Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What does this mean?

Stew Morrill was quoted saying this back in February (sorry for being unable to attribute the source): "My team is not dominant, but has learned how to win" and in the same article "When things get tough, they get tougher."

We have no quarrel about the content of the quotes but it's the former one that puzzles us to some degree.

How does one learn how to win? What does that entail? Can one learn and therefore know what it takes to win but still be unable to actually come away with a victory? At least all the time? Is there a certain winning percentage necessary to achieve to reach the level of knowing hos to win? Can another team have a greater knowledge or application of what it takes to win and therefore defeat a team that also knows what it has to do?

Granted, the latter quote seems to be about upping the intensity level, giving up no easy shots/scores, committing few if any turnovers, treating every possession in the last few minutes of games as sacred' and so on which certainly dovetails into learning/knowing how to win.

Inquiring minds want to know.

A Greg Allen update

We plan to have more in the not too distant future -- we were talking with a junior college coach today and it came up that he would love to have former Idaho commit Greg Allen join his team if that's the way it works out for Allen in recruiting come April/May.

We were also told that a PAC-10 school has some interest in Allen as well as a Mountain West and a West Coast Conference school but that the key element in the equation -- besides the everpresent fluidity in recruiting-- will be Allen's SAT score.

Idaho did not come up in the conversation but that doesn't necessarily mean the Vandals have self-selected out of Allen's recruitment or that he has eliminated Moscow as a next destination as Allen was not the focus of our talk.

Here's pulling for Allen to land the score he needs and to have an array of choices for his entry into D-1 college basketball. May both he and Idaho have their wishes granted.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ferd Lewis say Hawaii's AD needs to git r done

Ferd Lewis/Honolulu Advertiser has a column today pressing Hawaii's AD to make his decision, or if he already has, announce the status of Coach Bob Nash.

Nash's UH future a pressing issue
Ferd Lewis
Honolulu Advertiser
March 30, 2009

Word around campus has it that two guards the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team prizes were on recruiting visits over the weekend

Presumably, Bob Nash told them he plans to be around as head coach for a while.

Now, it would be nice if somebody else told them — and us — the same thing.

Somebody, for example, such as Nash's boss, UH athletic director Jim Donovan...

Go here for the remainder.

Seth Curry to Duke -- how is this WAC-related?

Here's how regardless of its tenuousness:

Maybe it is because of youth or possibly just the audacity of a hope (groan) but we saw this posted on one of the WAC team message boards -- the imploring of Liberty University's Seth Curry to come to such-and-such WAC team, followed by some reasons why he should do so.

We used to be like that, John "Imagine" Lennon dreamers who just couldn't understand why player A or player B wouldn't choose OUR university. Either added age or many a castle in the air that crashed and burned -- or a combo of both -- cured us of such a condition.

By the way, Seth Curry is the brother of Davidson's Stephen and the son of former NBA-er Dell. Seth just chose to transfer to Duke, leading us to wonder -- which is besides our original point -- did the younger Curry have his heart set on Liberty U or did a large number of assistant coaches and scouting services overlook him two years ago?

Anyway, Dell Curry resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. He and his wife were seen in the crowd at a number of the Davidson games that were televised this past season. Both sons made original choices to stay either close to home or fairly close.

So there is nothing in the past to indicate any reasons why Seth Curry would depart Liberty U (Virginia) and head way out west to either San Jose, Logan, Las Cruces, Reno et al. It's a guess albeit a fairly educated one that Seth Curry has never heard of many of the towns and cities that hosts WAC universities. Such is not a putdown -- just a reality.

When it comes to transfers, pay much more attention to a player's hometown and region or to a school he had under consideration prior to making his original choice.

You can't lose what you never had

This post is not really about Fresno State although FSU is going to be used as the example here. The purpose here is to point out the fluidity, the reality and the accuracy in recruiting reports.

kamcgee2001 at the Save Mart Center MB on the Fresno Scout site posted a note that San Jacinto point (CA) Melvin Goins selected Tennessee as his next destination and added concern about who Steve Cleveland was going to land to run the Bulldog offense next season.

The problem is that Goins never truly had Fresno State under consideration. There probably was something posted previously at the Save Mart Center MB twining Goins and Fresno State but realistically Goins was looking for a higher profile program in a higher level conference.

Again, this is not to knock anyone. The point is how can the 'loss' of someone be lamented when the individual in this case was never to be had? kamcgee200 was also concerned -- probably moreso -- about the lack of news/progress about landing a point for next season which is a valid concern but so much of recruiting -- at least at the WAC level -- takes place below the eyes and ears of most of the recruiting sites and services.

Not really relevant to this discussion but still interesting is that while Goins averaged 17.2 points per game this season, he shot 40% overall from the floor, .327 from three-point range and .716% at the foul line.

Goins also averaged 4.9 assists a contest but also 3.8 turnovers (a 138 to 106 assists to turnover ratio) each time out.

But analyzing someone we have never seen play is above our pay grade here regardless of his stats -- Tennessee obviously likes the kid and rated him highly, enough so that the expectation is that Goins will fill the hole hole at the point position the Volunteers have faced for some time now.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

This is sad

It's always tough to hear the news about a kid having to let go of the sport he loves due to injury. Nevada's Richie Phillips is the one this time. It's good he will remain at Nevada and have the opportunity to earn his degree -- which is the good news that comes out of this.

Injuries end Phillips' career at Nevada
Reno Gazette-Journal staff report
March 28, 2009

Richie Phillips, a junior forward on the Nevada basketball team, was forced to end his career because of recurring tibial stress fractures and chronic pain, coach Mark Fox announced Friday.

"It's always sad when a kid's career ends, but when it is taken from him by reasons out of his control, it's heartbreaking," Fox said in a news release. "This was very difficult news for Richie to receive, and I feel terrible for him. Richie will remain a part of our program and is on track to graduate in December. It's unfortunate that his bones haven't been able to handle the stresses of what we do..."

Go here for the remainder.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Donte Medder to Tulsa

Arizona prep Donte Medder, orginally from New York City, has settled on Tulsa as his college choice.

Here's a brief article from the Arizona Republic. Plus, this from the Tulsa World.

UCLA was actually interested in the kid -- based upon Jrue Holiday departing for the NBA but Medder apparently had no desire to wait. Fresno State was interested but Medder never visited.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another Fresno State recruiting target -- with Hawaii interested also

Here's another point guard, a scoring point with some defensive tenacity, alongside indications of Fresno State and Hawaii interest.

FresnoRocks first posted this news at the Save Mart Center Message Board, part of the Fresno State Scout site but there may or may not be more to the story.

Here's the WAC-related part of the article that FresnoRocks linked to:

Mark Rountree, Sports Editor
EnidNews.com (Oklahoma)
March 25, 2009

...NOC (Northern Oklahoma College) Enid guard Jeremy Lay has four Division I offers to consider. Lay, the school’s all-time leading scorer, has offers from Missouri State, Hawaii, Fresno State and Southern Alabama.

Lay is expected to make his decision in early April...

Now back in October 2008, Jeremy Lay gave a verbal commitment to attend Southeast Missouri State. Here's an article about that:

Point guard verbally commits to Redhawks,
Marty Mishow
Southeast Missourian
October 1, 2008

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team has received a verbal commitment for the 2009-10 season from a junior college point guard.

Jeremy Lay, a 6-foot sophomore at Northern Oklahoma College, said Tuesday he plans to sign with Southeast during the early signing period in November.

Lay averaged 13 points and 6.4 assists per game as a freshman for an NOC squad that went 19-14 and was the Region 2 runner-up in Oklahoma last season. He led the region in assists.

NOC coach Greg Shamburg said Lay is a pure point guard who is extremely quick and a strong defender.

"He can score, but he's definitely a point guard," Shamburg said. "He's very, very competitive and a really good ball defender...
Go here for the remainder.

But Coach Scott Edgar was subsequently canned by Southeast Missouri State last December under the cloud of some major NCAA violations.

So it seems that Lay held on signing any letter-of-intent. Of course, it's impossible to gauge the level of Fresno State and Hawaii interest but the kid looks to have a skills set that would help both teams. In fact, Hawaii would be landing the possibility of a true point and an outside shooter -- two needs rolled into one player -- if that is the way it plays out. Fresno State doesn't necessarily need a points producer at the 1 -- Lay's defensive prowess and quarterbacking ability would suffice.

Utah State gets more athletic funding

File this under Just What The Other WAC Teams Need:

USU votes to increase athletics fees
Deseret News
March 24, 2009

Utah State University students voted in record numbers during the past two days and approved Tuesday the proposed $65 per semester increase to support Aggie Athletics.

Steven Russell, the ASUSU student advocate vice president, announced that voter turnout was 4,574 for the stand-alone referendum. In 2000, the USU student body voted for a new recreation center and only 1,400 students voted.

The referendum passed with 2,415 votes (53%) in favor and 2,159 (47%) against the proposed student athletic fee increase...

Go here for the remainder.

The vote was fairly divided. Here's a Salt Lake Tribune article on the same subject.

Idaho season review

Gaylen Wood at the Go Vandals site offers a two part review of the remarkable Idaho season.

Here's part one

Here's part two.

A Nevada Sagebrush review/preview of the Wolf Pack

Here is Emerson Marcus of the Nevada Sagebrush, the student newspaper, with his take on the recently concluded Wolf Pack season and expectations for next year. Caution: Utah State fans may experience a rise in blood pressure.

Growing pains spur experience, recruits bring talent
Emerson Marcus
March 24, 2009

While the Nevada men’s basketball team’s season ended with 21 wins, it’s inability to make the NCAA Tournament makes 2008-09 a disappointment.

Anything short of a trip to the Big Dance, especially when Nevada was picked to win the Western Athletic Conference at the beginning of the season, is upsetting.

Early-season turmoil transitioned into excruciating growing pains: not just Luke Babbitt’s aching back.

But it’s OK because 2010’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Reno will include three new players and a more seasoned frontcourt ­good enough to send obnoxious Utah State fans home crying to their pet cows...

Go here for the remainder.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This one is a shocker

This one sure came out of left field. Chris Jones, a 6-4 combo backcourter best known for his defensive prowess, has decided to forego re-signing with Fresno State (he signed last year but had to upgrade his academics and is presently doing so at an Arizona prep school) and will attend San Jose State next season.

Lee Hubbard has the details:

Jones returns to the Bay
Lee Hubbard
NorCalPreps.com Basketball Analyst
March 25, 2009

Chris Jones, a 6-foot-4 combo guard and former standout at Newark Memorial High finished the 2008 year knowing he would probably have to attend Westwind Academy prep school in Phoenix, Arizona before heading off to Fresno State University in the fall of 2009.

"Chris had some academic issues that needed to be tightened up," said Pastor Horacio Jones, Chris' father.

At Westwind Academy, which started its post graduate academy just this past year, Jones was able to work on his studies, qualify academically for his scholarship and to work on his basketball game...

...In the process though, things did not work out with Fresno State and Jones decided to recently reopen his recruitment. Schools that inquired about Jones included LMU, Portland, St. Mary's, Mississippi State and Tennessee Chattanooga, but Jones decided he wanted to stay close to home. Over the weekend, he verbally committed to the San Jose State Spartans, a program he almost ended up attending when he committed to Fresno State last year...

Go here for the remainder.

Michael Williams - NewMexico State update

Here's the latest on NMSU's interest in Michael Williams:

Interest in Williams heating up
Ben Bolch
Los Angeles Times
March 24, 2009

Taft senior guard Michael Williams, one of the best remaining unsigned players in Southern California, is starting to generate more interest from Division I suitors.

New Mexico State visited Williams on campus today, Taft Coach Derrick Taylor said, and the 6-foot-1 standout has scholarship offers from San Francisco, Cal State Fullerton, Montana State and Cal State Northridge. New Mexico State has not offered a scholarship, Taylor said...

Go here for the remainder.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fresno recruit Garrett Johnson gets some press

He may have Paul George ahead of him at Fresno State but Bulldog signee Garrett Johnson certainly comes off as a level-headed kid who knows what it takes to succeed on the court and that attitude will get him some playing time next season regardless of his competition. Thanks to the Save Mart Center message board post by Fresno Rocks at the Fresno Scout site where we first learned about this article.

Diamond Ranch's Johnson is Player of the Year
Fred J. Robledo
San Gabriel Valley tribune

Diamond Ranch High School boys basketball coach Loren Grover wishes he had a few more years with Garrett Johnson, because his transformation to a complete player is just taking shape.

"Absolutely," Grover said. "He has an opportunity to be an amazing player. Last year he started to understand what he is capable of, and this year you saw his confidence and understanding of the game start to take off.

"He's a tremendous kid, a student of the game and his maturity level has always impressed me. He's got a bright future ahead him."

The 6-foot-5 swingman already has signed with Fresno State after averaging 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists in leading the Panthers to the Miramonte League title and CIF-Southern Section Division II-AA quarterfinals.

But scoring and rebounding was just part of his resume...

Go here for the remainder.

Idaho falls to Pacific

WAC basketball is officially done for the season as Idaho fell to Pacific in Stockton. Here's the report from the Idaho athletics site.

Chris Murray is doing just fine

We feel it is our duty to categorically inform all fans of this blog but more so readers of the Reno Gazette-Journal sports section that Chris Murray is NOT suffering from terminal WAC basketballus withdrawalism.

We have it on good authority he is doing just fine and actually has re-gained a portion of his life heretofore given over to the gods and goddesses of college basketball on a 24/7 basis from October to April each year.

There is an unconfirmed report that the happiness of single women in the Reno-Sparks area has skyrocketed upward recently but we've been unable to determine if there is a connection between the two events.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Fresno State review/preview

Daniel Lyght/Fresno Bee offer a look at the Bulldogs:

Bulldogs expect they will improve
Rough season was a test for the youthful men's basketball team.
Daniel Lyght
The Fresno Bee
March 22, 2009

Perhaps athletic director Thomas Boeh summed up the Fresno State men's basketball season best:

"If you have the definition of a rebuilding year, this was it," he said.

Indeed, the only other way to characterize this season would be to call it one of the worst in the team's recent history, seeing as it was the first time the Bulldogs placed last in the Western Athletic Conference and with less than five wins in the WAC. Fresno State (13-21, 3-13) ended its season with a quarterfinals loss to Utah State at the WAC tournament.

"No one's happy about the year," coach Steve Cleveland said. "We all know where we want to be. ... We're going to be better..."

Go here for the remainder.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chris Murray features Mark Fox on the Wolf Pack season

Chris Murray has an article today that features Mark Fox talking about Nevada's recently concluded season:

Wolf Pack Basketball Season in Review: Learning on the fly
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
March 22, 2009

Moments after his team's season had concluded, Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox found a fitting analogy to describe the year.

He was speaking to reporters about the challenges his three-freshman frontcourt faced this season, when he looked at one of the television cameras focused on him.

"I don't know how complicated it is to run that camera, but if you put me behind it and tell me to run it on the air, we're probably not going to have a good broadcast," Fox said. "That's hard to do."

Fox was speaking specifically about his frontcourt having to learn on the fly without a veteran teammate to teach them about life in the college game. He could have been talking about the team in general.

Despite the youth -- the team had only three upperclassmen average more than 9 minutes per game -- Nevada recorded its sixth straight 20-win season...

Go here for the remainder.

Stew Morrill past and present

A friend of a friend recently filled us in on Stew Morrill as a basketball player but more so about his 'persona' while attending Gonzaga. Stew was twice named to the All Big Sky squad, apparently 'beloved' by his teammates and seen as sort of a wild and crazy guy type. We came across the following today which seemed to fit right in:

Utah State's Stew Morrill may get another chuckle
Chris Foster
Los Angeles Times
March 20, 2009

Stew Utah State Coach Stew Morrill might not have the best team in the NCAA tournament, though the 30-4 Aggies are the upset pick of some "experts" today against Marquette.

But Morrill might have the best sense of humor...

Go here for the remainder.

By the way, Morrill is no longer a member of the LDS faith. This snippet comes from John Henderson's March 19 Denver Post article on Morrill:

Oddly, Morrill is not really one of them. He was raised Mormon but no longer practices. He went to a Catholic school, Gonzaga, and married a Catholic girl. However, his brother is a bishop and his sister is a devout Mormon. Seven Aggies have gone on LDS Church missions. None ever questioned his off-court commitment to them during recruiting.

"Occasionally, a rival school might point that out," Morrill said. "I'm pretty blunt. My comeback is that, 'I'm your basketball coach. I'm not your bishop.'"
Go here for the complete article.

DJ has a special place for Ruston in his heart

This was sent to me and should answer any concerns about D.J. Wright's allegiance:

Re: DJ Wright plays for a national championship - FromTheBlueSeats.com

This should make you feel better.

I just spoke to Coach Condie who has been at the Juco National Tournament all week this week watching DJ...

Go here for the remainder.

Here's the entire series of posts on the subject.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

DJ still to LT?

We've been assured that Salt Lake City College blue chipper D.J. Wright is still Ruston-bound after he finishes up his A.A. next year but it doesn't take much insight to know that Wright will be inundated with other offers from teams whose assistant coaches will 'just happen' to be in the neighborhood.

This is especially true after the national JUCO tournament Wright and SLCC are enjoying as Ron Tyler observes.

The photo above is courtesy of Wright's MySpace page.

Idaho takes down Drake

We missed this but Idaho remains alive and Travis Mason-Bushman has a blog of the Vandal victory over Drake here. Don Verlin's squad travels to Stockton, CA to face Pacific on Monday. A curious note: Idaho redshirt guard Steffan Johnson is a former Tiger.

A must mention: kudos to senior Trevor Morris for his blazing senior year finish.

Shawn Harrison checks in with his game report

Here's Shawn Morrison/Herald Journal with his on-site game report:

Over too soon
Shawn Harrison
Herald Journal
March 21, 2009

BOISE, Idaho — With less than five minutes to play early Friday afternoon at Taco Bell Arena, it was looking good for Utah State.

The Aggies had the lead, the momentum and their fans cheering loudly.

Marquette took a timeout, collected itself and proceeded down the stretch to bring a dream season for USU to an end. The Golden Eagles advanced to the second round of the of the NCAA Tournament with a 58-57 win in the West Region.

“Well, that was obviously an extremely tough loss,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “We gave ourselves a chance.”

That the Aggies (30-5) did...

Go here for the remainder.

Dominique O'Connor hearts USF

Saw this note in the LA TIMES:

Boys' basketball: O'Connor says San Francisco is frontrunner
Ben Bolch
Los Angeles Times
March 20, 2009

SACRAMENTO--Before he departed for Arco Arena earlier this week, Westchester senior guard Dominique O'Connor declared San Francisco the leader for his services next season. Fresno State is also in the mix...

Go here for the remainder.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Aggies lose by one

It was close and it was winnable but Marquette pulls it out 58-57. In the WAC, it was the Aggies closing out other teams with offensive and defensive proficiency at/towards the end but the late Al McGuire's former team did it today. USU got but 8 opportunities at the foul line (making six) while the Golden Eagles were 19-23 in free throws. We did not see the game but how did Jared Quayle (8) double up both Gary Wilkinson and Tai Wesley (4 apiece) in rebounding?

Here's Jared Eborn's early report:

Aggies fall just short vs. Marquette in NCAA tourney
Jared Eborn
Deseret News
March 20, 2009

BOISE — Utah State had Marquette exactly where the Aggies wanted the Golden Eagles.

USU held a 6-point lead and there was just 4:41 left in the game after the Aggies had seized control of momentum in the game with a 23-6 run in the second half that had all those crossing their fingers for an upset on the edge of their seat.

That upset, however, was not to be.

Marquette, a senior-laden team with lightning quick guards and an attitude forged by a season of bruising battles in the Big East Conference, reversed the momentum and snuck out of Boise's Taco Bell Arena with a 58-57 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament...

Go here for the remainder.

Chris Murray just won't quit

Can someone please get in touch with Chris Murray and inform him the WAC basketball season is over? ;-) Nevada's next appearance will be a European trip over the summer and Utah State bowed out today but he's keeping his pedal to the metal regardless and allowing no rest for the wicked (us).

Here is Chris' look at the projected lineup for the Wolf Pack:

Projecting the Pack basketball team's starting lineup
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

An early look at the Nevada basketball team's depth chart for the 2009-10 season.

Point guard
Starter: Armon Johnson
Reserves: London Giles, Brandon Fields

Comment: There will be some issues here if Armon Johnson gets injured. Giles only played 104 minutes in his freshman season and shot 18 percent from the field. Giles, who is making the transition from combo guard to true point, will be the primary backup and figures to get 8-12 minutes per game. Despite the rough freshman season, Giles was a highly-touted prospect who could grow a great deal with an offseason of hard work. Fields would serve as the second backup, although he is a slasher-scorer who fits much better as a wing...

Go here for the remainder.

We are all Aggies today

Yes, the above is sometimes an inappropriately used phrase -- especially so when politicians latch on to it -- but here's hoping Utah State keeps the WAC flag flying in the Big Dance. In fact, we've got blue on right now from head to toe. Go get 'em Stew, show them Big Easters and the media aristocracy that there is 'blue' blood basketball played west of the Rockies.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

WAC Thursday articles

Idaho wins, Boise loses in one of those other tourneys.

Go here.

Per Ferd Lewis/Honolulu Advertiser, it appears Bob Nash will get extended one year which is better than nothing since it might allow for a more productive recruiting haul than with no contract addition. If this happens, Nash can at least tell the junior college prospects he is recruiting that he will be there for them which could be the clincher in such a decision.

UH may add year to Nash's contract
Ferd Lewis
Honolulu Advertiser
March 19, 2009

The University of Hawai'i and Bob Nash are nearing the end of negotiations aimed at extending his contract as head men's basketball coach.

Nash has met with athletic director Jim Donovan in an annual year-end review and the coach's representative has met with UH regarding the potential terms of an extension, people in the athletic department said.

Indications are it could be a one-year extension with salary and bonuses heavily tied to performance benchmarks...

Go here for the remainder.

Here's a key portion of a Mormon Times article on an additional benefit from the returned missionaries for Utah State:

"...but Formisano is cognizant of times when having seven returned missionaries helps the Aggies' cause. He pointed to the 71-70 WAC semifinal win over New Mexico State on March 13, when Utah State rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit and won the game on a Newbold jump shot with 3.1 seconds remaining. Maturity, Formisano said, helped the Aggies maintain composure..."
We were not at the Utah State - New Mexico State tourney game but a friend was and he told us that there was never a sign of panic or fear on the faces of the Aggie players despite being down by double figures at the half.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gillenwater's going...

We promise to never do this again. It's using the power of words in a deceitful manner. It still occurs far to often -- that is, a headline that seems to indicate something is taking place when in fact the opposite is true. Yes, the headline is accurate but more importantly it's misleading.

The point of all this: read thoroughly and completely and then assess before reaching a conclusion. Another point: we should shut up right now and cut our losses.

But before we lose you (if we haven't already), we are glad to hear that Troy Gillenwater has come to realize that Las Cruces is where he can accomplish whatever he wishes to achieve. Jason Groves has the details.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Some have said that if any players would leave the men's team, it would be Troy Gillenwater...

Go here for the remainder.

It's the off season in Reno but...

Hey, it's officially the 'off season' at Nevada now but that isn't stopping Chris Murray from producing. He has yet another post up about Nevada hoops:

The 'good' and 'not so good' for the Wolf Pack
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

The Nevada basketball team had plenty of things go right this season, along with plenty that didn't go so well. Below, I will provide three of both. But, first, we will start at the beginning of the season. Before a single ball was put in play during a real game, Nevada had its share of adversity. For example:

Go here for the remainder.

Chris Murray on Nevada basketball recruiting

Saw this item in Chris Murray's blog at the Reno Gazette-Journal:

Rivals says Pack has offered a combo guard in Texas
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

According to Rivals.com, Nevada has offered a scholarship to Rickey Scott, a combo guard from Irving, Texas...

Go here for the remainder.

Looking at the kid's Rivals profile -- at least his list of suitors who have offered -- getting him out of the Lone Star State will be tough.

Zeroing in on Louisiana Tech basketball

Ron Tyler and his Closer Look at LA TECH Hoops site has a WAC tourney post and a preview of what is to come in 2009-2010 in Ruston:

A Little Recap and a Little Future Talk
March 17, 2009

I had a full blow by blow recap of each of the WAC tourney games but as I thought about the season ending on the plane ride home I decided I wasn’t going to post it. Water under the bridge. Reality is Tech beat an Idaho team in a toss up game (seeding be damned Vegas had Tech by one in the spread) and then in less than 24 hours played a good Nevada team in their building. Nobody is going to beat Nevada in Reno twice (even Utah State lost the first time they were there this season)...

Go here for the remainder.

Another look at the numbers in the WAC championship game

It's ancient news at this point but we went back and looked at some of the numbers Utah State and Nevada posted and a few stats still astound us.

Nevada got off 72 shots??? Of course, making just 22 of those 77 doomed the Wolf Pack but that number of shots -- a +22 advantage over the Aggies -- should have generally translated into a victory. Utah State shot 25-50.

Mark Fox's squad also committed just six turnovers to USU's 15 -- another pairing of numbers that would lead one to believe Nevada won.

Stew Morrill's team won the battle of the board but not by much: 40-34.

Also, wouldn't you also think Nevada had an advantage if you knew that the Pack made every free throw attempted? Unfortunately, it was no misses on just 10 foul shots. The Aggies went 18-26.

Your Wednesday WAC roundup

Doing our duty, here are links to Chris Murray's articles on Nevada's loss to UTEP:

Here (game report)

Here (quote collection)

Jason Groves provides a McKinley Boston interview on the Aggie season:

NMSU Athletics Director McKinley Boston pleased with progress of Aggie men's basketball program
Jason Groves
Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES — The New Mexico State men's basketball team failed to reach the postseason for the second consecutive season, falling in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals.

NMSU Athletics Director McKinley Boston isn't demanding a return to postseason play next year, but expectations will be high for Marvin Menzies' third year as head coach.

"I don't think they need to but am I expecting to be competitive and compete for a league championship? The answer is, yes," Boston said. "There are too many variables that can impact winning and losing and some are not of your own making..."

Go here for the remainder.

Jared Eborn offers a take on the Nevada students emulating (is there any other word that is more appropriate?) The Spectrum-ites with a major shout-out to The Refraction:

The Refraction - Wolf Pack style
Jared Eborn
Deseret News
March 18, 2009

Students at Utah State are, in their own self-descriptive words a "cold-blooded wrecking machine" when it comes to getting organized and coordinated in their effort to be the Sixth Man at the Spectrum.

An unofficial game-day program called The Refraction is published before each home game and includes background on opposing players, coaches and even mascots if deemed appropriate. The Refraction has been mentioned on ESPN.com, local newspapers and several Internet sites.

It's humorous and satirical, but generally pretty tame but does occasionally pack a punch when a visiting player has a criminal rap sheet.

Last Saturday at Nevada's Lawlor Events Center the Wolf Pack students made an attempt to counter-balance the Aggie student section and produced their own sheet of instructions to get the jeering organized...
Go here for the remainder.

This is simply an amazing accomplishment. Breaking the rhythm of the Aggies is a Herculean task:

USU leads nation in shooting
Jared Eborn
Deseret News
March 18, 2009

Utah State might not play above the rim, but the Aggies sure know how to fill it.

For the second season in a row, USU is the nation's top field goal shooting team. The Aggies are making 49.8 percent of their shots this year.

"That's a product of the system we run," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said.

Though sandbagging a little bit, Morrill said a program like USU's does not have the same "athletic" players many schools in power conferences do.

Instead, he said, the Aggies rely on precision and execution...
Go here for the remainder.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The scoop on Nevada signee Steven Bjornstad

Inquiring minds wanted to know about Nevada's 6-10 signee Steven Bjornstad out of Columbia River High in Washington so we went to Jim Basnight, our prep/college basketball source in the Northwest.

Jim operates the Husky Digest site and possesses the bona fides similar to the old E.F. Hutton commercial that featured the iconic line "When E. F. Hutton/Jim Basnight talks, people listen."

Here's Jim's take on Bjornstad:

"Thanks for asking for my opinion. I'm happy to help you any way I can.

He really looked soft in the title game against Peyton Siva and Franklin, but that is a very athletic and speedy group of kids. Steven's team beat a Bellevue squad that is pretty good though to get there, but I heard that Bellevue went really cold (I didn't see the game).

My impression overall with Bjornstad is that he can shoot the ball, is legitimately tall and can play a very nice role within the right system, but cannot take over games on his own.

Right now he is a dependent player that needs to be set up, but can get hot and has a couple of shots in his game that should get him a reputation as a solid scorer in Nevada.

Rebounding and defense will be more of an effort than teaching him to pick and pop or score in the mid-range. The thing that impressed me the most was his ability to create his shot in the paint, but there will be tougher defense at the next level and he may have to make some major adjustments.

He looks like a kid that could develop his game into a European pro prospect with the right kind of dedication. An NBA career is very unlikely.

Best wishes,

Utah State's secret weapons?

Just who is Erika Gautavai? How about Amber White? Banna Diop sounds like a ringer to us. Then there's Shawnta Pope. How did Karl Benson, let alone Marvin Menzies, not notice this?

We always thought the Utah State advantage for away games was the much-vaunted Spectrum-on-wheels. But now Stew Morrill has apparently added a twist -- we think the term on Saturday Night Live was girlymen although the concept in Reno provided a vastly different meaning.

Sam Wasson at BleedCrimson.net has the incriminating evidence:

The Daily Aggie 3/14/09 Box Scores
By swasson March 14th, 2009

We discovered the secret to Utah State's success last night. Take a close look at the Utah State roster on the box score... Go here for the smoking gun.

Dominique O'Connor to decide on Monday

5-9 Westchester High guard Dominique O'Connor has announced he will make his choice of college on Monday. For those of you wishing to get a glimpse of O'Connor, FSN Prime will be televising the state championship games taking place Saturday in Sacramento. As they say, check your local listings.

Boys' basketball: Westchester guard close to college decision
Eric Sondheimer
Los Angeles Times

Westchester guard Dominique O'Connor, the City Section player of the season, said he'll make his college decision when he celebrates his birthday, next Monday.

San Francisco and Fresno State have made scholarship offers...

Go here for the remainder.

O'Connor was named City Player of the Year here. Here's an ESPN evaluation.

Morrill and Fox discuss bullbutter

A tip o' the hat to Sam Wasson at BleedCrimson.net for bringing this item to our attention. Stew Morrill was talking to Mark Fox before the USU-Nevada game about B.S. and he didn't have Bachelor of Science in mind:

WAC champs: Aggies stayed focused on prize
USU » Third time the charm
Martin Renzhofer
Salt Lake Tribune

As a sullen Nevada coach Mark Fox sought excuses to explain his team's 72-62 loss to Utah State in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title game Saturday night, Utah State coach Stew Morrill found pleasure in his Aggies ability to finally beat the odds as well as the Wolf Pack.

It was the third time in four years that USU had played for a league championship on the host's home court. Turns out, the third time was a charm. Will it be enough to win a first-round NCAA Tournament game?

In addition, despite coming into the title game with 29 wins, Utah State was on the verge of having its NCAA Tournament bubble burst. If the Aggies had lost, they would be going to the NIT...

Go here for the remainder.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Steven Bjornstad update

Here's the latest on 6-10 Nevada signee Steven Bjornstad -- a report on his final game of the season. He scored 20 points, shooting well, and grabbed seven boards with zero blocked shots but his team lost. It appears Columbia River encountered a Franklin team full of guards, some very talented.

3A Boys Championship | Franklin dashes past Columbia River to title
Top-ranked Franklin was too fast, too athletic and too physical for Columbia River, which joined a not-so-exclusive club of teams completely overmatched by the Quakers in their 51-34 victory for the Class 3A boys basketball state championship.
Tom Wyrwich
Seattle Times
March 15, 2009

TACOMA — Seven Franklin players locked arms, watching and waiting as the last 60 seconds ticked away.

"I was so emotional," Franklin senior Freddy Wilson said. "I was trying to be happy, but it's so sad it's your last high-school game."

The final buzzer was like a starting gun, and the Franklin Quakers sprinted onto the center of the Tacoma Dome court, piling on until they were one huge tumbleweed of joy.

"No words can explain it," said senior Peyton Siva, the tournament MVP. "The last seconds of my Franklin career, I'm going to remember them forever."

On Saturday night, the top-ranked Quakers were too fast, too athletic and too physical for Columbia River, which joined a not-so-exclusive club of teams completely overmatched by Franklin. After one assertive first-quarter run, the Quakers ran away with a 51-34 victory in the Class 3A state championship game...

Go here for the remainder.

This is silly

Now there's plenty of fans in the Aloha State who will absolutely disagree with the following but the talk of letting Coach Bob Nash go or giving him but another year to establish himself is simply craziness.

We are not related to Nash nor has he employed us or (to our knowledge) ever uttered the words Parsing The WAC (despite coming damn close many times with 'the WAC this' and 'the WAC that') in any of his numerous press conferences. We thoroughly understand his oversight and imagine he will quickly rectify this delinquency the next time in front of a microphone considering the immense influence we wield.....lol

Anyway, Bob Nash has been in charge two years in Honolulu. His tardy hiring effectively damaged the possibility of initially soliciting a larger pool of possible recruits, which should not be laid at Nash's feet but ultimately is.

His second recruiting class brought in ALL-WAC player Roderick Flemings. Nothing more needs to be written about Flemings as he is a Top 10 player in the conference and very close to being among the five best.

Besides Flemings, Petras Balocka, Lasha Parghalava, Brandon Adams and Adam Jespersen signed on with the Bows. Balocka and Adams are at worst rotation players and possible starters if matched with the appropriate teammates. The jury remains out on Jesperson as it's too early for any final 'label' and Parghalava has been a disappointment. There's been talk -- accurate or not -- that it was necessary to bring in Parghalava in order to land Balocka. Regardless, it doesn't change the analysis of each individual.

Judgment: not a great class but a solid enough one, with one star and two possible starters. But the need for a sharpshooting backcourter remains unfulfilled and a true point guard still needs to step up.

Nash's first recruiting class produced Kareem Nitoto, Conrad Fitzgerald, Bill Amis, Adhar Mayen and Xiang Ji.

The sophomore Nitoto originally signed with St. Mary's and is a strong defender. His shooting goes in-and-out and he can create but seems more suited for a jack-of-all-trades guard role than a point. Fitzgerald is a freshman who is still too young and he hasn't played enough for any determination. Amis is a solid junior frontcourter with shooting, rebounding and shotblocking talents -- someone whose game would benefit from playing with a backcourt three-point marksmen so as to give him greater room to maneuver in the paint. Mayen is a junior who hasn't developed as UH expected and remains a top athlete but with inconsistent production and he'll be a senior next season. Ji is another frosh who has intriguing size but the jury remains out.

Judgment: Nitoto and Amis have been starters, Fitzgerald and Ji need another season before an accurate analysis can be offered and Mayen hasn't produced as desired.

That's three starters out of 10 recruits, plus a couple of helpful guys, along with a number of recruits still too young to make a call. Two could rightfully be called miscalculations.

What's also intriguing is that Hawaii missed on two 'bigs' in C.J. Webster (San Jose State) and Brian Freeman (Long Beach State). Webster visited San Jose and then made his decision, thus turning down an offer to fly to Honolulu because his family didn't want him that far from home. Freeman was more than likely coming to Hawaii but the letting go of Riley Wallace and the long gap of time before Nash was hired eliminated that possibility.

It also needs to be noted that Hiram Thompson returned from his LDS mission and his scholarship was honored by Nash. The freshman was bothered all season by various injuries but has possibilities, but perhaps more as a third guard.

Two scholarships are apparently available. One has to be a dependable shooting guard. The other may need to be spent on a point but UH also has the need for another big who can help out and take over when Flemings, Amis, Balocka and Paul Campbell each complete their frontcourt eligibility at the end of next season.

With many coaches, the youngsters on the team -- at least some of them -- would be jettisoned to make way for new recruits. Coach Nash faces a dilemma: does he drop some kids, ones whose frontrooms he came into and asked that they come to Honolulu or does he roll the dice and keep his commitments?

More than likely, his future employment will depend on the answer to just that question.

Coaches are fired when they don't win enough games. Recruiting is the lifeblood to any successful program. It's our contention that Nash has done fine so far with his landing of players, especially considering he's really had but one full season to do so. But this time around, Nash will have to land top-flight players, a task made all the more harder because of the iffiness of a contract extension.

Sadly, it doesn't look like smooth times for Hawaii basketball.

Utah State gets a 'big' verbal

He still has a year of high school remaining but a 6-8 Utah native has announced he's heading to Logan once his prep days are completed. He is not of the LDS faith so there's no mission commitment in his future. We've seen him listed at 190 pounds but don't know if that is current or outdated.

First, here's Jared Eborn/Deseret News with the info:

Bingham hoops star decides USU is place for him
Jared Eborn
Deseret News
March 16, 2009

Utah State's succesfull run through the WAC Tournament was enough for Ben Clifford to make good on a decision he said he had made a couple weeks ago.

The 6-foot-8 junior from Bingham High told Aggie coach Stew Morrill he would play for USU after his high school playing days conclude...

Go here for the remainder.

Jay Drew/Salt Lake Tribune also has this report:

Bingham's Ben Clifford commits to Utah State
Jay Drew
Salt Lake Tribune
March 15, 2009

One of the state's top junior basketball players, Bingham High's 6-foot-8 Ben Clifford, confirmed Sunday evening that he has orally committed to play college basketball for Utah State...
Go here for the remainder.

Today's WAC basketball articles

We'll confess our bias right now: we really don't wish to spend much time posting and writing about games that we wouldn't bother watching if they were being televised nationally. Fortunately or unfortunately, the NIT and CI contests involving WAC members fall into that category. It's great for the respective players/coaches/fans but just not for us. Sorry. Feel free to flagellate PTW for such an attitude -- we will now don our protective gear.

Here's Jared Eborn/Deseret News with Utah State's take on their Big Dance opponent and the timing of the matchup.

We'll offer this at least:

Boise State will travel to Palo Alto to face Stanford and Idaho is hosting Drake in the College Insider tourney, per Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman. Here's the link. Nevada is hosting UTEP.

If anything, it makes the most sense for Idaho to continue its remarkable turnaround season.

Okay, duty done and that's likely about it.

Per Jason Groves/Las Cruces Sun-News, New Mexico State says thanks but no thanks to a CBI invite.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

So it's Marquette facing Utah State

Marquette earned an at-large bid and will be Utah State's first-round opponent Friday, March 20 in the Big Dance. The Aggies received an 11th seed, Marquette checks in at #6.

The most interesting factoid: the game will be played at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. USU sure won't have far to travel and will at least have some familiarity with the floor and the rims, for whatever that is worth.

6-3 Marquette senior backcourter Jerel McNeal was an ALL BIG EAST first team selection and 6-5 guard Wesley Matthews a second team ALL BIG EAST pick.

6-6, 225 Lazar Hayward is the top boardman for Marquette. Dwight Burke, 6-8 and 250, looks to be the guy who will match up with Gary Wilkinson.

5-11 Dominic James, a deluxe ballhandler/passer, broke his foot in mid-February and is out for the season.

Hawaii has no seniors and two schollies available

Here's Brian McInnis with a look back and also forward with Hawaii basketball. Our expectation is a minimum of one -- if not two or three -- transfers from Honolulu to be announced by June at the latest and probably much earlier:

UH begins search for improvement
Brian McInnis
Honolulu Star Bulletin
March 15, 2009

Is Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon or Kyra Sedgwick available?

After a final stretch in the 2008-09 Hawaii men's basketball season that could only be described as disappointing, the Rainbow Warriors are looking for a few good closers.

Hawaii wrapped up its season at 13-17 (5-11 Western Athletic Conference) after dropping its final five games, including the Western Athletic Conference tournament play-in game against last-place Fresno State on Tuesday.

What might be remembered most about these Rainbows are the several games in which UH held leads in the final minutes, but had them slip away in a flurry of turnovers or bad decisions.

In the final seven games, UH dropped a heartbreaker at home against Nevada, an agonizing and critical loss at San Jose State and the play-in game against the Bulldogs in that fashion...

Go here for the remainder.

Even Dick Enberg would be forced to shout out "oh my" at the top of his lungs

Sometimes we get accused of playing the role of agent provocateur here, of stirring things up just to generate interest. We don't think so -- at least such is not our intent -- but the labeling or not of agent provocateuring is determined in the mind of each reader. We've decided Greg Hahn of the Idaho Statesman is doing just that with this:

Daily Debate: Bobby Knight is right for the Broncos
Greg Hahn
Idaho Statesman
March 15, 2009

The Boise State football team needs some help. The Broncos have carried the school to glory and fame on their substantial shoulders for years. A I-AA national championship. Undefeated regular seasons. WAC dominance. The Fiesta Bowl.

But a few things are clear...

Go here for the remainder, including the key proposition (which is given away in the headline).

In our estimation, Bob Knight's sins are many involving his interactions with fellow human beings and quitting on his Texas Tech squad in mid-season was but the latest.

There's not a scintilla of doubt that Knight knows his X's and O's and helped produce numerous winning seasons as a college coach but just why would he be more successful at Boise State in the W-L department and in attracting fans than Greg Graham?

Knight didn't exactly win conference titles -- let alone national ones -- during his Texas Tech tenure. That's because there were no kids clamoring, a la the situation at IU with Hoosier prepsters and those from surrounding states, to play at TT. Talent is a prerequisite to winning, albeit just one but a primary building block.

So why would Boise and surrounding area fans make heading to Taco Bell Arena a must-do thing if Knight wouldn't be any more successful than the present coach?

To see a chair thrown across the floor? To see a police officer thrown into a garbage can? To see a kid throttled in public?

That would be reducing college basketball to the level of grotesque circus-like shows.

Do let us know and why if you disagree.

Jason Groves with another commentary

Here's another commentary from Jason Groves:

Promising future
Jason Groves
Las Cruces Sun-News

For some fans in Las Cruces, they will look at New Mexico State's 71-70 Western Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal loss to Utah State on Friday as a disappointing end to a disappointing season. What people should see is hope for the future.

The pieces are there for continued success in a league that should only get better with the influx of young players that made every WAC game unpredictable and competitive this season...

Go here for the remainder.

It's Aggie fever...

Apologies for the late post - had to rise at a time not experienced for years, attend a basketball club team practice in the next town over and then have a breakfast/brunch/lunch meeting about providing some content at a new site for a WAC school. But enough about the really important stuff...

The victors get to lead off:

Aggies beat Nevada to assure a Big Dance
Jared Eborn
Deseret News
March 15, 2009

Remember all those questions about 'if' Utah State would get into the NCAA Tournament? Well, scratch them all.

Behind a ferocious defense that shut the vaunted Nevada offense down for most of the game, Utah State cruised to an easy win over the host Wolf Pack to win the Western Athletic Conference title with a 72-62 victory Saturday night.

The win gives the Aggies a 30-4 record and all sorts of momentum as they wait to learn not the if, but the where, who and when of their NCAA Tournament appearance.

"We're going to enjoy Selection Sunday," Aggie coach Stew Morrill said, "and not have to fret..."

Go here for the remainder.

Leaving no doubt
Shawn Harrison
Herald Journal
March 15, 2009

Utah State is going dancing.

The third time was the charm for the Aggie men’s basketball team.

USU pounced on Nevada early and held the Wolf Pack at bay throughout the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship game Saturday night at the Lawlor Events Center. The Aggies punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the 18th time in school history with a 72-62 win in front of 7,820 fans.

“This feels great,” said regular season and WAC Tournament MVP Gary Wilkinson as he mingled with jubilant USU fans. “I don’t know what to say.”

Fellow all-tournament honoree Tai Wesley had similar thoughts.

“This is amazing,” Wesley said as he posed for photos. “... We just wanted this. We knew from the start we were not losing this game...”
Go here for the remainder.

Pooh does great job on Nevada’s Johnson
Wade Denniston
Herald Journal
March 15, 2009

Pooh Williams loves playing defense.

He relishes the chance to guard the other teams’ best player.

Such was the case Saturday night when Williams was given the assignment to defend Nevada’s Armon Johnson in the championship game of the Western Athletic Conference Men’s Tournament.

“After we played them last time, (assistant) coach (Tim) Duryea said, ‘If we play them again, you’re guarding him,’” Williams said. “That put a big smile on my face because I like to guard the best players on the other teams.

“I like a challenge and tonight was a big challenge for me. He’s a possible NBA point guard and to guard him and slow him down, it feels pretty good.”

Williams didn’t just slow Johnson down. He pretty much shut him down — on the season’s largest stage no less...
Go here for the remainder.

And in this corner,

Ag-ony for Nevada: Utah State takes WAC title
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
March 15, 2009

Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox said earlier this week that sometimes his team has to be run over by a bus before it gets up and starts to fight back.

In the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship game against Utah State on Saturday night, the Wolf Pack was drilled by a bus, a couple of semi-trailers and some dump trucks before it responded.

After spotting Utah State a 21-4 lead to start the game, the Wolf Pack pulled itself up and fiercely clawed back into the game. But in the end that slow start doomed Nevada, which lost, 72-62, in front of 7,820 fans at Lawlor Events Center to end its dream of winning the WAC's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

As Utah State cut down the nets in front of its fans who traveled the 600 miles from Logan to Reno, Nevada coach Mark Fox said he and his team had a singular feeling.

"Pain," the fifth-year coach said. "When you invest what we force these kids to invest, it hurts. And I hurt for them because they have invested a great deal. So it should hurt. Because they genuinely invested in their team, in their school, in a program that has tradition, and tonight they came up short..."
Go here for the remainder.

Post-game wrap from Wolf Pack's title game loss to Utah State
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

Before we look at Nevada's 72-62 loss to Utah State in Saturday's WAC Tournament title game, I want to go back to 2003 real quick. March 15, 2003 to be exact. Anybody know what happened that day? The Nevada basketball team lost to Tulsa, 75-64, in the WAC Tournament championship game. The next season, the Wolf Pack made it to the Sweet 16. I am not saying next year's Nevada team is going to Sweet 16. I am pointing out that becoming a champion is a process. A process that first invloves losing. The nucleus of that Sweet 16 team tasted losing and learned from it. This year's Wolf Pack team has tasted that losing. And everybody except for senior Lyndale Burleson will be back next season. The nucleus returns and part of the growing process usually invloves losing painfully before winning big. It doesn't feel good, but that's the way it is.

Now, fast-forward to Saturday's game. It's pretty easy to sum up in a few sentences.

* Nevada missed its first 10 shots, taking nearly six and a half mintues to score.
* Nevada made two of its first 23 shots and hit a season-low 30.6 percent from the field.
* Nevada trailed 13-0 and 21-4 and never could get it within a single possession, twice cutting the lead to four.
* Nevada missed shot after shot that it usually makes. Just one of those nights...
Go here for the remainder.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's 28-23 Utah State at the half

We've heard of gracious hosts before but the Utah State-Nevada matchup began as if the Aggies were still operating a pre-game layup line. We've never seen so many unimpeded moves to the basket.

But Utah State cooled down -- better Wolf Pack D -- and Mark Fox's team slowly crept back into the game even though Nevada was shooting 3-24 at one point.

But both Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt need to show up in the second half. Neither has been a positive factor in the initial 20 minutes.

Malik Cooke is our selection for WAC "Glue" player of the year. There's nothing particularly run offensively for Cooke but check at the end of the game and his points, rebounds and steals will be a plus for the Pack. Plus, he is just a soph.

Just asking

If there was a WWF-style steel cage match involving each of the WAC mascots, who would emerge as the victor?

We promise to root for the first team that adopts the Predator as its mascot. Of course, some school would soon follow as the Schwarzeneggers...

The action off the court & Tyler Newbold gets a J'accuse

With a hat tip to Sam Wasson at BleedCrimson.net, we came across Daniel Lyght's notes on the Utah State - New Mexico State game. Further information is provided on the mascot tussle -- geez, is Karl Benson now going to be forced to issue guidelines for this too? -- as neither creature dignified his school, plus Lyght has an Emile Zola item that is a serious accusation on Tyler Newbold's play:

How intense was the NMSU-Utah State men's game?
Daniel Lyght
Fresno Bee
March 13, 2009

So intense New Mexico State guard Jahmar Young appeared to rip (literally tear) his jersey off at the end of the game and throw it into the stands.

Utah State clipped NMSU on a winning shot by Tyler Newbold with 3.1 seconds left. Newbold slipped behind a pick from a post player to get the shot. The Utah State team whipped it around to him for an open 10-foot baseline jumper to take the lead. This after NMSU led nearly the entire second half.

Utah State coach Stew Morrill called Newbold a bunch of things after the game: solid, steady, stable, bluecollar. He may be those things but he may have been a little dirty during the game, too...

Go here for the remainder.

Wasn't that fun?

Venturing into dangerous territory, at least as far as citizens in Las Cruces and the surrounding areas and Ruston-ites are concerned, what a couple of games! The WAC showed well even though there is disappointment in two fan bases.

Utah State survives scare
Jared Eborn
Deseret News
March 14, 2009

Utah State won't have to worry about its bubble-bursting for at least another day.

Tyler Newbold took a pass from Tai Wesley and dropped in a 12-foot jump shot from the left wing with 3.1 seconds left to give the Aggies their first lead of the game since the 5:12 mark of the first half and held off any talk about brackets, bubbles or the drama associated with a gut-wrenching 71-70 win over New Mexico State.

The win gives Utah State a 29-4 record and sends them to the Western Athletic Conference championship game tonight at 8 p.m.

"Wow," was all Stew Morrill could say with his first breath during the post-game press conference...

Go here for the remainder.

Shawn Harrison reports in:

What a comeback
Shawn Harrison
Herald Journal
March 14, 2009

A dream season continues for the Utah State men’s basketball team.

It came down to the final seconds Friday night at the Lawlor Events Center, but the Aggies are headed to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship thanks to a last-second shot by Tyler Newbold. USU did not lead the entire second half until Newbold hit a 12-foot shot with 3.1 seconds to play.

“Wow,” said Aggie head coach Stew Morrill after his team nipped New Mexico State, 71-70, in the first semifinal game of the night. “I don’t remember in the 23 years I’ve been a head coach, that I’ve ever been prouder of a team. We were in trouble at half.”

Yes, the Aggies in blue were in trouble. NMSU had built a 47-34 lead at the break and were lighting it up from all over the court, especially from 3-point land — connecting on eight straight treys during one stretch.

USU, however, came up with a plan to chip away at the deficit in four-minute increments and turned this Friday the 13th into a celebration instead of what was looking like a nightmare. The Aggies in red will be the ones haunted on their return to Las Cruces, N.M...
Go here for the remainder.

Jared Eborn also has a feature on Tyler Newbold plus some mascot extracurricular activity.

Jeff Hunter/Herald Journal twines Tyler Newbold and Bruce Springsteen here in just the kind of cultural referencing we love and a Boss one at that

Here's Shawn Harrison with a Tai Wesley-centered feature.

Jason Groves check in with the southern Aggie report:

Aggie basketball battled No. 1 Utah State, eventually falls in season finale
Jason Groves
Las Cruces Sun-News

Top-ranked Utah State advanced to today's Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship game with a 71-70 semifinal victory over No. 5 New Mexico State at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev., on Friday.

The Aggies finished the season 17-15 after losing for the third time this season to the UtAgs while Utah State returns to the final for the first time since 2007 after erasing a 13-point halftime deficit.

"We were making shots in the first half and they took us out of our stuff in the man (defense) in the second half," Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said. "We went up against a really good team that did what it had to do defensively to get back in it. I'm really proud of the way my guys fought but we were just one possession short, like last year, of getting to the next game, which is really painful. But after a few days of reflecting, we will start to feel good about the program again..."
Go here for the remainder.

This doesn't sound good -- further details on the mascot imbroglio. Hey guy (in this case, the USU bull), it isn't about you -- it's about the game and doing a Nevada fans bidding is classless. We think yes, a castration is needed and there are many a New Mexico State fan that will volunteer to do the slicing and dicing.

Mascots get physical at WAC basketball tourney
Sun-News report

The intensity of Utah State's 71-70 win over New Mexico State in the final 3.1 seconds Friday night spilled over to the sidelines where the mascots for the two teams named Aggies got physical with each other down the stretch of a Western Athletic Conference basketball tourney semifinal.

During a time out with 7 seconds left and New Mexico State leading 70-69, Utah State mascot "Big Blue" the bull confronted the New Mexico State's cowboy mascot "Pistol Pete" and ripped off his fake mustache...
Go here for the remainder.

Chris Murray offers a plethora of articles on Nevada's win over Louisiana Tech:

Johnson, Babbitt power Pack to title game
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
March 14, 2009

Chances are the rafters of Lawlor Events Center are still bellowing with the howls of Nevada Wolf Pack basketball fans this morning.

All thanks to a pair of local boys and a team that is one win away from an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Second-seeded Nevada dug out of an early hole to race past Louisiana Tech, the sixth seed, 77-68, in a semifinal game of the WAC Tournament on Friday night at a raucous Lawlor. The win set up a 7 p.m. championship game with top-seeded Utah State, the league’s regular-season champion.

The team sleep-walked through the first few minutes, but played one of its best halves of the season after intermission.

“The beginning of the game, I’m not sure we knew what planet we were on,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said. “We didn’t know if we were in the state of Nevada. We didn’t know where we were. We made so many mental errors. Things that we wanted to do, we did every one of them wrong. Offensively. Defensively. We just could not settle down.”

It was the local duo of Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt who did the offensive damage, pouring in 24 and 23 points, respectively...
Go here for the remainder.

Here's Chris Murray with his quote-a-thon after the Nevada - LA TECH contest:

Post-game wrap from Pack's semifinal win over La. Tech
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

Two down, one to go for the Wolf Pack. It was duo night Friday at Lawlor Events Center with Nevada's Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt trading blows with Louisiana Tech's Kyle Gibson and Magnum Rolle. Johnson and Babbitt combined for 47 points (on 18-of-29 shooting), 12 rebounds and six assists. Gibson and Rolle combined for 49 points (on 15-of-25 shooting), 10 rebounds and five assists. Pretty similar lines. The difference was the supporting casts and Nevada's torrid second half, in which the Pack shot 69 percent and held Tech to 28 percent shooting.

Next up is the championship game against top-ranked Utah State, which beat New Mexico State with a last-second shot Friday. The Pack-Aggie game is at 7 p.m. Saturday and is a rematch of the 2006 WAC Tournament final at Lawlor, which Nevada won in overtime. Now, this is where I would like to give you some quotes from Johnson and Babbitt about their huge nights, but neither were made available to the media despite a request to bring them to the interview room. Gibson and Rolle were made available and here are some quotes from them, the coaches and Lyndale Burleson, who knocked down three big threes...
Go here for the remainder.

Here's Joe Santoro/Nevada Appeal with his game report:

Nevada basketball in title game against Utah State
Joe Santoro
Nevada Appeal

Mark Fox looked around Lawlor Events Center early in Friday night’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal game and wasn’t sure he recognized the surroundings.

“In the beginning of the game I’m not sure we even knew what planet we were on,” the Nevada Wolf Pack coach said.

The Wolf Pack, thanks to 69 percent shooting in the second half, recovered from their slow start to roll over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 77-68, setting up a WAC title-game match up with the Utah State Aggies tonight at 7 p.m. (ESPN2). Utah State, which lost to the Wolf Pack at Lawlor Events Center two weeks ago, also recovered from a sluggish first half to beat the New Mexico State Aggies, 71-70, in the other WAC semifinal.

“We couldn’t have started any slower,” said Fox, whose team improved to 21-11. “We were so unattached mentally...”
Go here for the remainder.

Our best wishes go out to Tech's Brandon Gibson, who suffered a knee injury during the game.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Upon further reflection...

It didn't take long -- here are various looks at the state of a number of the WAC basketball programs, plus a few tidbits. Let's begin with a Fresno State article that eventually contains a new-to-us Fresno State recruiting target:

Daniel Lyght makes mention of a Fresno State recruiting target in this blog post:

That's all she wrote. Now comes the interesting part.
Daniel Lyght
Fresno Bee
March 12, 2009

This season was tough. Real tough.

The ninth-seeded Bulldogs finished the 2008-2009 season with an 85-68 loss to top-seeded Utah State in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament Thursday.

This season Fresno State (13-21, 3-13 in the WAC) had four freshmen getting serious minutes, its only senior suspended for 8 games and its leading scorer adjusting to playing center rather than forward. No one was pleased with the results. Not coach Steve Cleveland. Not the players.

Now comes the interesting part...

Go here for the remainder.

The player whose name appears when you go to the original article isn't all that far away from the SaveMart Center and was the Central Valley Conference Co-Player of the Year. 113 of his 198 field goals this season were three-pointers. He played prep ball in southern California.

Mike Prater/Idaho Statesman sports editor assesses the Boise State Bronco season:

Daily Debate: This was not a successful season for the Boise State men
Mike Prater
Idaho Statesman

Boise State basketball is in the books for another season, not including potential postseason games next week.

Those don't count. If your season ends in something called the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, you probably didn't have a successful season.

Which raises the question: Was the 2008-09 season a successful one, or not, for the Broncos? ...
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Matt James/Fresno Bee has a column out on his sense of Fresno State hoops:

Cleveland needs more than nice
Matt James
The Fresno Bee
March 12, 2009

Whatever you're feeling today, whatever frustration lingers, try not to think of it as a bust.

It's not failure. Not yet. It's the process.

To recap, Fresno State did not win the Western Athletic Conference tournament, again. For the third year in a row, Steve Cleveland's team lost in the first round.

This time it was literally and figuratively the first round, as Utah State came out of introductions making everything and the Bulldogs threw volleyballs at keyholes. Four minutes into Thursday's game, it was 16-2, all the lead the Aggies would need on their way to 85-68.

Coincidentally, it was the team not being guarded that made all the shots. Crazy how that works out.

The calls and e-mails continue, asking if I'm scared of Cleveland, asking if he has dirt on this column, asking if there's a reason no one asks for his firing. Those sentiments will certainly grow, with more fervor...
Go here for the remainder.

Daniel Lyght on the Aggie Fan Traveling Show:

Now there's no doubt
Daniel Lyght
Fresno Bee
on March 12, 2009

It's long been rumored that Utah State has the best student section in WAC men's basketball.

It's not a rumor anymore. It's fact.

More than a hundred Utah State students traveled to Reno, Nev. for the WAC tournament.

And they just didn't sit. They were loud. REALLY LOUD. Utah State forward Gary Wilkinson said the fans call themselves "the Spectrum on wheels," a reference to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, in which USU plays its games...
Go here for the remainder.

Here's a number of interesting items compiled by the Idaho Statesman, including some Bronco personnel moves:

WAC notebook: No contract extenstion for Graham
Idaho Statesman

Boise State coach Greg Graham signed an incentive-laden, three-year contract in the offseason, but didn't reach any bonuses that will add years to the deal. The seventh-year coach did guide the Broncos to a winning season, which qualifies him for a 5 percent pay raise. He earned $345,000 this season. Graham, who now has two years left on the contract, said he doesn't look at all of the specifics of the deal. "That stuff all takes care of itself. ... If you get hung up on all that other stuff on the outside, it detracts from you,'' he said.


Sophomore Shawn Rouse has left the program for personal reasons, Graham said. The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder appeared in 10 games this season and averaged 1.3 points and 0.5 rebounds a game. Rouse's departure gives BSU two open scholarships. Graham also said recruit Mason Sawyer will take a church mission. The point guard led his high school team to the Utah state championship this year. The recruiting priorities are to sign a power forward to replace Mark Sanchez and the best available player (high school player or transfer)...
Go here for the remainder.

Beating the well-worn and getting threadbare WAC expansion drum yet again:

Will the WAC expand to 10 teams soon?
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

WAC commissioner Karl Benson held his "state of the conference" speech Thursday afternoon, and one of the topics he hit upon was potential expansion. RGJ reporter Robert Perea was at the news conference and filed this report.

WAC expansion?

Scheduling for a nine-team league has been a challenge for the WAC and expensive for league members, and commissioner Karl Benson said the league may soon consider a 10th team, possibly as a basketball-only member...
Go here for a remainder.

And then there were four...

Where to begin? Where to begin?

Travis Mason-Bushman/Vandal Nation has the eyewitness scoop on Idaho's fall to Louisiana Tech:

No more magic: Vandals upset by Louisiana Tech, 70-62
Vandal Nation

The Idaho Vandals’ magic turnaround season came to an abrupt end this evening. Backed by Kyle Gibson’s 23 points, the sixth-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs defeated the third-seeded Vandals, 70-62, in a Western Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup in the Lawlor Events Center.

Throughout the game, Idaho could not seem to find an answer to the Bulldogs, either on offense or defense. Louisiana Tech, 15-17 (6-10 WAC), took the lead halfway through the first half on Kyle Gibson’s third 3-pointer of the period and never looked back. Thereafter, the closest the Vandals would manage to get was two points. Idaho finished its first season under coach Don Verlin with a 16-15 record, 9-7 in the WAC.

“You have to give Louisiana Tech all the credit tonight,” Verlin said. “They did a great job with their game plan and they did an outstanding job of countering everything we had...”

Go here for the remainder.

Chadd Cripe/Idaho Statesman reports on the same:

Idaho men's basketball team loses in WAC quarterfinals
Chadd Cripe
Idaho Statesman
March 12, 2009

His players were feeling the pain of unexpected defeat. You could sense that in their soft voices.

Idaho men’s basketball coach Don Verlin was feeling the satisfaction of accomplishment. You could see it in his smile.

One was focused on the present, the other on the future.

The third-seeded Vandals lost to the sixth-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 70-62 on Thursday night in the WAC Tournament quarterfinals.

The loss put a disappointing end on a surprising season in which the Vandals (16-15) doubled their win total from 2007-08...
Go here for the remainder.

Daniel Lyght/Fresno Bee has a FSU - USU report:

Fresno State men stagger in hoops loss
Utah State, seizing control early, finishes off Bulldogs.
Daniel Lyght
The Fresno Bee
March 12, 2009

Top-seeded Utah State was the team with something to lose Thursday afternoon inside the Lawlor Events Center. The Aggies confronted large expectations to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament title and solidify a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Yet it was ninth-seeded Fresno State that fizzled under pressure.

The Bulldogs were dismantled in the first 4 minutes and lingered just out of reach for the rest of the contest, ending their season with an 85-68 loss.

"We took a couple bad shots, which we haven't done in a month," coach Steve Cleveland said. "We panicked. Defensively, we were on our heels. They came out just knocking shots down and before I knew it, I called a timeout."

The Aggies held a 14-2 lead in the quarterfinal game before missing a shot. And even then, they rebounded it and hit a floater to extend their advantage...
Go here for the remainder.

Shawn Harrison/Herald Journal offers his take:

A barrage of 3-balls
Shawn Harrison
Herald Journal
March 13, 2009

So much for first-game jitters or any concerns with an early start.

The top-seeded Aggies jumped on the Bulldogs right out of the gate and never looked back in their first-round Western Athletic Conference Tournament game Thursday afternoon at the Lawlor Events Center. Utah State ended Fresno State’s season with an 85-68 win in front of a pro-Aggie crowd.

“We started really well and came out very aggressive,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “I wanted our team to play loose.”

Which the Aggies did...
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Jeff Hunter/Herald Journal provides an interesting article on the 'geezers' of the WAC and their physical infirmities:

Quayle’s just fine
Jeff Hunter
Herald Journal
March 13, 2009

A young Mark Twain cut his teeth as a journalist about 140 years ago in Virginia City, a mining boomtown just south of “The Biggest Little City in the World.” Years later as an old man, the popular writer was credited with the famous quote: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated...” Go here for the remainder.

Nick Jezierny/Idaho Statesman witnessed the BSU - NMSU contest:

One and done: Early exit for Boise State men
New Mexico State knocks off the Broncos in a first-round WAC game.
Nick Jezierny
Idaho Statesman

The similarities were striking between the Boise State men's basketball team's 80-70 loss to New Mexico State on Thursday and the Broncos' season in general.

There were flashes of brilliance, stretches of ineptitude and overall inconsistency. It added up to a disappointing and quick stay in the WAC Tournament...
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Teddy Feinberg, Las Cruces Sun-News sports editor, look at last night matchup:

Thursday, March 12, 2009
Pieces of a Man
A positive step

The Aggies beating Boise State was a positive on a number of fronts.

First off, the win in general is big because it gives you a sense of progress. Nobody wanted to go to the WAC Tourney and be one and done. Boise State beat NMSU twice this year, but the general consensus on the blog going into the tourney was that it seemed like a decent matchup for the Aggies...
Go here for the remainder.

Chris Murray/Reno Gazette-Journal looks at last night's Wolf Pack win over San Jose State:

Nevada looking up in tourney after 78-69 win over SJSU
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
March 13, 2009

Luke Babbitt has had plenty of big games this season, but the Wolf Pack freshman saved his biggest for the season's largest stage.

In his first-ever WAC Tournament game, Babbitt scored a career-high 30 points to lead Nevada to a hard-fought 78-69 victory over San Jose State on Thursday night in front of 6,965 fans at Lawlor Events Center...
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Here's Chris Murray with post game quotes:

Post-game from Wolf Pack's win over San Jose State
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Jounral

In tournament play, style points are worthless. Win and advance. That's all that matters. And that's what Nevada did in its 78-69 quarterfinal victory over San Jose State on Thursday night. Of course, the Wolf Pack doesn't beat the Spartans on Thursday without Luke Babbitt and Malik Cooke. Babbitt saved his first 30-point game for a nice time, hitting 8-of-14 from the field and 12-of-13 from the charity stripe. Cooke was just as indispensable, with 16 points (on 6-of-8 shooting), six boards, three steals and two blocks. He also had a personal 5-0 spurt after SJSU got within one point halfway through the second half. And he held SJSU standout Adrian Oliver in check (12 points on 5-of-14 shooting).

That's the good news. The bad news. Armon Johnson slammed his knee against a SJSU player late in the first half and limped through the rest of the game. “Knee to knee. Bone on bone," Fox said. "It’s like taking a baseball bat and slugging it up against your knee. I think it cost Nancy Kerrigan a gold medal, so hopefully it doesn’t cost us. It was not a dirty play, just a part of the game. But he’s very sore. He toughed it up and hit a big three after that.” Johnson played well with 14 points (on 6-of-8 shooting), five boards and three assists. But he was clearly favoring his left knee. He was unavailable to the media after the game, as he was receiving treatment, but should be ready to go tonight...
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