Checking In On… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on December 20th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and the Pac-12 Conferences.

Reader’s Take


A Look Back

After a slow week for finals (just seven games between December 10 and December 18), things picked up against for the Mountain West last night, with six teams in action. All told, MW teams went 10-3 since the last time we did this, with two of those three losses coming at the hands of a sneaky good Denver team. The other loss was TCU getting blown out at USC, but aside from that game, MW teams scored wins over teams from the Big Ten (UNLV over Illinois) and the Big 12 (New Mexico over Oklahoma State), bringing the conference’s record on the year against teams from BCS conferences to 15-8.

Team of the Week

UNLV – Let’s not overthink this; the Runnin’ Rebels are the Mountain West team of the week on the strength of posting the best win of the week, a 64-48 thumping of previously undefeated Illinois in an anything-but-neutral site game in Chicago. Combined with a sluggish win over UTEP and a by-the-numbers slog over Louisiana-Monroe, UNLV, ranked #20 in this week’s RTC Top 25, improved to 12-2 on the season. And, even better, in the win Monday over ULM, they picked up another weapon, as point guard Reggie Smith, a transfer from Marquette, got his first minutes of the season after becoming eligible at the semester break. He played just nine minutes, but hit a three-pointer, grabbed a couple offensive rebounds and handed out an assist (we’ll overlook the three turnovers for today) in his first action.

Anthony Marshall, Brice Massamba, UNLV

Anthony Marshall, Brice Massamba And The Rest Of The Runnin' Rebels Notched A Big Win Over Illinois This Past Weekend (photo credit: Sam Morris, Las Vegas Sun)

Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week

Hugh Greenwood, Fr, New Mexico –The freshman from Australia has earned his accolades this season mainly by not turning the ball over, admittedly a great characteristic for a point guard to have. Five different times this season he has played at least 25 minutes in a game without a single turnover, and his 3.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is 19th in the nation among players with 20 or more assists. But this weekend, in the Lobos win over Oklahoma State, Greenwood showed that he can also be called upon to score in the clutch when needed. After UNM had given up a 13-point 2nd half lead to allow OSU to take a one-point lead, Greenwood sparked a 14-3 run to close out the win for his squad, scoring eight points (including a couple of threes), grabbing two rebounds and snatching a steal over that stretch. After four years of Dairese Gary being the floor general in The Pit, Greenwood is well on his way to living up to that precedent.

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RTC Conference Primers: #7 – Mountain West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 31st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences; he is also a staffer on the Pac-12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @AMurawa.

Reader’s Take I


Top Storylines

  • Tectonic Shifts in the MW: As the landscape of college sports continues to shift, the Mountain West continues to change. This year, the conference is without BYU and Utah for the first time in its history. Aside from the fact that the state of Utah was sort of the center of the conference for many years, the impact on the basketball side of things cannot be overstated. In the 12 years that the two schools were a part of the conference, they won five outright regular season titles between them and twice shared the regular season title. TCU will join the two Utah schools as ex-MW members after this year when it joins the Big 12.
  • Temporary Fixes? As old schools depart, new schools come in. Boise State joins the conference this season, although there are already rumors that its stay may be short-lived, as other conferences including the Big 12 and the Big East, woo the Broncos. Fresno State and Nevada are due to join the conference in 2012-13, but as the ground continues to move under the feet of college athletics, one never knows what changes will come next.
  • Scheduling: With just eight conference teams this year, each team will play just 14 conference games. So while the Pac-12 and Big Ten and other major conferences are kicking off games against their conference rivals on or before New Year’s, MW schools will wait until the middle of January to get into conference play, filling the interim with games against schools like Johnson & Wales, Texas-Pan American, Nebraska-Omaha, Houston Baptist, San Diego Christian and Utah Valley. This is not a good thing for a conference, not a good thing for the fans, and not a good thing for college basketball.
  • Changes On The Sidelines: Aside from having a new team in the conference, we’ve got a couple returning teams with new coaches. The most high profile coaching change comes at UNLV with Lon Kruger gone for Oklahoma, and Dave Rice, the former associate head coach under Dave Rose at BYU, returning to Vegas where he played and served as an assistant under Jerry Tarkanian. The other coaching change is at Wyoming, where Larry Shyatt returns to town after spending the last several years as the associate head coach at Florida.

Drew Gordon Looks to Lead New Mexico to a Mountain West Title

  • New Favorites. Last year, it was more or less a two-horse race for the conference title between BYU and San Diego State. This year, there is no BYU and SDSU has graduated its four most important players. As a result, it looks to be two new horses who head the pack in search of a conference title with UNLV and New Mexico far and away the favorites. In the MW preseason basketball poll, the Lobos got 22 of the 26 first place votes from the media, with the Rebels snagging the other four. Those two schools also dominated the all-conference team selections, each putting two players on the list.
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RTC Summer Updates: Mountain West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 2nd, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Mountain West correspondent, Andrew Murawa.

Reader’s Take I

Summer Storylines

  • A New Look League: In the aftermath of last summer’s conference shake-ups, the Mountain West is a slimmer volume this year than last, and will look even different next year. Last year’s regular season champion, BYU, is off to pursue football independence, with membership in the West Coast Conference for basketball and some other sports a byproduct of that decision. Secondly, Utah jumped at the opportunity to become a member of the new Pac-12 conference. In the 12 years in which the two Utah schools were a part of the MWC (okay, since its unveiling of their new logo in July, the league office wants the conference to be abbreviated as MW, rather than MWC, and we’ll try to do that from here on), they won a combined five outright regular season titles between them (BYU three, Utah two) and twice shared the regular season titles. However, the MW did not sit idly by and let its conference dissolve when the Utah schools left. It snapped up Boise State to give the Mountain West eight teams in the 2011-12 campaign, with Fresno State and Nevada due to join in 2012-13 just as TCU departs for the Big East. In the long run, the three losses are bigger than the three additions, but the newcomers are strong enough to keep the MW chugging along.
  • Coaching Shuffle: We knew heading into the offseason that there would be at least one new coach in the conference, as Wyoming pulled the trigger on firing Heath Schroyer during the middle of the conference season. In late March they announced the hiring of Larry Shyatt, an associate head coach at Florida, back for his second stint as the head man in Laramie. But when Lon Kruger announced a day later that he had accepted the head coaching job at Oklahoma, arguably the most attractive job in the conference opened up at UNLV. Ten days later, UNLV announced the hiring of Dave Rice, most recently the associate head coach to Dave Rose at BYU, but previously a player and assistant coach under Jerry Tarkanian in Vegas. With Rice’s brother, Grant Rice, the head coach at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High – not coincidentally the high school of 2012 top ten recruit Shabazz Muhammad – the hiring opens further inroads for the Rebels with local recruits. To tie everything up in a nice little bundle, Schroyer was hired by Rice as one of his new assistants, along with former Rebel star Stacey Augmon and former SDSU assistant Justin Hutson.
  • Transfer Hotbed: Every year, the Mountain West seems to be the landing spot for some big transfers, guys who have struggled in their first stop in a BCS conference and who are ready to start over a rung down the ladder. UCLA as a feeder school for the conference is a well-worn path, having sent Chace Stanback to UNLV and Drew Gordon to New Mexico in recent years. This year, another former Bruin will be active in the MW, with forward Mike Moser joining Stanback in Las Vegas for the Rebels. No less than five other former-Pac-10 players will show up on MW rosters this season, with Drew Wiley (formerly of Oregon) joining Boise State, Demetrius Walker (formerly of Arizona State) joining New Mexico, and Xavier Thames (formerly of Washington State) joining San Diego State, all of whom will be eligible this season. Arizona’s Daniel Bejarano and USC’s Bryce Jones also announced transfers to Colorado State and UNLV, respectively, but neither will be eligible until the 2012-13 season. UNLV also welcomes former Marquette point Reggie Smith to compete with incumbent point guard Oscar Bellfield this season, while CSU inked former Minnesota center Colton Iverson, eligible in 2012-13. Then there’s the Aztecs, who signed Utah transfer J.J. O’Brien and St. John’s transfer Dwayne Polee. While O’Brien will sit out a year, Polee, who attended Los Angeles’ Westchester High, has applied for a hardship waiver, given that his mom is suffering from an undisclosed medical condition. While these waivers aren’t often granted, if it happens in this case, Polee could be a big boost for the Aztecs’ 2011-12 hopes.

Steve Fisher maxed out an experienced team in 2011, but will need former role players to step up this season. (Kent Horner/Getty Images)

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Morning Five: 01.04.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2011

  1. Minnesota’s Devoe Joseph will be suspended for the second time this season as a result of “some things that he needs to work on” according to head coach Tubby Smith, and has apparently told team members that he intends to transfer out of the program.  Joseph missed the first six games of the season for an undisclosed violation of team rules and academic problems, but the timing on this particular suspension/transfer threat is particularly discouraging, as the Gophers need the talented guard in order to compete in the rugged Big Ten.  Minnesota is already 0-2 in league play after road losses at Wisconsin and Michigan State, so their margin for error going into games versus Indiana and at Ohio State is slim.
  2. Oral Roberts’ best player, Dominique Morrison, will be out of action for up to three weeks as a result of a torn left lateral meniscus that he  recently suffered.  The Summit League’s second-leading scorer this season at 18.4 PPG is a key component of a team that had been expected to compete with Oakland for the SL championship.  The Golden Eagles, though, have had trouble putting things together for Scott Sutton this season, limping to a 5-11 overall start and 2-2 in the conference.  Losing a player of this caliber makes it all but impossible to make up any ground on rival Oakland in the interim.
  3. Missouri has had a promising season thus far in no small part due to the services of KC-born Marcus Denmon, the junior guard who has put together a tremendous campaign with averages of 18/4/2 APG/2 SPG in leading the Tigers to a 13-1 record and a top ten national rating.  Sam Mellinger of the KC Star tells the story of the kid from the rough streets of Kansas City who has turned himself from Mike Anderson’s most valuable bench player last season to, quite simply, his most valuable player this year.
  4. Reggie Smith, the freshman guard who transferred from Marquette last week after only a handful of games played is being sought by several  mid-major schools including Fairfield, LaSalle, South Alabama and Tulane, with a few higher-majors such as Nebraska, TCU and UNLV also showing interest.  Whether Smith and his stepfather will find the star-making vehicle they hoped for at any of those schools remains to be seen.
  5. Were you left wondering how Oregon State handled Arizona over the weekend?  So were we.  And apparently so was head coach Sean Miller, as he called out the lack of toughness and aggressiveness from his team in that loss.  After Washington, you might as well throw a bunch of hats into a circle to pick who the second-best team in the Pac-10 is this year.  No fewer than five or six other teams have shown the capability to be that team, but as soon as you think somebody is wearing it well, something like an Arizona loss in Corvallis happens.
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Morning Five: 12.29.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 29th, 2010

  1. After a hectic off-season that included a move from the ACC, Oliver Purnell has flown under the radar for most of this season as DePaul has struggled to a 6-6 record so far. There has been a lot of talk about how Purnell could turn the program around if he can take back control of Chicago from the other programs that have raided it for numerous stars in the past few years (Derrick Rose and Evan Turner come to mind). Some NBA scouts believes that Purnell may have a more difficult time than originally stated and that this may be his toughest resurrection job yet. The basic premise is that geographically the local players that Clemson used to get who were passed over by the ACC powers might still want to stay local whereas the Chicago players who get passed over by the Big East powers will probably opt to play for a Big Ten team rather than DePaul, a team that is essentially a Big East doormat.
  2. After UConn‘s loss at Pittsburgh, Jim Calhoun had plenty to be upset about (essentially everything except for Kemba Walker‘s offensive play), but it looks like he took out the brunt of it on Alex Oriakhi, who only managed 8 points and 1 rebound in 19 minutes. We aren’t going to question Calhoun’s methods as he certainly has a few more national championship rings and has done a better job at dealing with the egos of young, talented males who probably have never been told that they did something wrong, but we have to wonder how Oriakhi will respond particularly if Calhoun keeps him in the doghouse for a little while. It is worth keeping an eye on as he may be the Huskies only reliable scoring option outside of Walker and if Oriakhi falls apart the Huskies may follow his lead.
  3. For the second consecutive season Marquette lost a freshman who wanted to transfer mid-way through the season. This time it was Chicago native Reggie Smith who decided to transfer citing a lack of playing time. The transfer itself isn’t particularly big news as Smith was only averaging 1.4 points per game and 1.5 rebounds per game although it leaves the Golden Eagles with only 4 scholarship guards, but we did find the assertion by Buzz Williams that 40% of freshman transfer as rather amusing. We haven’t run the numbers on that, but we would be surprised because that would mean that on average a program would lose 1 or 2 freshmen each year.
  4. Most of the college basketball world is fixated on the remaining undefeated teams, but there are others who are focused on the other end of the spectrum–the teams that have yet to win a game. As of this weekend there were six teams left that had yet to win a game although the likelihood of them going through the entire season without a win (based on Pomeroy’s numbers) varies greatly. I’m not sure what it says about us that we are familiar with all of those schools even if we haven’t seen those teams yet this season.
  5. A few days ago we had some fun at Joe Lunardi’s expense based on his ridiculous early assertion that both Gonzaga and Butler may have played themselves out of the NCAA Tournament by early December, but his list of 37 thoughts (ESPN Insider again, sorry) is worth a look even if most of them aren’t particularly insightful or earth-shattering. The most interesting thing in there is that he think that Kentucky will get a #1 seed. . .in the NCAA Tournament. If he is right, I will have to tip my hat even if I will ridicule some of his other assertions as I don’t think you will find even the most delusional Wildcat fan who would agree with this team of being deserving of a #1 seed based on their play this season and Lunardi does not even seem to be insinuating that he thinks that Enes Kanter might be coming back to play for the Wildcats this season.
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Morning Five: 12.28.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

  1. The NY Daily News published an exclusive interview with Seton Hall star Jeremy Hazell, who, as you all have heard by now, was shot by a robber on Christmas night near his home in Harlem.  He describes in detail how the robbers approached him and how he pushed one and ran for his life before feeling the piercing bullet enter his side below his armpit and how he waved down a passing FDNY ambulance to get timely treatment from the paramedics.  Talk about the Christmas spirit!  This is a frightening story and we wish Hazell nothing but the best on his recovery, and if that means he doesn’t play again this season, we don’t think anyone would blame him.
  2. Marquette freshman guard Reggie Smith is transferring away from Buzz Williams’ program in a bit of a surprising twist, as the young player had started in five of MU’s games this season yet was apparently chafed at a perceived lack of playing time.  He was averaging 1.4 points in just under ten minutes per game, but clearly neither he (nor his stepfather) thought that was enough a mere six weeks into his playing career.  This is also the second year in a row that Marquette has lost a freshman at the semester break — last season Jeronne Maymon transferred to Tennesssee in December.
  3. Speaking of midseason transfers, BIAH has a pretty good rundown of who those key players are and how they’re doing thus far since becoming eligible.  The winners so far: Kansas’ Josh Selby, USC’s Jio Fontan and Creighton’s Gregory Echinique.
  4. Jeff Goodman does us the service of breaking down the six power conferences heading into the new year.  There’s an awful lot to like and agree with here, but for the sake of contrarianism, we’d probably have gone with Georgetown in the Big East at this point.  RTC is majorly crushing on the Hoyas.
  5. Last night’s big Connecticut-Pittsburgh game turned out to be a dud for the most part with the Panthers handling the Huskies (while we’re at it, check out how Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs gets open off of screens), but this little jewel of a memory passed along from the UConn Hoops Blog reminded us when and how the rivalry began between these two basketball powerhouses.  Khalid El-Amin’s mastery (and bombast) was the difference way back in 1998, so c’mon readers, let’s help them out by locating the specific photo of KEA they’re requesting.
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