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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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 3rd, 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 all but locked up the regular season title this past week as they swept their road trip to San Jose and Honolulu, then downed Nevada at home.  The trip wasn’t easy, as they were once again pushed to the brink by the Warriors, but they pulled out an 89-84 double-overtime victory and with two losses by Idaho and Boise State, the UtAgs have a healthy three-game lead over the rest of the field with New Mexico State three games behind in the loss column with just seven conference games remaining.  New Mexico State made the biggest jump of the week as they effectively went from fifth place (after tiebreakers) to solo second place with a home sweep of Boise State (96-87 OT) and Idaho (73-65).  The southern Aggies should send their eastern neighbors, Louisiana Tech, a “Thank You” card as the Bulldogs pulled out of a seven-game nosedive to stun Idaho (71-56) and Boise State (70-60).  Nevada sits a half-game behind NM State after avenging a conference loss to Fresno State.  Just past the midway point of conference play, the top of the standings look strangely familiar as Utah State, New Mexico State and Nevada inhabit the top three spots, just as they have during the past five seasons.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: With 14 of the Top 25 teams losing last week, Utah State did itself a favor by winning both road games.  Even though it wasn’t easy, the UtAgs climbed #21 in the Coaches Poll and #22 in the AP Poll.

Bracketbusters: Utah State and St. Mary’s will battle in the lone ESPNU Bracketbusters televised game involving a WAC team.  Their battle will take place at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday of Bracketbusters Weekend on ESPN2.  The UtAgs are the lone ranked team in the Bracketbusters field, with St. Mary’s being one of the 14 Top 25 teams that were victimized.

The remaining eight WAC teams will play on Saturday, February 19, in non-televised Bracketbusters matchups.

  • Boise State at UC Santa Barbara
  • Hawai‘i at UC Davis
  • Idaho at Montana State
  • UC Riverside at Fresno State
  • Georgia State at Louisiana Tech
  • UC Irvine at Nevada
  • Northern Colorado at New Mexico State
  • Weber State at San Jose State

Player of the Week: Utah State’s Brian Green was named the Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 25 points and tied his career high with six rebounds, finishing 8-9 from the field, 5-5 from three-point range and 4-4 at the free throw line against San Jose State. Green also tied a school record for shooting percentage from three in the game, which is remarkable, considering Utah State produced prolific three-point shooter Jaycee Carroll. Against Hawai‘i, Green posted 22 points, three rebounds and three assists. Green hit a pair of game-tying shots as he tied it at 66 to send the game to overtime on a long two-pointer, and then hit a 30-footer late in the first overtime to tie the game at 73, sending the teams into the second extra period. Green then sank four straight free throws in the final six seconds of the second overtime to seal the UtAgs’ victory.  In the two games Green averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He shot 68.2 percent (15-22) from the field, 68.2 percent (8-13) from beyond the arc and 90 percent (9-10) from the free throw line.

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (21-2, 10-0)

Up Next: 02/05 vs. Boise State

We mentioned last week that the trip to the islands could spell an upset for the UtAgs and it nearly did.  Utah State escaped the island of O’ahu thanks to the heroics of Player of the Week Brian Green.  The Broncos handled Nevada with ease at the Spectrum on Wednesday night in an ESPN2 showdown, and Boise State comes knocking on Saturday.  The Aggies have now won 16 consecutive games, which is the third-longest active win streak in the country behind only Ohio State (22) and Coastal Carolina (18). For those college basketball fans who didn’t stay up for Wednesday’s game or are otherwise unfamiliar with the atmosphere at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, it is one of the toughest in college basketball and the student section is second to none, as can be seen in the videos below.

2. New Mexico State (12-11, 6-3)

Up Next: 02/03 at Fresno State, 02/07 vs. Louisiana Tech

The roller coaster ride continues for the Aggies, who jumped from fifth place to second with a pair of home victories last week against Boise State (in overtime) and Idaho.  New Mexico State rallied from deficits in both games.  Against Boise State the Aggies shot 47 free throws and did not miss a shot in overtime, going 5-5 from the floor and 13-13 from the free throw line while scoring an astounding 23 points in the five extra minutes.  Against Idaho, hometown senior Gordo Castillo notched a game-high 19 points and hit three crucial three pointers down the stretch in the second half.  The Aggies hit the road to take on struggling Fresno State and then return home to face a suddenly rejuvenated Louisiana Tech squad.

3. Nevada (8-14, 5-4)

Up Next: 02/05 vs. San Jose State

Nevada once again had some difficulty with Fresno State but unlike the first meeting, the young Wolf Pack were able to close out the game.  Dario Hunt put on a clinic, finishing 9-11 from the field with 24 points and 11 rebounds.  Freshman point guard Deonte Burton continues to light up the scoreboard, with a 17-point outings.  The Pack couldn’t avenge an earlier defeat in Reno, falling 67-45 on national television.  The Wolf Pack led the first meeting by ten points with 14 minutes left to play, but could not seal the deal.  Nevada now has a few days to lick its wounds before hosting San Jose State on Saturday.

4. Boise State (12-9, 5-4)

Up Next: 01/27 at New Mexico State, 01/29 at Louisiana Tech

Boise State lost another barnburner against New Mexico State falling 96-87 in overtime.  A 3-20 performance from three-point distance spelled doom for the Broncos.  Perhaps suffering a bit of a hangover from the loss in the desert, Boise State dropped their second straight conference game, falling to Louisiana Tech 70-60.  The Broncos shot just 3-17 from three in that game and for the road trip shot just 6-37 (16.2 percent).  Boise State hosts Hawai’i and then travels to Logan to take on league-leader Utah State.

5. Idaho (12-9, 5-4)

Up Next: 02/03 vs. San Jose State, 02/05 vs. Hawai’i

After a disastrous road trip that saw them give up the first league victory to Louisiana Tech and lose to New Mexico State (losing the season series in the process), the Vandals return home where they’ll try to regroup against San Jose State and Hawai’i.  A home sweep could put them into the coveted top four as in-state rival Boise State must take on Utah State this week.

6. Hawai’i (12-9, 3-6)

Up Next: 02/03 at Boise State, 02/05 at Idaho

A pair of homecourt victories against Fresno State and San Jose State led to a packed house and major enthusiasm versus visiting league power Utah State. The Rainbow Warriors played tough, losing 89-84 in two overtimes. Bill Amis has been a double-double machine, posting 15 and 12 against USU. Guard/wing Zane Johnson has been in-and-out offensively but nailed six treys in seven attempts versus the Aggies.  Next comes a road trip to the land of Famous Potatoes and matchups against Boise State and Idaho. Can UH maintain the momentum on foreign courts where they sport just a 1-3 record in conference play?

7. Louisiana Tech (11-12, 2-7)

Up Next: 02/05 at Fresno State (ESPNU), 02/07 at New Mexico State

A brief reprieve from the WAC power rankings basement for the league’s eastern Bulldogs as they stunned both Idaho schools last week winning by 15 over Idaho and by 10 over Boise State.  Olu Ashaolu had a monstrous game against the Vandals with 24 points and 18 rebounds in 37 minutes.  He also had three assists, two steals and a block.  Ashaolu followed that up with a 15-point, ten-rebound performance against the Broncos.  Kenyon McNeaill scored 21 points against Idaho and followed it up with 10 against Boise State.  The Bulldogs will look to continue their newfound momentum as they head back out on the road for the Battle of the Bone Part II against Fresno State and then to Las Cruces to take on second place New Mexico State.

8. San Jose State (10-10, 2-7)

Up Next: 02/03 at Idaho, 02/05 at Nevada

A 67-61 loss in Hawaii was followed by an 84-65 L against visiting Utah State. However, the Spartans turned it around versus Fresno State, powered by Adrian Oliver‘s 28 points, 11 boards and eight assists. The Spartans buried 10-of-18 three-point attempts versus the Bulldogs.  Justin Graham missed the Utah State game with ankle difficulties but returned in the win over Fresno State. Former starting center Brylle Kamen is still suspended indefinitely.  Roadin’ it to Idaho followed by Nevada are the next contests.

8. Fresno State (8-12, 3-6)

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

Coming off four consecutive WAC losses (and a trio of league victories prior to that), the Bulldogs hosted Seattle and downed the Redhawks 86-56. Then, it was back to WAC action. A trip to Nevada produced a 79-76 loss and tripping to San Jose State became a 78-60 L.  Rx: Greg Smith needs a pair of other point producers, preferably from middle distance and longer, in order to produce the space in which he can maneuver inside. But that hasn’t been occurring. Smith placed third in the number of shot taken on his team versus the Spartans. Junior wing Tim Steed has enjoyed some high-scoring games but dipped a bit in the last two. Freshman backcourter Kevin Olekaibe poured in 29 points against SJSU but is up-and-down. Steven Shepp possesses a 32/10 assist-to-turnover ration and is excellent on the break, but his shooting percentages are mired around 25%. Coach Cleveland needs to land another solid big … and keep Smith from turning pro.  Hosting New Mexico State and then Louisiana Tech come up next.

A Look Ahead

Boise State invades Logan this weekend to try to slow Utah State’s momentum, but after the big win over Nevada, it’s tough to picture any WAC team coming to Logan and escaping with a win. The race for the 2-4 spots in the conference is heating up with four teams fighting for three spots and all are within a game of each other in the loss column.  The same can be said for the bottom half of the league as four teams battle for three spots and all four are within a game of each other.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 27th, 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

At the midway point of the conference schedule, the WAC race has become for all intents and purposes a race for second place.  Utah State dispatched another challenger in New Mexico State to jump out to a 7-0 start in conference play, two games better in the loss column than their nearest competitors, Idaho and Boise State (whom they defeated in the first of the two meetings).  Boise State made things more interesting in the middle of the pack as they took down rival Idaho in Moscow cluttering things up from spots two through six with just two games separating the five teams.  Nevada has seemingly found the magic formula and after starting out 1-3 in league play, the Pack has run off three in a row including a 19-point victory over New Mexico State to jump ahead of the Aggies an into the coveted Top Four.  Louisiana Tech continues to struggle at 0-7 in the league standings and San Jose State also continues to disappoint as they’re off to a 1-6 league start.  Hawai’i returned home to the islands where they promptly rattled off two more victories and have now won three in a row in conference play after starting out 0-5.  The second half of conference play starts this week as teams make the push for the Top Four.  The top two finishers earn double byes into the semifinals while the third and fourth place finishers earn first round byes.  Seeds five through eight must win four games in four days if they want to dance.

  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T: After rattling off their 13th consecutive victory of the season with a 59-49 victory over New Mexico State, the Utah State Aggies cracked the Top 25 for the first time since the 2008-2009 when they climbed as high as 17.  The UtAgs also now own the third-longest active home winning streak at 26 in a row, behind only Duke (36) and Kentucky (28).
  • Bracketbusters: The WAC has been an annual participant in the ESPNU Bracketbusters challenge, but this season, they may only garner one of the televised matchups.  Utah State at 18-2 and freshly ranked (25th) should receive top billing as the best mid-major in the Bracketbusters field and will likely face St. Mary’s.
  • Road Cooking No More: The top three teams in the WAC standings, Utah State, Idaho and Boise State are a combined 9-0 on the road.  The remaining six teams have combined for just five road wins against 18 losses.
  • Player of the Week: Nevada’s Deonte Burton was named the Player of the Week after lead Nevada to a pair of conference wins against New Mexico State (90-71) and Louisiana Tech (66-58).  In the win over New Mexico State, Burton tied for game-high honors with 22 points on 8-11 shooting, including 3-5 from three-point range. He also had a game-high six assists, five rebounds and three steals.  Against LA Tech, Burton scored a team-high 18 points making seven of nine field goals including a pair of threes.  For the second straight game, he recorded six assists and three steals.  For the week, Burton averaged 20.0 points, 6.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.0 repounds per game while shooting 75% (15-20) from the field and 71.4% (5-7) from three-point range.

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (18-2, 7-0)

Up Next: 01/27 at San Jose, 01/29 at Hawai’i

Seven up, seven down.  Utah State had no trouble dispatching Louisiana Tech 74-57) and New Mexico State (59-49) and in the process ran their conference regular season winning streak to a WAC-record 21 games.  Oddly enough, its 21 straight wins isn’t even their longest conference win streak, as they dominated the Big West for 23 straight during the 2000 and 2001 seasons.  Up next for the UtAgs is the dreaded San Jose/Honolulu road swing.  The Spartans offered up a bit of resistance in Logan at the beginning of the season, falling by nine, and Hawai’i pushed the UtAgs harder than any WAC team this season in an eight-point loss.  The potential for an upset is there at Hawai’I, where the Warriors are a vastly different team than they are on the mainland.

2. Nevada (7-13, 4-3)

Up Next: 01/27 vs. Fresno State

Don’t look now, but the young Wolf Pack are surging.  Winners of three in a row, including a 90-71 thumping of New Mexico State in Reno, the Wolf Pack are back in the hunt for a top-four spot in the conference race.  Freshman point guard Deonte Burton has carried the load for the Wolf Pack in the past four games, averaging nearly 21 points per contest.  The Wolf Pack have just one conference game this week, but it provides a chance to avenge an earlier conference loss to Fresno State.

3. Boise State (12-7, 5-2)

Up Next: 01/27 at New Mexico State, 01/29 at Louisiana Tech

After dropping two straight games in conference play, the Broncos rebounded nicely with a rivalry win over Idaho. Down six with ten minutes left to play, the Broncos persevered to win 70-67.  Boise State had four players in double-digits led by La’Shard Anderson‘s 21.  Defense is still an issue for Boise State, as Idaho shot 51 percent for the game.  It’s be something they must shore up as they head on the road to take on New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech.  The Broncos defeated both the Aggies and Bulldogs earlier in Boise.  They erased an eight-point second half deficit against New Mexico State and throttled Louisiana Tech (the final score was 71-60 but Boise State led by as many as 24).

5. Idaho (12-7, 5-2)

Up Next: 01/27 at Louisiana Tech, 01/29 at New Mexico State

The Vandals had their six-game winning streak snapped in the worst of ways, losing a second half lead to their in-state rival.  Idaho heads back to the road where they are a perfect 3-0 so far this season.  Their task will be to take down a listless Louisiana Tech team and avenge a five-point loss to New Mexico State.  The Vandals have the second best scoring defense in the league allowing just 60.9 PPG.  They are also the best free throw shooting team (73.9 percent) and the best field goal percentage team (49.2 percent) as well as the best field goal percentage defense team (37.6 percent) all good factors when venturing out on the road in search of wins.

5. New Mexico State (10-11, 4-3)

Up Next: 01/27 vs. Boise State, 01/29 vs. Idaho

Deja vu for New Mexico State.  The Aggies ventured on the road to Reno and Logan last season in search of a regular season title and got swept.  This season, the Aggies ventured out on the road to Reno and Logan with a chance to tie for first place and got swept.  It was an ugly weekend for New Mexico State, as they were outrebounded by a total of 28 in the two games combined (-13 at Nevada and -15 at Utah State).  To make matters worse, the offense sputtered in the final 60 minutes of that road trip as they shot just 30.3 percent in the second half against Nevada and just 37.7 percent for the game at Utah State. They went on to get stymied for less than 50 points for the first time since conference play in the 2004-2005 season.  New Mexico State hosts a pair of critical conference games as they try to keep pace with the league leaders.  A home sweep of Boise State and Idaho will put New Mexico State right back in the thick of the race for a top four finish while losing both at home would spell disaster putting them at least two losses behind the fourth place team in the league.  At the very minimum, the Aggies must gain a split.

6. Hawai’i (12-8, 3-5)

Up Next: 01/29 vs. Utah State

UH is definitely on the upswing, having notched three consecutive victories. Forward Bill Amis (now available as a pitchman for Rustoleum) has not only returned from a foot injury, but is a game night threat for a double-double. He notched three of these in the last trio of games, coinciding with the Rainbow Warriors’ winning streak. Center Vander Joaquim is proving to be a defensive force in the middle as well as an able rebounder. Hawaii just needs more consistency from its outside shooters to make a first division finish possible. Zane Johnson and Hiram Thompson are at 39 percent and 37 percent, respectively, in overall shooting during WAC play, and those numbers need an uptick. Freshman Bo Barnes checks in at 25 percent, andd 29 of his 36 shots have been trey attempts. UH still isn’t putting up impressive point totals, so the defensive play of the major minutes players has to remain effective.  The winning streak will be put on the line when the Warriors host league leader Utah State on Saturday.  They played Utah State tougher for 40 minutes than any other team has this season, and with just one game to prepare for this week, the Warriors are hoping to spring the upset.

7. San Jose State (9-9, 1-6)

Up Next: 01/27 vs. Utah State, 01/29 vs. Fresno State

Breaking a double digit losing skein on the road with a 79-74 victory in Ruston over Louisiana Tech, the Spartans then fell hard at New Mexico State 78-53 and then at Hawaii by a 67-61 score. Thus began another negative road streak. Pulling down the Spartans is a 38 percent team shooting clip while allowing opponents to be successful on 47 percent of their collective attempts. SJSU is also -3.4 in rebounding. Only winless Louisiana Tech is keeping SJSU out of the WAC basement.  Adrian Oliver returned for the Hawaii game after missing the earlier two contests due to concussion-like symptoms but doesn’t appear to be quite the same performer as he was earlier.  It’s Utah State followed by Fresno State — both at home.  The Spartans need at least a split to separate themselves from Louisiana Tech in the WAC cellar

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

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

“Slip-sliding Away” was a hit song by Paul Simon. He certainly didn’t have Fresno State basketball in mind when writing it but the title sure applies. A four game conference losing streak (Utah State and Idaho at home, New Mexico State and Hawaii on the road) has sent the Bulldogs to who-and-what-is-this-team territory. Thirty-six percent overall shooting from the floor during this quartet of games, along with 53 percent from the foul line, have propelled the drop.  The Seattle Redhawks came to town Monday night for a non-conference tilt and departed featherless after an 86-56 loss. Now Steve Cleveland’s squad has to carry that success over to WAC play.  Greg Smith continues his climb upward as he presently sits at 11.7 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in WAC play as all his numbers have risen since league action began. Point Steve Shepp‘s 24/9 assist-to-turnover ratio since his return to eligibility has also been a boost.  It’s roadin’ it at Nevada and San Jose State University next for the Bulldogs.

9. Louisiana Tech (9-12, 0-7)

Up Next: 01/27 vs. Idaho, 01/29 vs. Boise State

The ‘L’ train keeps rolling down the track for the Bulldogs as they dropped both games of their road trip losing 74-57 at Utah State and 66-58 at Nevada.  Olu Ashaolu had a monster game with 26 potions and 17 rebounds as he single-handedly kept the Bulldogs in the game.  Fellow Dog DeAndre Brown chipped in 14 points but Louisiana Tech simply has no firepower outside that duo.  It does not get any easier as the Bulldogs host Idaho and Boise State this week.  The Idaho pair sent the Bulldogs on their current seven game spiral.

A Look Ahead:

The marquee matchup of the week will be the Idaho schools at New Mexico State.  Thursday night sees Boise State at NM State; The winner of the past eight Bronco/Aggie showdowns has eclipsed the 80-point mark in each game, with the past eight games averaging a 92-85 final score.

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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.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 6th, 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 WAC opened up conference play, and after two games, there are three teams atop the leaderboard with 2-0 records.  Utah State opened 2-0 as expected, however, Boise State and an even bigger surprise, Fresno State, are also 2-0.  New Mexico State has the league’s only road conference victory, winning at Idaho, 74-69.  Off to disappointing 0-2 starts are San Jose State and Louisiana Tech, both of whom opened conference play on the road.  No team had a worse first week than Louisiana Tech, which was blown out by both Boise State and Idaho, 71-60 (the Bulldogs trailed Boise State 36-14 at half) and 77-47, respectively.

Player of the Week:

Utah State’s Tai Wesley was named the Player of the Week for the week of Dec. 27-Jan. 2 as he led Utah State to a pair of WAC home wins against Hawai’i (74-66) and San Jose State (80-71). Against the Warriors, Wesley posted his fourth double-double of the season tying a career-high with 27 points to go along with 13 rebounds. Wesley was 8-12 from the field and a perfect 11-11 at the free throw line in 38 minutes of action. Against the Spartans, Wesley scored 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out four assists and blocked three shots. In a spectacular outing from the floor, he shot 5-6 from the field and 6-8 at the charity stripe.  For the week, Wesley averaged 21.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. He shot 72.2 percent (13-18) from the field and 89.5 percent (17-19) from the free throw line.

Power Rankings

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

Up Next: 01/08 at Nevada (ESPNU)

Yes, the UtAgs are 2-0 in conference play, however, they were pushed to the brink by Hawai’i and to a lesser extent, San Jose State.  USU needed a career night from Tai Wesley (27 points, 13 rebounds) to get by Hawai’i as the Warriors  trailed Utah State by just three with 42 seconds left in the game.  Utah State’s defense was suspect, allowing Hawai’i to shoot 63.2 percent for the game, but a 32-13 rebounding advantage (including 18 offensive boards) allowed the Aggies to escape.  Rebounding again played a key role in their victory over the Spartans as they held a 40-26 advantage.  The Aggies’ defense in the first half allowed 48 percent shooting by the visiting Spartans, but they clamped down in the second half allowing just 38.7 percent shooting by the visitors.  USU hits the road for a single game as they head to Reno to take on the Wolf Pack.

2. Boise State (9-5, 2-0)

Up Next: 01/06 at San Jose State, 01/08 at Hawai’i

The Broncos made a statement that they will be a team to contend with in their final season in the WAC.  Boise State stifled Louisiana Tech in the first half, allowing just 14 first half points en route to a 71-60 victory.  Against New Mexico State, it was a stellar second half defensive effort that propelled them to an 81-78 come-from-behind victory as they held the Aggies to just 37.5 percent shooting after allowing NM State to hit 69.6 percent of their shots in the first half including eight three pointers.  Boise State forced three straight Aggie turnovers late to turn a tie into a five-point advantage and held on for the victory, hitting seven of nine free throws down the stretch.  The Broncos take to the road, where they’re just 3-4 this season.  They’ll face two teams in San Jose State and Hawai’i that are desperate for conference victories.

3. Fresno State (6-6, 2-0)

Up Next: 01/06 at Louisiana Tech, 01/08 at New Mexico State (ESPN Full Court)

Are the youthful Bulldogs stabilizing and moving forward? After spending the bulk of the non-conference at the bottom of the WAC standings Fresno State’s 2-0 start has to be a surprise to even the most loyal of Bulldog fans.  Fresh off a solid 75-62 home win over San Jose State — with Greg Smith finally as the leading Bulldog scorer — Fresno State entertained Nevada and notched another conference victory, 80-74.  Smith and newcomer Tim Steed have individually highlighted these past two games.  Smith finished with 15 points and nine boards against the Wolf Pack plus 16/8 in the SJSU matchup and Steed posted 20/6 against the Wolf Pack and 16 and six against the Spartans. Newly returned to eligibility, point guard Steve Shepp has a marvelous 12/1 assist-to-turnover ratio.  Next, it’s hitting the road to Ruston to play Louisiana Tech and then moving over to Las Cruces and New Mexico State.  An unrequested memo to the Bulldog perimeter players: If the team wishes to have a chance on the road, KEEP GETTING SMITH THE BALL. Steve Cleveland‘s squad is 5-2 at home but just 1-4 on the road although falling to Colorado State, Utah, UC-Santa Barbara and BYU falls short of venial sin qualifications.  Injuries are a definite concern for the Bulldogs, as Steed could miss both games of the road trip after suffering an ankle sprain against the Wolf Pack.

4. New Mexico State (7-9, 1-1)

Up Next: 01/08 vs. Fresno State (ESPN Full Court)

The Aggies came this close to notching a road sweep, but after coming from behind to defeat Idaho by five, the Aggies could not overcome three late turnovers at Boise State and lost, 81-78.  The Aggie offense has been uneven in the first two conference games.  They shot a dismal 29 percent in the first half at Idaho, but then strung together two white-hot halves shooting 63 percent in the second half against Idaho and 69.6 percent in the first half against Boise State. The roller coaster continued, as the Aggies cooled off considerably, shooting just 37.5 percent in the second half against the Broncos.  Troy Gillenwater’s return to the lineup had an immediate impact, as he scored 22 and 24 points respectively on the trip.  Also returning from injury, though having less of a scoring impact, was center Hamidu Rahman.  One Aggie who will not be returning to action this season is preseason First Team All-WAC selection Wendell McKines.  It was announced this week that McKines will redshirt this season and return for his senior season in 2011-2012.  McKines suffered a foot injury in preseason practice and has not seen action on the court this season.  The Aggies host Fresno State on Saturday night where they’ll try to “hold serve” at home in the league race.

5. Idaho (7-6, 1-1)

Up Next: 01/06 at Hawai’i, 01/08 at San Jose State

The Vandals split a pair at home, losing to New Mexico State 74-69 then clobbering Louisiana Tech, 77-47, two nights later.  Despite shooting 53.6 percent in the second half against the Aggies, the Vandals could not hang on to a two-point halftime lead falling behind by as many as eight points late in the second half.  The Vandals did cut the Aggie lead to two points with 1:33 left and again with 14 seconds left but a missed layup by Landon Tatum with four seconds left sealed their fate.  Idaho took out their frustrations on Louisiana Tech putting together an impressive defensive performance as they held the Bulldogs to 28.8 percent shooting for the game and just five buckets in the second half.  Idaho got 20 points from Jeff Ledbetter on 6-7 shooting (3-4 from three point distance).  Up next for the Vandals is a road trip to Hawai’i and San Jose State where like Boise State, they’ll be facing a pair of teams desperate for a conference victory.

6. Nevada (4-11, 1-1)

Up Next: 01/08 vs. Utah State (ESPNU)

Just two nights after Utah State struggled with Hawai’i, the Wolf Pack easily dispatched of the visiting Warriors, 86-69.  Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt each scored 23 (both on 9-13 shooting) while Malik Story added 18 all on three pointers (6-11).  The 86 points was a season-high for Nevada.  The Wolf Pack’s first road trip in conference play resulted in an 80-74 loss despite 26 points from Czyz and 50 percent shooting from the team in both halves.  The Wolf Pack trailed by five at the break but took a 58-56 lead with just under eight minutes remaining in the game, however, the Bulldogs would pull away slowly sending the Pack to defeat.  The Wolf Pack hit just 2-11 three point attempts in the second half.

 

7. Hawai’i (9-5, 0-2)

Up Next: 10/6 vs. Idaho, 10/8 vs. Boise State

UH played Utah State tough (74-66) in The Spectrum, a veritable death chamber for opposing teams, but fell apart later on in Reno, allowing a young Nevada team to put up 86 points while scoring 69. Now it’s Idaho, followed by Boise State coming to the islands and momentum needs to be regenerated by the young Rainbow Warriors.  Leading scorer Zane Johnson has been en fuego of late with his shooting touch (10-16, 6-9 from three the past two games) but fellow perimeter player Hiram Thompson needs to shake off his back woes.  The world isn’t awaiting the return of forward Bill Amis (foot injury) but head coach Gib Arnold and the Hawaii hoops fans sure are. Having the solid frontcourt scorer and rebounder available will only open up more outside opportunities for Arnold’s guards and wings but Amis’ latest problem is strep. At least it’s not strep foot, if such a malady is possible.  Amis returned to practice on Tuesday, a welcome sight for Arnold and an unwelcome sight for the eight other coaches in the WAC.

8. San Jose State (8-5, 0-2)

Up Next: 12/29 at Fresno State, 12/31 at Utah State

A loss on the road to Fresno State (75-62), followed by another to Utah State  (80-71) have the Spartans at a critical juncture. Boise State comes to town followed by Idaho this week and San Jose State needs to even up its conference record.  The flu slowed down Adrian Oliver last week scoring a pedestrian (by Oliver standards) 15 and 18 points respectively but he should be free and clear of symptoms from here on out.  Newcomer Brylle Kamen is the best-shooting frontcourter to date on the squad this season but the Spartan Big Three (Kamen, Will Clark and Matt Ballard) all remain below 40% at 38%, 37% and 25% respectively.

9. Louisiana Tech (9-7, 0-2)

Up Next: 01/06 vs. Fresno State

Louisiana Tech’s dismal showing on the road cannot be understated.  After getting pummeled in the first half by Boise State (36-14), the Bulldogs had to have felt a little better about themselves as they headed to Moscow after shooting 55.6 percent in the second half against the Broncos and making a blowout look a bit more competitive.  However, that was not the case as the Bulldogs were shellacked by the Vandals, 77-47.  LA Tech hit just 15 buckets for the game and hit just five in the second half (5-22), a fate they suffered in the first half against Boise State (5-25).  DeAndre Brown had 24 points against Boise State and 13 against Idaho and Olu Ashaolu finished with 15/10 and 9/8 respectively but there wasn’t much help for those two from their teammates.  The Bulldogs have just one game this week, The Battle for the Bone (Part I) as they host Fresno State who comes in riding high after opening league play 2-0.

A Look Ahead

Week Two in the WAC provides some interesting matchups and some desperation games for some (San Jose State, Louisiana Tech and Hawai’i) while the home teams try to hold serve (just one home loss through the first nine conference games).  Fresno State at New Mexico State, Boise State at Hawai’i and Utah State at Nevada highlight this week’s games.

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