Morning Five: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 5th, 2014

morning5

  1. Unless you pay attention to college basketball exhibition games you probably are not familiar with the Carleton University basketball team. That’s a shame because as Jordan Conn notes they might be the closest thing to a dynasty that college basketball has seen since John Wooden’s UCLA teams. Winners of nine of the past 11 national championships in Canada the Ravens might be ignored by some because of the weak competition that they face in Canada, but as their performance against American college teams in exhbition games before this season started they would be a legitimitely good American college team. Most of you will probably never see the Ravens play, but it is still interesting to learn more about one of the most dominant programs in college basketball history.
  2. Most college basketball fans are focused on the NCAA Tournament, but yesterday the field for the 2014 Coaches vs Cancer Classic was announced. Duke is the obvious headliner in the field particularly with the #1 incoming recruiting class, but there are some other interesting storylines. The most obvious one is a potential match-up against Stanford, which would create a Mike Krzyzewski-Johnny Dawkins match-up (assuming Dawkins is still Stanford’s coach next season). UNLV could also be a dangerous team with their incoming class (both high schoolers and transfers). The one thing that we cannot stand with these events is that the hosts (Temple is the other one and it hardly merits mentioning) advance to the semifinals even if they lose to other teams earlier. We understand the need to sell tickets with big name programs, but it cheapens the earlier games.
  3. With the Sloan Sports Analytic Conference occurring this past week, sports analytics have gotten back into the mainstream media. One article that was featured in The Wall Street Journal last week that might be of interest to you at this point in the season is the “Hot Hand” theory espoused by Andrew Bocskocscky, John Ezekowitz, and Carolyn Stein. Their analysis (available here) essentially claims that players can increase their shooting percentage when they get on hot streaks. The actual analysis is a little more complete than that (Zach Lowe offers a more complete explanation), but the next time you hear somebody just mock the idea of the hot hand you might want to point out that it is a little more complex than they might think.
  4. That squeal you heard on Twitter yesterday was from college basketball writers who found out that Bruce Springsteen would be headlining this year’s Final Four concerts. While Springsteen is the main act the warm-up acts–Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, and The Killers–are not bad either. If you are in Dallas for the Final Four, the free concerts are worth checking out and over the years have featured a number of well-known performers. And if a program wants to announce some bad news the night that Springsteen is performing for free in front of what we would assume is most of the major college basketball writers would seem like a good time to do so.
  5. Just about the only time that we ever talk about junior college basketball is when one of the big-name junior college recruits signs with a Division I school, but for the case of Glenn Germany we will make an exception. Germany plays for the Community College of Allegheny County team, which normally would not merit mentioning except that he is 44-years-old and spent more than 15 years in prison. Like the Carleton basketball team, you will probably never see Germany play (unless this article inspires a national news show to do a feature on him), but he does have an interesting story and it is worth reading to see how he turned his life around.
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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on March 4th, 2014

As we head into the final week of the season, the regular season conference championship remains very much up for grabs San Diego State and New Mexico are tied atop the standings at 14-2, four games ahead of third-place UNLV, each with one game to go prior to their showdown at Viejas Arena on Saturday evening for what figures to be a battle for the outright conference title. The Aztecs have a bit more precarious mid-week exam ahead of them, as they’ll travel to those previously mentioned Runnin’ Rebels tomorrow to renew what has become one of the better rivalries in the conference in recent years.

Team of the Week

UNLV – The Rebels bounced back from an 0-for-2 previous week to score a solid win over Colorado State and a blowout of Air Force this week, securing their credentials, at least for the time being, as the third-best team in the conference. And, there’s little doubt that this Rebel team is significantly improved from the squad that was stinking up the Thomas & Mack in a home loss to those Falcons back in the early days of 2014. Dave Rice and company are probably still in a position where their only chance at an invitation to the Big Dance involves a Mountain West Tournament win in a week’s time, but at least such a possibility is no longer just a punch line to a bad joke.

Bryce Dejean-Jones Has Helped The Runnin' Rebels Become More Stable

Bryce Dejean-Jones Has Helped The Runnin’ Rebels Become More Stable

Player of the Week

Bryce Dejean-Jones, Junior, UNLV – His teammate Khem Birch won the official conference player of the week, but we’re going to go with the team’s most consistent offensive performer, who turned in a solid week of 14.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per night while knocking in shots at an efficient 54.7% eFG clip this week. Dejean-Jones has been maddening at time with erratic shot selection early in his career, but on a team without a ton of other guys capable of creating for themselves, he has been a high-volume shooter who has also significantly increased his capacity to separate a good shot from a bad one.

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The Case for UNLV’s Dave Rice

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 27th, 2014

For those interested in bashing Dave Rice this season, it hasn’t been a challenge finding a few friends to join in on the fun. Even our own Andrew Murawa took a rip at UNLV’s walking, breathing, coaching piñata a few weeks back, listing Rice dead last in a ranking of the MW’s 11 current head coaches. This lack of love from Mr. Murawa and others is understandable: The Rebels have slogged their way through a season that began with a seemingly loaded roster and Mountain West title aspirations. Thomas & Mack Arena has turned uncharacteristically hospitable — feel free to ask Air Force, Nevada and UC Santa Barbara about UNLV’s new, friendlier visitor initiative if you don’t believe me. The Runnin’ Rebels may still finish third in the Mountain West and UNLV fans will fairly entertain hopes of running the table (at home) in the MW Tournament to find a backdoor into the Big Dance, but like the Vegas weekender stumbling onto his Sunday flight home, there is no hiding the disappointment for this UNLV team. Just don’t blame Dave Rice.

Dave Rice Has Plenty Of Destractors After A Disappointing UNLV Season, But Let's See If The Same Critics Are This Vocal Twelve Months From Now

Dave Rice Suddenly Has Plenty Of Detractors After A Disappointing UNLV Season, But Let’s See If The Same Critics Are This Vocal Twelve Months From Now

Remember last year’s UNLV team? The one that won 25 games and earned a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament? If the memories aren’t flowing in, don’t look to this year’s team for any help. The only current Rebels to earn serious minutes a season ago are Khem Birch and Bryce Dejean-Jones — the result of Rice losing seven rotation players from last year’s team. Adding to the offseason chaos was the fact that four of those seven departees still possessed college eligibility, so their decisions to pursue basketball careers elsewhere (for a variety of reasons) were largely unplanned. The impact of those defections has been dramatically overlooked by Rice critics; lose that much talent and production from any team, and creating a brand-new winner the next season is bound to be difficult. For every Kansas there is a Miami, Temple or Illinois, where rebuilding years are understood as necessary steps to a brighter future. Somehow the folks in Sin City missed the memo preaching leniency in the wake of an offseason exodus, as most explanations for the Rebel malaise have skipped over the overhaul, choosing instead to focus on the perceived deficiencies of the man at the helm.

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O26 Weekly Awards: New Mexico, Jeremy Ingram, Donnie Tyndall & ECU…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 26th, 2014

Think about it, folks: this time next week, it will be March. Let that sink in for a minute… Now let’s take a step back and give some recognition to several of last week’s top performers and performances.

O26 Team of the Week

The Lobos made it loud and clear that they're legitimate. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

The Lobos made it loud and clear that they’re legitimate. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

New Mexico. If the Lobos made one thing abundantly clear last week, it’s this: They are every bit the team we thought they were back in the preseason (they are who we thought they were!). While San Diego State has captured the lofty rankings and national media attention for much of 2013-14, New Mexico — once favorites to win the Mountain West — has lurked under the radar for the better part of three months, amassing plenty of wins but not many headlines. But after a pair of statement victories in a four-night span, over two of its biggest rivals? That all changed in a hurry.

Entering last Wednesday’s game at UNLV, head coach Craig Neal was confronted with the challenge of having to focus his team on the task at hand without looking ahead to Saturday’s enormous tilt against San Diego State. Not necessarily an easy task, but an especially important one considering that the Runnin’ Rebels had more or less handled New Mexico in its own gym just one month earlier. Lucky for Neal, he never had to worry much at the Thomas & Mack Center — his senior point guard Kendall Williams took any possible questions about “focus” and immediately extinguished them with a flurry points. Williams nailed a three in the first minute of the contest to give the Lobos an early lead, then helped his team maintain that advantage for the remainder of the night by notching 29 points — including 17 in the first half — along with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. The outcome was never in question, and what made the 68-56 final even more impressive was the fact that New Mexico, not especially known for its defense, held UNLV to a paltry 31.7 percent from the field. Now the Lobos could look ahead.

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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 25th, 2014

This week in the Mountain West conference had it all: a much-awaited Top 25 match-up between the two teams remaining in the race for the conference title; an epic (game of the year?) overtime battle between what appears to be the third- and fourth-best teams in the conference that went down to, literally, the final split second before some postgame controversy; and straight heartbreak, when an all-conference performer had his season abruptly ended by injury. Let’s get right to it.

Team of the Week

New Mexico – A little patience, plenty of hard work and steady improvement, and the Lobos are back where their fans expected them to be all along – in first place in the conference. After going on the road and handling the Runnin’ Rebels with relative ease, Craig Neal and company returned home and, in front of a raucous home crowd, showed San Diego State that there is at least another team in the conference capable of some lockdown defense on occasion. Inside the Top 25 and tied atop the conference standings, the Lobos seem to be peaking at just the right time.

Cameron Bairstow And The Lobos Earned A Big Home Win Over San Diego State on Saturday Night (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

Cameron Bairstow And The Lobos Earned A Big Home Win Over San Diego State on Saturday Night. (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

Player of the Week

Cameron Bairstow, Senior, New Mexico – Prior to today, we had awarded the Mountain West Player of the Week 11 different times this season. Four players had earned our award twice – Xavier Thames, Larry Nance and Khem Birch. That tie has now been broken, and at precisely the time when the senior Aussie big man first inched ahead of Thames in the Player of the Year race. There is plenty of work left to be done, but with Bairstow’s averages this week of 22.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 3.0 BPG in two huge conference games, his inclusion here can hardly be argued with. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 02.24.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 24th, 2014

morning5

  1. By now you have seen countless replays and photoshops of Jim Boeheim‘s meltdown at the end of Syracuse’s loss at Duke on Saturday night. You have also probably seen at least a dozen columns critiquing the call and Boeheim’s reaction to it. Even though we were there with almost a straight on view of Boeheim we won’t bore you with any more specific analysis of it other than to say it was amusing to see in person (as was Boeheim’s post-game press conference) or try to argue that he should be fined or suspended for his reaction (completely ridiculous). The point remains that there is no circumstance under which Boeheim should have reacted like that particularly in that situation. Boeheim’s 945 wins (and counting) at Syracuse will buy him more leeway for his reaction than some other coaches this season have received, but as we said right after it happened given the circumstances it might be the most meltdown this season.
  2. When Cody Doolin left the San Francisco basketball team early this season we figured that it would the last we would see of him as a college player. The senior point guard, who had started all 103 games of his college career and averaged 13 points and 7 assists with just 1.5 turnovers this season, left the team just four games into his senior season after reportedly getting into an altercation with a teammate during practice. At the time we mentioned that we have no idea what could have been so bad about the incident that Doolin would leave team, but on Friday he announced that he would be transferring to UNLV. Doolin will reportedly seek a waiver (presumably as a graduate student) to play immediately for UNLV. Honestly, we were not completely sure that leaving your team after the season had started would even qualify you for redshirt status for the season. If he is allowed to play for the Rebels next season he would join a team that returns Khem Birch, Roscoe Smith, and Bryce Dejean-Jones and is bringing in a top ten class.
  3. Tulsa senior guard Pat Swilling Jr, who was averaging 8.6 points per game this season, is being investigated for potential sexual assault charges stemming from an incident on January 27 in which a Tulsa student is accusing Swilling of raping her. Swilling, who is the son of former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and one-term Louisiana House of Representative member Pat Swilling Sr, was suspended from the team earlier this month, but no explanation was offered. Swilling has had an interesting college career to say the least. After initially being kicked out of St. Joseph’s for being in possession of a stolen laptop, Swilling has spent time at Louisiana Tech and College of Southern Idaho before ending up at Tulsa. He is scheduled to appear in court on March 4 for a hearing which would prohibit Swilling from having any contact with his accuser.
  4. We are not sure what Kevin Willard is doing at Seton Hall, but it seems like he is suspending players left and right. His latest target is sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs who he appears to have been suspended because of his attitude in practice. Gibbs, a transfer from Texas, is second on the team in scoring (14.3 per game to Fuquan Edwin’s 14.5) and leads the team in assists (4.4 per game). We won’t necessarily chalk up Seton Hall’s 1-point loss at Creighton to Gibbs’ absence, but we would assume that Gibbs’ VORP is worth at least one point. As for when Gibbs will return it appears that it could be as soon as the team’s game on Tuesday as he is meeting with Willard in Chicago.
  5. According to Indiana it is once again safe to enter Assembly Hall. After temporarily postponing games last week when an eight-foot, 50-pound steel beam fell from the ceiling onto seats, Indiana will resume playing games in Assembly Hall. The women’s team played their first game on Saturday afternoon without and the men’s first game will be on Thursday when they play Iowa as a make-up for last Tuesday’s postponed game. We imagine the seats near where the beam fell will be among the less popular ones to sit in for the rest of the season.
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O26 Game of the Week: SDSU at The Pit, Gonzaga-BYU, Others…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 19th, 2014

Each week the O26 microsite will run down the biggest upcoming game of the week as well as a handful of others to keep an eye on.

San Diego State (22-2) at New Mexico (19-5) – 10:00 PM ET, ESPN2, Saturday

This game — this week — is a huge one for New Mexico. If it can avenge an early loss to UNLV tonight in Las Vegas, Craig Neal’s team will return home on Saturday with a chance to pull even with San Diego State atop the Mountain West standings and solidify itself as an NCAA Tournament lock. Up to this point, the only major feather in the Lobos’ cap is a win over Cincinnati back in early December, so beating the Aztecs this weekend would not only shake up the conference race, it would also carry serious resume-boosting implications. Not to mention bragging rights in a match-up that features two of the best fan bases west of the Mississippi.

Kendall Williams and the Lobos  welcome San Diego State to the Pit on Saturday. (Eric Draper The Associated Press)

Kendall Williams and the Lobos welcome San Diego State to the Pit on Saturday. (Eric Draper The Associated Press)

In fact, considering how closely matched the game is on paper, New Mexico’s 15,000-plus screaming fans might very well become a deciding factor when it’s all said and done. According to KenPom, the Lobos are pegged as the slight favorites with a win probability of 54 percent, a figure that will dip considerably when they head to San Diego in early March. But first they get to host the Aztecs in The Pit, their menacing, subterranean arena in which they boast an all-time winning mark well over 80 percent. Not many visiting teams escape unscathed. For San Diego State fans, the silver lining is this: Steve Fisher units have gone an admirable 6-8 in the daunting stadium since he took over in 1999.

Of course, the outcome will ultimately be decided on the court, and there, each team will have distinct advantages. For New Mexico, the ability to get interior scoring from its imposing frontcourt duo of Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow will be critical. The big men combined to average 36 points and 15 rebounds in the Lobos’ two victories over the Aztecs last year; in the one loss, they mustered just two points and nine boards total. Paint production will be especially important considering that opposing guards Xavier Thames and Winston Shepard are stingy perimeter defenders, capable of minimizing Kendall Williams’ usually-considerable offensive production. San Diego State, meanwhile, hopes to continue playing the excellent team defense that has limited opponents to around 0.94 points per possession this season, good for 17th in the country. They are long, fast, physical and will suffocate teams that are ill-prepared. On the other end, the Aztecs are led by the gifted Thames — who’s likely to win Mountain West Player of the Year — and the team-wide ability to garner second-chance looks by crashing the offensive glass. Forwards Josh Davis and J.J. O’Brien must out-bang the sizable New Mexico frontcourt if San Diego State hopes to generate enough offense to survive Albuquerque. The game will be high-stakes and high-energy, so flip to The Deuce and check it out when Saturday night rolls around.

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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on February 18th, 2014

It’s February 18. Valentine’s Day has come and gone, as has President’s Day. We’ll flip the calendar to March in less than two weeks. There are exactly three weeks of conference play remaining. In other words: In case you haven’t noticed, another season has almost entirely slipped past us. But, over these final three weeks there is a lot still to be decided. Our twosome at the top of the conference — San Diego State (11-1) and New Mexico (10-2) — each dropped a game this week, but with their first of two remaining regular season battles on Saturday and with both schools yet to visit third-place UNLV, there could be a lot of movement atop the leader board. The other big spot to look at in the standings is fifth place. Why? Because the top five seeds will all get first-round byes at the Mountain West Tournament, while the other six teams will be competing an extra day for a chance to get to Thursday’s quarterfinals. Right now, Wyoming and Nevada are in the fourth and fifth spots, but Boise State and Fresno State lurk just behind. And speaking of those Broncos, last week we talked about the climb they face if they are going to get back in the conversation for an at-large NCAA bid. Give them credit because they got off on the right foot, knocking off New Mexico by a point in Boise last Wednesday night, bringing their record in games decided by two possessions or fewer since Christmas to 2-6.

Anthony Drmic Helped Lead Boise State To Its Best Win Of The Year, Over New Mexico Last Wednesday (Adam Eschbach, Idaho Press-Tribune)

Anthony Drmic Helped Lead Boise State To Its Best Win Of The Year, Over New Mexico Last Wednesday (Adam Eschbach, Idaho Press-Tribune)

Team of the Week

Wyoming – When you welcome a top five team into your arena and come away with a solid win, as the Cowboys did last Tuesday night against San Diego State, you’ve got a strong head start in the race for my Team of the Week. Wyoming turned on the offense against a great Aztecs defense and got big nights out of just about everyone who saw the floor, with Riley Grabau in particular coming up big when most needed. The Cowboys followed that up by going on the road and uglying one out over a bad San Jose State team to improve to 7-5 in conference play. And once again, head coach Larry Shyatt has his team overachieving.

Player of the Week

Khem Birch, Junior, UNLV – He only played once, but what a game it was, as the junior big man fell just one additional blocked shot short of a triple-double against Utah State on Saturday as he helped his Runnin’ Rebels win their sixth game in seven outings. Birch dominated the middle with 10 defensive boards (and a couple on the offensive end) and nine blocks in helping to limit the Aggies inside while also jump-starting UNLV’s transition game.

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#rushthetrip Day 11: Logan’s Hidden Gem Left With Little To Cheer About

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 17th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

Saturday featured a Utah double-dip. My day began with an afternoon matinee in Logan (Utah State-UNLV) and would close up some 120 miles South in Orem, where WAC leader Utah Valley (yup…) was hosting Idaho. To be fair, my day actually began at 7:30 AM in Butte, MT, where some inclement weather had me holed up for the night. I wasn’t sure if my Chevy Malibu, replete with Arizona plates, would have the juice to push through the snowy conditions, but I somehow arrived in Logan just as the Aggies and Rebels were tipping off. Regrettably, I found myself walking through the front doors of The Spectrum just as the “I Believe” chant was dying off, but I figured forty minutes of basketball would provide the boisterous student section ample opportunity to show off.

Saturday Didn't Showcase The Dee Glen Smith Spectrum In It's Brightest Light, But Utah State's Home Floor Is Truly One Of A Kind

Saturday Didn’t Showcase The Dee Glen Smith Spectrum In It’s Brightest Light, But Utah State’s Home Floor Is Truly One Of A Kind

Logan is immediately striking. For one, if you are arriving from the North, there is almost no evidence of the town from 15 (the major freeway that runs North-South through Utah). Imposing mountains frame a valley well off into the distance, but it’s not until you climb a smaller hill in the middle of 15 and Logan that you actually catch sight of the town. From a distance, it’s a looker. Downtown and the University sit directly in the shadows of the mountain range visible from the freeway, but snow-capped peaks can be found in any direction you look. It was obvious before I reached town that Logan’s buildings were older, but the full antiquation of the scene didn’t hit home until I was in the midst of it. The combination of the cloudy day, dated architecture and snowy mountains evoked fairy-tales from decades past, and in a very monochromatic way. Logan is definitely not your classic college town – that was obvious after spending just three hours there.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Rabb Moves Up To #1, Rashad Vaughn Goes With UNLV, and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on February 14th, 2014

http://rushthecourt.net/mag/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/7sweetscoops.png

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. New #1 In The Junior Class

On Tuesday, Scout.com released their updated Top 100 rankings for the class of 2015. In a similar fashion to ESPN, five-star junior forward Ivan Rabb jumped up to the #1 spot formerly held by guard Malik Newman. The 6’9” Rabb has put together an impressive junior campaign for Bishop O’Dowd (CA) High as they get ready for a state title run in California which currently stands at 18-4 and. Rabb has always been an impressive athlete while drawing comparisons to Chris Bosh for his ability to finish down low and step outside for a 15 foot jump shot. After an up and down summer with the Oakland Soldiers AAU program, it seems Rabb has turned the corner. Josh Gershon of Scout.com noted, “This season, Rabb has taken his game to the next level. His motor, skill level, rebounding and production are all at an all time high. He’s proven himself game and game out, making his selection as Scout.com’s top prospect in 2015 an easy choice.” Schools from all over the country are knocking on Rabb’s door and in an interview from late January his high school coach noted that Arizona, North Carolina, and California have showed him the most attention. Given Sean Miller’s success the past few years with kids from the Oakland Soldiers AAU program, the Wildcats would have to be the presumed leader at this point in time.

 

2. Rashad Vaughn Headed to UNLV

Five-star junior shooting guard Rashad Vaughn is headed to UNLV. On Tuesday night, the 6’5” Vaughn announced his college choice on CBS SportsNet and chose the Rebels over Iowa State, UNC, and Kentucky. The No. 13 ranked player in the country was one of the last five-star players to make a commitment and now he will join five-star small forward Dwayne Morgan (#20 overall) and four-star center Goodluck Okonoboh (#39 overall) in Las Vegas next year. ESPN.com currently has UNLV with the No. 6 ranked recruiting class in the country. This past summer Vaughn was looking to transfer from his hometown high school in Minnesota to a national prep powerhouse for better competition and landed in Henderson, NV with Findlay Prep. The close proximity helped the Rebels get involved late in the Vaughn recruitment and UNLV’s assistant coach Todd Simon is the former head coach of Findlay Prep. Vaughn will give the Rebels a scorer from the get-go next year and the Rebels will be expected to improve on this year’s disappointing campaign (so far). “I can see that they are missing a shooter or a scorer,” Vaughn said. “I just feel like they don’t have any shooters to spread the floor. I know we’ve got a couple shooters coming in. With me and my scoring ability, I feel we can pick up the pace. With Goodluck and with Dwayne, I feel we can do something special.”

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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on February 11th, 2014

We’re in the back stretch of conference play and, as we have expected for the past couple months, we now have clear separation between the top two teams in the conference – San Diego State and New Mexico, which have combined for only one conference loss – and the rest of the pack. Nevada dropped a pair of road games; UNLV lost on the road; and Wyoming dropped a pair as well, giving the second place Lobos a three-game lead in the loss column over the third-place team. Even more clearly, this looks like a two-bid league come March, barring a big surprise in the conference tournament. The third highest-rated team in the RPI is Boise State, checking in at #68 following a heartbreaker against the Aztecs.

A Dagger Of A Three From Dwayne Polee Leaves Boise State In Dire Straits (Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman)

A Dagger Of A Three From Dwayne Polee Leaves Boise State In Dire Straits. (Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman)

Let’s play a fun game of “let’s pretend” and say that the Broncos catch fire, win out in conference play and get to the championship game in Vegas before bowing out to either San Diego State or New Mexico. Never mind that this team hasn’t shown any indication that its capable of that type of streak, but that would put them at 24-10 with a win over New Mexico in the regular season and a win over the Lobos again (although possibly San Diego State) in the MW Tournament semifinal. That would give them two wins over New Mexico as by far their best wins of the season, with Utah – currently ranked #103 in RPI – ranks as their next best win. Not exactly the resume of an NCAA Tournament team.

Team of the Week

San Diego State – In a week where three conference schools scored a road win as part of a 2-0 week, the Aztecs had the most impressive road win by going to Boise State, roaring back from a 13-point deficit in the middle of the second half, then getting a big go-ahead three-pointer from Dwayne Polee with five seconds left to break the Broncos’ spirit. The Aztecs followed that up by coming home and handing it to Nevada in workmanlike fashion while in the process tying a school-record 20-game winning streak.

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Boise State’s Struggles Not Doing Mountain West Any Favors

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 3rd, 2014

Derrick Marks couldn’t move. The UNLV celebration had begun and handshake lines were forming around him, but Marks remained motionless, eyes staring blankly ahead. Losing 11-point leads in the final three and a half minutes of a basketball game will induce a little shock sometimes, but a glance at the paralyzed Marks made it clear that that this loss ran even deeper than that. Boise State had provided a 36-minute demonstration of why it had been picked second in the MW preseason poll. The Broncos looked like the NCAA Tournament team everyone had expected at the start of the year, and Marks was at the center of it all. He scored 22 points in every which way -– step-back jumpers, mid-range leaners, acrobatic layups — giving his team firm control of the second-half flow of play. But just as Boise appeared to be assuming a handle on both game and season, that fateful closing run of the Rebels (17-2 in its totality) completely ripped away any grip they may have found. Marks’ may still be processing the Broncos’ new reality, but the jarring loss landed his team further away than ever before from their second consecutive NCAA appearance. The Boise plight may also be a Mountain West plight, as the conference is looking more and more like a two-bid league, just a season after proudly sending five teams to the Big Dance.

Derrick Marks And Company Had Things Rolling For Most Of Saturday Night. A Late UNLV Surge Stole A Win From The Broncos, And May Have Redirected The Course Of Their Season.

Derrick Marks And Company Had Things Rolling For Most Of Saturday Night. A Late UNLV Surge Stole A Win From The Broncos, And May Have Redirected The Course Of Their Season.

This season was supposed to go differently for Leon Rice’s team. Expectations are bound to be elevated when you return your top six players from an NCAA Tournament team, and the Broncos have been unable to keep pace with the increased hype. Aside from a home win over a surprisingly solid Utah team, Boise’s most impressive result came in a road victory over #111 (KenPom) Hawaii in the Diamond Head Classic. They have taken care of business against inferior opponents (14-0 vs teams outside the top 100), but Saturday’s loss dropped the Broncos to just 1-7 against teams inside the top 100. That scar will need to be touched up in the coming weeks if Boise wants at-large hope on Selection Sunday, but don’t take that ugly record at face value. Four of those losses came by four points or less (including last night), and all but one, a 15-point loss at Kentucky, came by single digits. Most every major team statistical category is within range of where it was a year ago, and the defense actually looks marginally improved. The Broncos are clearly not leaps and bounds ahead of where they were a season ago, but contrary to what the record might indicate, they don’t actually appear to be any worse.

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