by the Eagles. Nevada also hosts Washington later in the week. The WAC desperately needs more quality wins and 3-0 or 2-1 against this trio would qualify as a good week.

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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

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 7th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse digs a rout out west and credits the Thompson men in their handling of Klay’s mistake, and tells the Longhorns and Hokies what he thinks of ’em.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED..…Rick Pitino saying that there were no hard feelings about the Louisville cheerleader who gave Pitt a chance to tie the game last Sunday by running onto the court and hurling the ball skyward, earning a technical. He went on to say that the overzealous student should “enjoy your moment of glory.” But while Rick might have been all chummy the next day, that frankly was not the case after the game. Click this link and listen to the audio of his press conference: “I’m sure it was unintentional, but you could actually lose a game that way …. But hopefully he’ll learn the rules of basketball next time.” Pitino might have been in his happy-go-lucky PR mood after taking 24 hours to calm down, but his gut reaction is pretty hilarious – don’t EVER touch my ball.

Pitino Showed His Mellower Side During Cheerleadergate

I LOVED……a subconscious admission of a classic Duke flop tactic (P.S., I’m neutralizing the upcoming Duke hate by giving Nolan Smith mad props for single-handedly keeping the Devils in the game against UNC this weekend). While watching the UK/Vanderbilt game this week, I saw a guard draw a three-shot foul by sticking out his legs on a jumper and acting his way into the call. The side announcer (I want to say it was Jimmy Dykes) proceeds to say, “Over the years, Duke’s shooters. You go back to even guys like J.J. Redick. So good and so clever. (Jon) Scheyer. Nolan Smith right now…just enough of a foot out when you’re in the air to draw contact.” THREE Duke players, NO ONE ELSE! It was quite humorous, and come on – you’ve got to give credit first and foremost to Best Actor nominee Reggie Miller, who invented that move long ago.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 2nd, 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

The league wrapped up the second to last week of conference play and there was some shuffling near the top.  New Mexico State, which had held the second place spot since the mid January, slipped to third place after getting swept on the road at San Jose State and at Hawai’iNevada, which had likewise occupied a top four spot since early in the conference season was swept at home by Idaho and Boise State dropping from third to sixth place.  The Broncos have won five games in a row, including four conference games, since losing six of seven in the middle portion of the conference schedule and are poised to claim the coveted 2-seed. All that needs to happen for the Broncos is a win at home on senior night against San Jose State and a loss by New Mexico State to either No. 25/21 Utah State or Nevada.  Idaho is also sitting in an ideal spot with a game against Fresno State.  A win by them would secure a top four seed and a first round bye in next week’s conference tournament.  Louisiana Tech was eliminated from tournament contention as they lost to Hawai’i and San Jose State.

Player of the Week: Boise State’s La’Shard Anderson was named the Player of the Week for February 21–27 after leading Boise State to a pair of road wins last week at Fresno State (70-56) and Nevada (72-66). With the team’s road sweep last week, Boise State moved from fourth place to second place in the conference standings.  Anderson scored a career-high 33 points at Fresno State on 11-of-14 shooting (.786), including 4-of-6 from three-point range (.667) and 7-of-8 from the free throw line he also added four assists and three steals.  Two nights later he scored a team-high 23 points at Nevada, going 7-11 from the floor, 2-4 from beyond the arc and 7-of-10 from the charity stripe and added five assists and three steals.  In the two wins Anderson averaged 28.0 points, 4.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game. He shot 18-25 (72 percent) from the field, 6-of-10 (60 percent) from three-point range and 14-18 (77.8 percent) from the free throw line.

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (26-3, 13-1)

Up Next: 03/02 at New Mexico State (ESPN2, 9:00 p.m. MT), 03/05 at Louisiana Tech

With New Mexico State’s loss, the northern Aggies earned the regular season title outright and Utah State’s senior group marks four regular season titles in four years.  The UtAgs capped it off with a revenge victory over Idaho, the only team to defeat them thus far in regular season conference play.  The UtAgs wrap up the regular season with a road trip to Las Cruces and Ruston.  A road sweep would give Utah State the best regular season conference record (15-1) since Rick Majerus‘ Utah squad finished 14-0 in the 1998-99 season.  USU is 64-21 in WAC regular season games since joining the league in 2005-06.

2. Boise State (17-11, 9-6)

Up Next: 03/05 vs. San Jose State

“A pair of victories could have them sitting as high as second place after the weekend depending on what happens to New Mexico State and Nevada.”  Those were our words last week, and Boise State went out and got a pair of victories and now sit in second place, a win and a New Mexico State loss away from the 2-seed and a double-bye into the WAC Tournament semifinals.  All that stands in the path of a victory is San Jose State and Adrian Oliver‘s 24.3 PPG.  The Broncos head into WAC play as one of the hottest teams having won five in a row, the longest win streak in the WAC and they’ve done so winning three straight on the road.  The Broncos will take a brief non-conference break to host Cal State-Bakersfield on Wednesday night.

3. New Mexico State (14-15, 8-6)

Up Next: 03/02 vs. No. 25/21 Utah State (ESPN2, 9:00 p.m. MT), 03/05 vs. Nevada

The Aggies blew a golden opportunity to wrap up second place and a double-bye after losing twice on the road last week.  The Aggies lost 72-70 to San Jose State in overtime and 76-70 to Hawai’i.  The Aggies got no production from their interior as the duo of Hamidu Rahman and Tshilidzi Nephawe combined to go 0-for-18 with 17 rebounds and 12 personal fouls in the two games on the road.  Junior forward Troy Gillenwater was doubled-up in the scoring column by San Jose State’s Adrian Oliver in the showdown of the league’s two top scorers.  Oliver scored 36 points while Gillenwater scored 18 and missed a potential game-winning three in overtime.  The Aggies host rival Utah State on Wednesday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN2 and then close out the regular season on Saturday against rival Nevada where they will bid adios to their lone senior, hometown product, Gordo Castillo (8.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG).

4. Idaho (16-12, 8-7)

Up Next: 02/03 vs. Fresno State, 02/05 vs. Seattle

The Vandals earned an impressive season sweep of Nevada but lost to Utah State 84-68 but still earned a split in that series and moved into position for a top four finish and a first round bye.  The Vandals must take care of business against visiting Fresno State on Thursday night before finishing up with a non-conference game against Seattle on Senior Night.

5. Hawai’i (17-10, 7-7)

Up Next: 03/03 at San Jose State, 03/05 at Fresno State

A three-game conference win streak (Nevada, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State), coinciding with being at home in the islands, has Hawaii looking and feeling fine. This past week, LT fell to the Rainbow Warriors 71-58 with four UH players in double figures scoring and then it was a 76-70 triumph against the Aggies out of Las Cruces, the then second best team in the WAC. In the latter, sophomore center Vander Joaquim totaled an 18/15 double-double while senior frontcourter Bill Amis was at 14/11 with his contribution. Zane Johnson led all scorers with 22 points.  Forward Joston Thomas has returned from his personal absence and matters seem patched up between him and coach Gib Arnold.  Next up is a trip to San Jose to battle the Spartans and then heading south to face Fresno State. These two road games will be indicators of the real-ness of the Rainbow Warriors.

6. Nevada (11-17, 7-7)

Up Next: 02/24 vs. Idaho, 02/26 vs. Boise State

Oh, what a difference a week makes.  The Wolf Pack went into last week dreaming of a two-seed but came out of the week staring up at five teams.  Nevada’s home losses were a bit unexpected for a team that had won seven of their previous nine games.  The Pack heads east to take on hapless Louisiana Tech and rival New Mexico State.  A road sweep could have the Wolf Pack faithful happy once again and could deliver Nevada as high as a three-seed in the WAC tournament.  A loss or two could doom the young squad to the second half of the standings and no byes.

7. San Jose State (15-12, 5-9)

Up Next: 03/03 vs. Hawai’i, 03/05 at Boise State

After two wins against Big Sky Conference opponents, the Spartans took down New Mexico State 72-70 in overtime and then Louisiana Tech 72-60.  Adrian Oliver scored 36 points against NMSU (half of SJSU’s total) and followed up with 23 versus LT.  San Jose State is currently tied with Fresno State so the battle for who finishes seventh and eighth and the resulting placement in the WAC tourney will probably come down to the last game of the season.  The team in eighth will have to go through Utah State to reach the conference finals.  Next up is aloha-ing Hawaii to San Jose and then the regular season closes out with a final game up in Boise.

8. Fresno State (13-16, 5-9)

Up Next: 03/03 at Idaho, 03/05 vs. Hawai’i

A three-game WAC losing streak and a current tie for the last playoff spot is what’s facing the Bulldogs this week.  A 70-56 home loss to Boise State, in which FSU shot 17-46 overall and 6-22 from long distance, with Greg Smith totaling just four points, has coach Steve Cleveland‘s squad teetering. Can they head north or is the elevator dropping?  It is a young Bulldog team, one with promise but there are definite holes to be filled. A ready-to-contribute physical inside player to team with Smith is a must as is a freshman fitting such a description to groom. The backcourt needs a consistent distance shooter, hopefully someone with size and the point needs a dribble-drive creator.   Next up is a never-easy road game up at Idaho followed by hosting Hawaii. Junior wing Tim Steed is expected to miss at least the Vandal matchup due to suspension.

9. Louisiana Tech (12-18, 2-12)

Up Next: 03/03 vs. Nevada, 03/05 vs. No. 25/21 Utah State

The end is near.  With a pair of losses on the road last week the Bulldogs were eliminated from WAC tournament contention.  It could be an ugly end to an ugly season.  The Bulldogs will still likely be without suspended point guard DeAndre Brown and playing shorthanded against the Wolf Pack and Aggies is not a fun way to end the season.

A Look Ahead

While the participants for next week’s conference tournament have been decided, seeds two through nine have not.  There is potential for five teams to finish the season at 9-7 and tied for second place, a true indicator of the mediocrity (some might call it parity) of the WAC this season.  Even seeds eight and nine are TBD as 5-9 San Jose State and 5-9 Fresno State could both finish at 7-9.  It will be one wild and crazy sprint to the finish line for what promises to be a wild and crazy WAC tournament next week.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 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

Despite a down year in the WAC, the league still took care of business on Bracketbusters weekend finishing 8-1 with the lone loss by New Mexico State against the Big Sky’s Northern Colorado.  The marquee game of the weekend slate saw Utah State rally from a nine-point halftime deficit and dominate the St. Mary’s Gaels in the second half, winning 75-65.  The game also provided a “Dunk of the Year” candidate as USU’s Brady Jardine posterized Mitchell Young.

After the Bracketbusters romp, the WAC heads into the final two weeks of conference play with spots two through nine still up for grabs.

Player of the Week: Utah State’s Tai Wesley was named the Player of the Week for Feb. 14–20 after leading Utah State to a pair of wins last week over Montana Western (100-66) and No. 23 Saint Mary’s (75-65) on the road.  Against Montana Western, Wesley had 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot in 21 minutes.  Against Saint Mary’s, he posted his sixth double-double of the season with 22 points and 11 rebound and added two blocked shots and an assist.

Sitting Out: There are currently three players who have been suspended indefinitely from WAC play by their respective head coaches, Fresno State‘s Tim Steed , Louisiana Tech‘s DeAndre Brown and San Jose State‘s Brylle Kamen.  In addition, Joston Thomas took the weekend off to decide whether Hawai’i was truly the place he wanted to be (he went with “Yes”).

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (25-3, 12-1)

Up Next: 02/26 vs. Idaho

The Aggies finally picked up a statement win this season as they endured a 20-2 Gael run in the first half and smoked St. Mary’s in the second half (48-29) snapping SMC’s 19-game home win streak in the process.  Whether the win will be enough to ensure an at-large bid remains to be seen, but the UtAgs would rather win their final three regular season conference games and the WAC Tournament than have to sit through Selection Sunday to find out.  Idaho comes calling on Saturday and you can be sure the head coach Stew Morrill will have an offense in place to counter the box-and-one defense used against him by his protege, Don Verlin, in the last meeting.

2. New Mexico State (14-13, 8-4)

Up Next: 02/23 at San Jose State (ESPN2), 02/26 at Hawai’i

The Aggies were the lone team to lose on Bracketbusters weekend as Northern Colorado stunned the Aggies 82-80 in Las Cruces and snapped a five-game Bracketbusters win streak.  Northern Colorado hit nine first half treys but didn’t hit a single three in the second half, but poor free throw shooting (9-16) in the second half by the Aggies prevented them from a comeback victory.  Troy Gillenwater returned from his ankle injury but was hampered by foul trouble and produced only 13 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes of action.  The Aggies made the difficult trip to San Jose and Honolulu this week with second place hopes hanging in the balance.  New Mexico State holds a one game lead in the standings over Nevada with the Wolf Pack having won the first meeting.  A pair of wins is a must with Nevada and Utah State coming to Las Cruces to end the regular season next week.  Tonight’s game will be a battle of the league’s two best scorers.  Adrian Oliver leads the way averaging 23.9 PPG (22.1 in conference) and Troy Gillenwater at 20.0 PPG (21.8 in conference).  The Aggies have made the Honolulu/San Jose swing twice and split both times.

3. Nevada (11-15, 7-5)

Up Next: 02/24 vs. Idaho, 02/26 vs. Boise State

Nevada took care of business against UC-Irvine in the Bracketbusters, winning 74-63 behind 20 points from Dario Hunt.  The Wolf Pack host Idaho and Boise State, the two teams directly behind them in the conference standings as they try to put a little distance between themselves and fourth place.  The Wolf Pack lost at Idaho (72-67) but defeated Boise State (69-67) in the first meetings.  A home sweep by the Pack will set up a potential showdown next week for second place as Nevada travels to LA Tech and New Mexico State to end the regular season.

4. Boise State (15-11, 7-6)

Up Next: 02/24 at Fresno State, 02/26 at Nevada

After a mid-schedule swoon, the Broncos have reeled off three in a row, including a 78-76 overtime win at UC-Santa Barbara.  The Broncos head out on the road to take on Fresno state and Nevada as they try to move up into third place in the conference standings.  A pair of victories could have them sitting as high as second place after the weekend depending on what happens to New Mexico State and Nevada.  There is still much to play for for Leon Rice’s club and a road split is the minimum requirement this week to stay in the top four

5. Idaho (15-11, 7-6)

Up Next: 02/24 at Nevada, 02/26 at Utah State

After thumping Montana State 65-50 on the road, the Vandals have their work cut out for them as they travel to Reno and Logan to take on third place Nevada and first place Utah State.  The Vandals are the only team that has beaten both Nevada and Utah State and a road sweep would send shockwaves through the league.  We’ll have to wait and see what tricks Don Verlin has up his sleeves this time around when the team travels to Logan to take on his mentor, Stew Morrill.

6. Hawai’i (15-10, 5-7)

Up Next: 02/24 vs. Louisiana Tech, 02/26 vs. New Mexico State

A BracketBuster contest on the mainland against UC Davis turned into a second half rout for the Rainbow Warriors, as wing Zane Johnson buried nine treys (in 15 attempts) on his way to 32 points. Plus, this was accomplished minus starting point Hiram Thompson out due to injury and forward Joston Thomas away apparently deciding on his membership with the team.  Hawaii shot 61% for the game. Jeremiah Ostrowski filled in for Thompson with nine points, seven assists and a trio of steals.  Moving up in the rotation, freshman forward Trevor Wiseman matched eight points with eight boards in 26 minutes of play.  Louisiana Tech comes in on February 24 (minus the services of starting PG DeAndre Brown, who has been suspended indefinitely) followed New Mexico State on the 26th.  Thomas will be back with the team after having a heart-to-heart with head coach Gib Arnold and deciding that Honolulu was indeed the place he wants to be.

 

7. Fresno State (13-14, 5-8)

Up Next: 02/24 vs. Boise State

Going outside of conference play, the Bulldogs got healthy feasting on Cal State Bakersfield (73-55) and UC Riverside 68-49), the latter a BracketBuster matchup. Despite just nine foul shots against the Roadrunners in addition to being out-boarded by seven, FSU shot a remarkable 30-60 from the floor while holding Bakersfield to 17-61 accuracy. Tim Steed scored 23 points and grabbed seven boards. Versus Riverside, a Steed-less Bulldog squad utilized center Greg Smith‘s 23/14 double-double in lowering the Highlanders. A 46-26 rebound differential plus a 40-22 points-in-the-paint margin paved the way to success.  Coach Steve Cleveland announced prior to the Riverside matchup that Steed was on suspension — his return date unknown.  Next up is Boise State coming to town on February 24. FSU lost 75-61 up in Boise on February 10.

8. San Jose State (13-12, 3-9)

Up Next: 02/23 vs. New Mexico State (ESPN2), 02/26 vs. Louisiana Tech

It was “Pick on the Big Sky Conference Week” for SJSU, as the Spartans got past Montana State 77-73 and then waxed Weber State 62-46.  The former was a tale of two halves as the Spartans led 46-25 at the half but were outscored by 17 points in the second 20 minutes. Adrian Oliver totaled 35 points for San Jose State.  The Weber matchup was a fizzle for the Wildcats as they entered the game shooting 51% from the floor on three-pointers as part of a six-game winning streak but were held to 23% from long distance.  Spartan forward Wil Carter posted a 16/14 double-double and freshman guard Keith Shamburger led the way with 21 points.  New Mexico State is in February 23 with Louisiana Tech arriving on the 26th. The latter may prove critical as SJSU is currently one game ahead of LT in the WAC standings and it appears one or the other will miss the conference tournament since the last place finisher doesn’t receive an invite. San Jose State defeated the Bulldogs 79-74 in Ruston on January 13.

9. Louisiana Tech (12-16, 2-10)

Up Next: 02/24 at Hawai’i, 02/26 at San Jose State

It’s the last chance to dance for the Bulldogs as their conference tournament hopes hinge greatly on their performance this week against Hawai’i and SJSU.  With Nevada and Utah State visiting next week, two wins this week are a must.  It won’t be an easy task as leading scorer DeAndre Brown (15.8 PPG in conference) has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Kerry Rupp.  The Bulldogs lost at home to both Hawai’i and San Jose State earlier this season.

A Look Ahead

The conference tournament looms for the WAC teams and the seeding is still up in the air for spots two through eight.  The team with the most to lose this week is New Mexico State, who currently occupies the second place spot, and has a tough road trip at San Jose State and at Hawai’i.  Two wins and they’ll head back to Las Cruces feeling very good about themselves.  Two losses and they could drop from second to fifth and go from looking at a double bye into the semis to facing the prospect of having to win four games in four days to make it to the NCAA Tournament.  Nevada, Boise State and Idaho are also all fighting for byes as all three could conceivably finish as high as second.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 17th, 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

It took the Aggies two tries, but Utah State clinched a share of their fourth consecutive regular season title this past week.  Idaho smothered the UtAgs in Moscow, 64-56, holding Utah State to just 33.8 percent shooting to delay the inevitable for one more game.  Idaho head coach Don Verlin, a former long-time Stew Morrill assistant, pulled out the “box and one” defense because he said he knew there was nothing in the USU playbook to counter it.  Bravo Don Verlin. Bravo.  USU clinched three nights later back at home with a 71-55 romp in Logan over Fresno State.  Elsewhere, New Mexico State escaped potential disaster in Ruston. With losses by Idaho (at Boise State, 69-63) and Nevada (at Hawai’i, 69-67 OT), New Mexico State now sits alone in second place.  The race for the all-important top four spots now has a new participant in the form of Hawai’i.  UH’s win over Nevada, coupled with the aforementioned loss by Idaho, means there is just a two-game separation between third place and sixth in the conference standings.

Player of the Week: Nevada’s Malik Story was named the Player of the Week for February 7–13 as he scored a career-high 29 points to lead Nevada to just its second road win of the season in an 84-76 overtime win at San Jose State.  He made 11 of 21 (52 percent) shots from the field, including three three-pointers. He also made four of five free throws and dished out a career-high six assists to go along with four rebounds and two steals.

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (23-3, 12-1)

Up Next: 02/16 vs. Montana Western, 02/19 at St. Mary’s (ESPN2)

Champs.  For the fourth consecutive season the Utah State Aggies have laid claim to the WAC’s regular season title.  After having their WAC record 25-game regular season win streak halted at Idaho, the UtAgs bounced back with a 71-55 thumping of Fresno State.  The Aggies take a break from conference play this week and host Montana Western and then travel to Moraga, Calif. to take on St. Mary’s in the marquee matchup of the ESPNU Bracketbusters event.

2. New Mexico State (14-12, 8-4)

Up Next: 02/19 vs. Northern Colorado, 02/23 at San Jose State

Playing without top point scorer Troy Gillenwater (out with ankle injury) the Aggies survived at Louisiana Tech overcoming a sluggish 1-10 shooting start to eek out a one-point victory over the Bulldogs.  The win keeps New Mexico State in second place in the standings as they head into the homestretch.  The Aggies have five tough games ahead of them to finish out the regular season as they’ll host Northern Colorado for Bracketbusters and then head out on the road to San Jose and Hawai’i. Their largest margin of victory against either team on the road since joining the WAC has been just 11 points.

3. Nevada (10-15, 7-5)

Up Next: 02/19 vs. UC-Irvine

The Wolf Pack took to the road on the grueling San Jose/Honolulu trip and went to overtime in both games.  The Pack were fortunate to come away with the split as the Spartans led 72-68 with 20 seconds left and 72-70 with possession of the ball with six seconds left.  However, freshman point guard Deonte Burton came away with a steal and despite a missed layup by Jerry Evans Jr., Olek Czyz grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled by SJSU’s Adrian Oliver.  Czyz nailed both free throws to send it into overtime where the Wolf Pack prevailed 84-76.  Nevada was not so fortunate two nights later as they found themselves on the wrong end of an overtime loss falling 69-67 to Hawai’i.  The loss dropped them a game behind New Mexico State for second place in the standings.  Nevada visits Las Cruces during the final week of the season, where that secnd place seed could be on the line.  Up next, the Wolf Pack host UC-Irvine for Bracketbusters.

4. Boise State (14-11, 7-6)

Up Next: 02/19 at UC-Santa Barbara

A pair of victories last week by the Broncos has righted the ship for now.  Boise State took down Fresno State and then notched an all-important win over in-state rival Idaho to sweep the season series and give them the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vandals.  The game was televised on ESPNU and over 12,000 fans were in attendance, the largest crowd at Taco Bell Arena in several seasons.  Remarkably, the two-game win streak comes on the heels of a demoralizing 77-49 loss at Utah State.  Boise State shot a near-perfect 19-21 from the free throw line and a perfect 9-9 in the second half, including six in the final 90 seconds, to seal the win.  The Broncos travel to Santa Barbara to take on UCSB for Bracketbusters.

5. Idaho (14-11, 7-6)

Up Next: 02/19 at Montana State

It was another split, as the Vandals experienced the highest of highs (knocking off a ranked team) and the lowest of lows (losing to an in-state rival) last week.  Utah State came into the Kibbie Dome and left with their first regular season conference loss in the past 26 games.  Idaho held Utah State to their lowest shooting percentage of the season, 33 percent.  Unfortunately, the euphoria did not last long, as they traveled south to Boise to take on their in-state rivals Boise State.  Idaho jumped out to a five-point lead seven minutes into the game and led by five points with 8:46 left to play, but could not hold on.  The loss puts their record at 7-6 and currently in fifth place in the standings due to losing the head-to-head series with Boise State.  Up next for Idaho is a date in Bozeman with Montana State for Bracketbusters.

6. Hawai’i (14-10, 5-7)

Up Next: 02/14 vs. Nevada

Heal thyself. That’s been the UH basketball mantra during an off week what with Hiram Thompson receiving stitches after the last game and Zane Johnson shaking off concussion-like symptoms. The Rainbow Warriors faced Nevada on Monday night and a little T and R did the job to the tune of a 69-67 overtime victory. Senior forward Bill Amis contributed 16 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. Junior center Vander Joaquim came close to a double-double with 24 points and nine boards. This after an earlier matchup in Reno between these two teams resulted in an 86-69 Hawaii loss.  The win, however, did not come without a price as starting point guard Hiram Thompson landed awkwardly on his arm and could have ligament damage that could end his season.  Next up is a trip to the mainland to face UC-Davis of the Big West Conference in a Brackerbusters contest.

7. Fresno State (11-14, 5-8)

Up Next: 02/16 at Cal State-Bakersfield, 02/19 vs. UC-Riverside

Remember when Rulon Gardner beat Alexander Karelin in 2000 for the Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling? This after Karelin had been undefeated for 12 years. Fresno State must have felt like Karelin’s next opponent did, because the Bulldogs had the unenviable task of facing Utah State after Stew Morrill’s squad had just lost to Idaho. The final score; 71-55, in a game not as close as the final score indicates. This was preceded by a 75-61 defeat in Boise.  In the loss in Logan, center Greg Smith produced two points and three boards in 30 minutes of play and the team shot 4-20 from long distance. A possible pro, a ‘big’ at that, is a terrible thing to waste.  A return match at nearby Cal State-Bakersfield followed by a meeting with UC-Riverside in a Bracketbusters matchup are next in line for the Bulldogs. The opportunity to reverse fortunes, at least in out-of-league action, is there for the taking.

8. San Jose State (12-12, 3-9)

Up Next: 02/18 vs. Weber State

The Spartans have OD’d on Nevada, losing to the Wolf Pack on each of the last two Saturdays. The first was an 89-69 defeat in Reno as the Wolf Pack literally shot out to a double-digit lead and maintained it throughout the game. The rematch in San Jose proved to be an overtime one but yet another loss for SJSU 84-76. In the latter, San Jose State had a four point lead in regulation with 24 seconds to play but Nevada managed to tie the score.  The Spartans took care of Montana State on Tuesday night winning 77-73 as Adrian Oliver notched his second straight 30-plus point game to go along with ten rebounds for a double-double.  Weber State comes to town for a Bracketbusters pairing.

9. Louisiana Tech (11-13, 2-10)

Up Next: 02/16 at North Dakota, 02/19 vs. Georgia State

The Bulldogs nearly pulled up the upset of second place New Mexico State but a pair of late free throws put them behind 50-49 and a last second desperation three from DeAndre Brown clanked off the rim.  The Bulldogs held an 11-point lead midway through the first half but could not hold on to the lead.  The loss keeps them in the WAC basement where it looks like they’ll be battling with San Jose State for the final spot in the WAC tournament the rest of the season.  This week it’s a pair of non-conference games including a home date with Georgia State for Bracketbusters.

A Look Ahead

It’s all non-conference this weekend as the WAC participates in Bracketbusters.  Utah State heads to Moraga, California, to take on St. Mary’s in the the WAC’s only televised Bracketbusters game.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 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.

A Look Back

Utah State took care of two more conference opponents with ease and combined with a loss by New Mexico State at Fresno State, is now four games clear with five games left to play and can clinch at least a share of the regular season WAC title for the fourth straight year with a win at Idaho on Wednesday night.  Meanwhile, the race for second place is on.  New Mexico State stumbled on the road at Fresno State, failing to take advantage of a situation where all the teams directly behind them had lost (Nevada, Idaho and Boise State).  The Aggies’ misfortune benefitted the rest of the second place contenders and there remains a logjam with NM State, Nevada, Idaho, Boise State and Fresno State all within two games of each other in the loss column with five games left to play.

Player of the Week: Fresno State’s Greg Smith was named the Player of the Week after he led Fresno State to a home sweep over New Mexico State (88-83, OT) and Louisiana Tech (72-64) last week.  Smith was a perfect 7-7 from the floor and 3-3 from the free throw line against the Aggies, netting 17 points and seven rebounds in just 22 minutes of play as he was limited by foul trouble and fouled out before the overtime period.  Against Louisiana Tech, he scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds, blocked three shots, dished out two assists and had one steal.  For the week, Smith averaged 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. He shot 73.3 percent (11-15) from the field and 81.3 percent (13-16) from the free throw line.

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (22-2, 11-0)

Up Next: 02/09 at Idaho (ESPN2), 02/12 vs. Fresno State

After a close victory against Hawai’i the week before, the UtAgs had no trouble with either opponent last week as they cruised past Nevada 67-45 and then demoralized Boise State 77-49.  Just about the only thing that has gone wrong for USU is center Tai Wesley‘s broken nose at the hand (or in this case elbow) of teammate Brady Jardine.  It’s the second consecutive season that Wesley has suffered a broken nose, last season coming at the hands of New Mexico State in the conference tournament final.  The UtAgs will face former Stew Morrill assistant Don Verlin on Wednesday night in Moscow, Idaho, as they try to wrap up at least a share of their fourth consecutive regular season title with a victory in a nationally televised game on ESPN2.  Then on Saturday, it’s back home as they host Fresno State.

2. New Mexico State (13-12, 7-4)

Up Next: 02/12 at Louisiana Tech

The crimson Aggies let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers as they lost to Fresno State in overtime, coughing up a five-point lead in the final two-and-a-half minutes of regulation.  Nevada, Boise State and Idaho had all lost and the Aggies could have given themselves a small cushion in the race for second place but could not seal the deal despite getting Fresno State big man Greg Smith in foul trouble for the second consecutive meeting.  Smith fouled just before overtime but the Aggies could not take advantage and lost 88-83.  Junior center Hamidu Rahman was knocked out of the game after losing two teeth and did not return and did not suit up in the Aggies’ next game against Louisiana Tech either, however, the Aggies did not need his services, winning easily 75-57.  The win came at a cost as Troy Gillenwater went down with a sprained ankle and is listed as day-to-day.  The Aggies’ hopes of winning the conference tournament for a second straight season hinge on the health of Gillenwater and Rahman.  Up next for New Mexico State is a trip to Ruston for a rematch with the Bulldogs.

3. Nevada (9-14, 6-4)

Up Next: 02/12 at San Jose State, 02/14 at Hawai’i

The Wolf Pack split a pair last week losing at Utah State (67-45) but rebounding for a solid win against San Jose State (89-69).  Nevada was able to keep pace with New Mexico State and their hopes of a second place finish in conference are still very much alive.  The Pack travels to San Jose State on Saturday and then on to Honolulu on Monday.

4. Idaho (13-10, 6-5)

Up Next: 02/09 vs. Utah State (ESPN2), 02/15 at Boise State

The Vandals split their pair of games last week losing to San Jose State 92-89 in double-overtime but bouncing back to defeat Hawai’i 75-61.  With the two teams ahead of them, New Mexico State and Nevada, splitting their respective games the Vandals didn’t lose any ground in the race for second place but a tough test awaits them on Wednesday night as they host No. 17 Utah State on ESPN2.  Then on Saturday, Idaho will travel down to Boise to take on their in-state rivals in a game that could determine which of the two finishes in the top four in conference play.  The Broncos took the first game up in Moscow, 70-67.

5. Fresno State (11-12, 5-6)

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

Last rites were prepared to be administered, but the Bulldogs have climbed out of the coffin and re-established life in the WAC. Six consecutive league losses were finally blunted by home victories over New Mexico State (a surprise) and Louisiana Tech (not as much). The match with the Aggies was powered by freshman Kevin Olekaibe‘s 24 points and 17 apiece from sophomores Greg Smith and Garrett Johnson. The latter contest was aided by Smith’s 18 points and 14 from Olekaibe.  Of late, Olekaibe has played himself into Frosh of the Year contention. He leads the Bulldogs in league play scoring with a 14.3 average. Smith checks in at 13.2 points and 8-3 rebounds per contest. Both underclassmen have upped their mainstay numbers versus WAC opponents.  The Bulldogs easily handled Cal State-Bakersfield, 79-49, and now it’s off on the road, first to Boise State and then Utah State. So there is the chance for a-three game winning streak as Steve Cleveland‘s squad is 1-4 on the road in play, and the USU Spectrum is a loss chamber for opposing squads.

6. Hawai’i (13-10, 4-7)

Up Next: 02/14 vs. Nevada

Whether you like them french fried, baked, hash browned or scalloped, tripping to Potato Land proved a mixed meal for the Rainbow Warriors, as a 73-66 win over Boise State was followed by a 75-61 loss to Idaho.  The Boise victory came minus the services of Zane Johnson (concussion-like symptoms) and Trevor Wiseman (academics), plus starting point Hiram Thompson missed time due to a blow to the face early in the game. Thompson then played just eight minutes against Idaho.  Five-foot-nine Jeremiah Ostrowski is a great story. Coming over from the football team as a walk-on, he has sparked the UH backcourt effort — this despite the recent passing of his father. Ostrowski enjoyed 12 points and eight assists against the Broncos.  Sophomore Dominick Brumfield is back eligible again, having cleared up his academics.  Next up in WAC play is visiting Nevada, so expect the distraction ploy of the bikinis getting even smaller on the beach area near the Wolf Pack hotel.

7. Boise State (12-11, 5-6)

Up Next: 02/10 vs. Fresno State, 02/12 vs. Idaho

Things are not well in Broncoland as the team has lost four in a row and six of their last seven conference games.  First they lost at home to Hawai’i, 73-66, it was just the second road conference win for Hawai’i in their past 13 road games.  Then to top it off things were so bad in Logan last week that the Utah State fans started chanting “Here We Go Broncos!” when Boise State was trailing by 30-plus points in the second half ultimately losing 77-49.  The Broncos host a pair of games this week welcoming in Fresno State and in-state rival Idaho.  It’s an important week for the Broncos, a home sweep of the two teams would put them back in contention for a top four spot, however, should they lose both games, they would trail Fresno State in the standings.

8. San Jose State (11-11, 3-8)

Up Next: 02/12 vs. Nevada, 02/15 vs. Montana State

Coming off a 78-66 win over Fresno State, the Spartans visited Idaho and then Nevada. In Moscow, SJSU was down by ten with a little over a minute remaining in regulation play and faced a five-point deficit with just under two minutes remaining in the initial extra period, but came back to win 92-89 in double overtime. Versus Nevada two days later, San Jose State could never cut into the 10-or-so-point Wolf Pack lead and eventually fell 89-69. Nevada out-shot the Spartans 52-% to 39%.  Adrian Oliver remains second in scoring in the WAC at 18.2 points per game and teammate Justin Graham is third with 16.4 PPG. Graham also is second in assists with 4.8 per contest and tops in minutes played at a leg-wearying-just-thinking-about-it 39.2 a game.  Up next is some time off until Nevada comes south for a weirdly scheduled rematch on Saturday.

9. Louisiana Tech (11-12, 2-9)

Up Next: 02/12 vs. New Mexico State, 02/16 vs. North Dakota

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it’s back to the basement.  After a pair of home wins against the Idaho schools, it was a pair of losses as LA Tech lost 72-64 at Fresno State giving up a 12-point halftime lead, and then falling 75-57 at New Mexico State, a game in which they never really were “in the game” so to speak.    DeAndre Brown continues to be a constant scoring option for the Bulldogs as he rattled of 23 points against Fresno State and dropped in 18 against New Mexico State.  Olu Ashaolu was limited against the Aggies despite the absence of Aggie center Hamidu Rahman.  Ashaolu will get another crack at the Aggie interior on Saturday as the two teams meet for the second time this week.

Caught on Film: Bonus video of the week comes courtesy of the Louisiana Tech women.  Click the link and fast forward to around the 2:00 mark for some postgame extracurriculars following an intense triple-overtime victory.

A Look Ahead

With a fourth straight conference title in the sole reach of Utah State, the race for second place heats up and the teams try to take care of business before next week’s Bracketbusters games.

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