Saturday, February 28, 2009

The ALL-WAC pre-season picks and who should be chosen

Okay, each and every WAC men's basketball coach should be relieved of his duties ... or at least their individual ballots deserve to be carefully checked because the evidence to do so is overwhelming.

Said ballots have been hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnalls' porch since noon of the day of the announcements (thank you Johnny, we still miss ye) and we're heading over there right now.

So what are we talking about?


The coaches pre-season ALL-WAC selections
First Team

Player of the Year: Armon Johnson, Nevada

Jonathan Gibson, Jr., G, New Mexico St.
Kyle Gibson, Jr., G, Louisiana Tech
Armon Johnson, So., G, Nevada
C.J. Webster, Jr., C, San Jose State
Gary Wilkinson, Sr., F, Utah State

Ahem, it is our expert/half-witted/gas windbag opinion that, of the five players the coaches selected as first-teamers-to-be, only Gary Wilkinson will be honored (and also as the league's most valuable player).

Second Team

Luke Babbitt, Fr., F, Nevada
Brandon Fields, Jr., G, Nevada
Anthony Thomas, Jr., F, Boise State
Tai Wesley, So., F, Utah State
Jahmar Young, So., G, New Mexico St.

As for the next five choices, we see Luke Babbitt being there, along with Tai Wesley as a slim possibility but that's about it. Jahmar Young will receive first-team kudos.

Young is a first-teamer, no ifs, ands or buts and nestled right up there with Mac Hopson as Wilkinson's closest competition for the MVP choice.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, BSU's Anthony Thomas may land Don Verlin's vote solely for Thomas' pronouncements after the initial Bronco loss to the Vandals.

Of course, the pixel-stained wretches of the media don't exactly have a lot to crow about either:

Preseason Player of the Year: Gary Wilkinson, Sr., F, Utah State

Newcomer of the Year: Luke Babbitt, Fr., F, Nevada

Preseason All-WAC Team

Jonathan Gibson, Jr., G, New Mexico State
Kyle Gibson, Jr., G, Louisiana Tech
Armon Johnson, So., G, Nevada
C.J. Webster, Jr., C, San Jose State
Gary Wilkinson, Sr., F, Utah State

Wilkinson will be the top player and Babbitt the best newcomer (but does redshirt Mac Hopson count as a newcomer?) but it appears the beat reporters are going to be 1 for 5 at the selection plate after the official first team announcements.

Next, here are our selections as were forecasted -- fair is fair -- followed by who we believe will actually land a spot on the teams. Okay, we've hung the coaches and the media out to dry so it's only appropriate that we do some self examination. But fear not, for this will thankfully only figuratively involve some disrobing. Here are the player predictions PTW made in the pre-season:

Player of the Year: Luke Babbitt

Isaiah 11:16 prophesied that "...and a little child shall lead them..." and, while the 6-8 Babbitt doesn't qualify as petite, he will be both the POY and the Freshman of the Year in the WAC. The only problem we see for him next season is staying out of foul trouble as his opponent as well as the others will be assigned to go right at Babbitt as much as possible.

Being named the Player of the Year is not going to happen -- at least not this season -- for Babbitt. But he should be selected as the top fresh or even the Best Newcomer, excluding those who were redshirting last season.

Our predicted WAC All Leaguers:

Gary Wilkinson - Utah State
Brandon Fields - Nevada
Jonathan Gibson - New Mexico State
Magnum Rolle - Louisiana Tech
Adrian Oliver - San Jose State.

Wilkinson needs to be consistent from the get go but this should be aided by the dearth of experienced 'bigs' he'll face. We selected Fields over Armon Johnson because he brings offense and defense to the Wolf Pack. We went with Gibson over Jarmar Young because Gibson offers better playmaking along with scoring. Rolle has a golden opportunity and his projected scoring and rebounding totals give him the nod, however slightly, over Kyle Gibson. Oliver will be the top scorer for the Spartans and is their best talent.

Note that but one senior (Wilkinson) is among our selections. Last season, it was five seniors being honored.

Wilkinson will be honored as the WAC Player of the Year and as a first team, all-leaguer. It's an easy 'no' for Fields and and a bit more difficult to eliminate Gibson. Rolle may land a spot on the second team especially because of his play once Kenneth Cooper was suspended. Oliver was on his way to a first team nod but injuries forced him to sit out some games and he has returned at less than full strength. Making the second team is a possibility but that would be more because of the defensive attention paid to him and not necessarily his actual production.

So we're more than likely going to 1 for 5, with Rolle landing a second team spot

Here are the other players we considered in November:

Other Contenders:

Kyle Gibson - Louisiana Tech
Roderick Flemings - Hawaii
Armon Johnson - Nevada
Sylvester Seay - Fresno State
Jahmar Young - New Mexico State
C.J. Webster - San Jose State

Gibson started strong, suffered a dip and is now back producing solid numbers. But he'll be a second-teamer at best. Flemings will probably land a first team nod if he can finish strong. Johnson is in the same situation -- he needs big time production in his remaining games to be a first teamer but otherwise will have to settle for being in the second five. Seay deserves a place on the first team based upon his scoring, rebounding and shotblocking. Young should finish second to Wilkinson in the most valuable player voting -- he has improved the most of any player in the league. Webster was hurt early and now is producing decent numbers but not enough for an all league pick.

Who we completely missed on is Mac Hopson, who is going to be a first teamer, no ifs, ands or buts.

To reiterate, the WAC First Team as of now should be:

Gary Wilkinson
Jahmar Young
Mac Hopson
Sylvester Seay
Luke Babbitt

The second team:

Roderick Flemings
Magnum Rolle
Wendell McKines
Armon Johnson
Paul George

With these two players pressing for inclusion:

Adrian Oliver
Jared Quayle

Greg Allen has yet another great game

Eureka High backcourter Greg Allen has enjoyed a superlative senior season and has just added another gem to his collection, even though his team lost. It appears his year is now over so the recruiting process should begin warming up. Let's see if Idaho is in the mix:

Tierra Linda overcomes Allen, Loggers in first round of NCS playoffs
Brian Bainum

SAN RAFAEL -- The good news for the Eureka High boys basketball team in its North Coast Section Division III opening game was that standout guard Greg Allen had his way with Terra Linda.

The bad news? Eureka had a hard time stopping the Trojans.

Allen scored 29 points and put on a show Tuesday, but Eureka still fell 69-60 to Terra Linda...

Go here for the remainder.

Steve Cleveland is a genius

Hey, when you are down by four with just seconds to go in the basketball game, draw up (wink) what Fresno State Coach Steve Cleveland did Thursday:

"...Fresno State got a five-point play — a 3-pointer and a foul away from the shot which resulted in two free throws — with a minute to play..."

Now that is some coaching! What do some of those Dog fans want? A six-point play?

A Jared Eborn feature on Tyler Newbold

Hey, this is just what USU needs, a restored Tyler Newbold. Maybe now they can right the good ship Aggie and start winning some games. Seriously, we'll take Newbold even at his so-called most substandard on our fave team anytime.

Utah State basketball: Aggies welcome Newbold 'back'
Jared Eborn
Deseret News
February 28, 2009

When a basketball team has 26 wins and only three losses, it's hard to say there have been long stretches of substandard basketball.

Yet, while Utah State did encounter a little blip in its normal efficient execution of the gameplan — losing two of three games while winning in somewhat unconvincing fashion in a few others — there was one glaring hole in the Aggies' typically balanced team.

Sophomore shooting guard Tyler Newbold wasn't himself. The 6-foot-4 Payson High product was hesitant offensively and rarely took shots even when wide open. Those he did take weren't falling, and his confidence was shot.

Thursday night, however, Newbold — who had scored only 11 total points in the previous four games — found himself again.

"I told him 'welcome back,' " Utah State coach Stew Morrill said after the Aggies wrapped up an outright Western Athletic Conference title. "He'd been down a little bit, and it's nice to have him back..."

Go here for the remainder.

Ray Lopes back in Fresno

So just how will the crowd react when Idaho appears at the SaveMart Center tonight with Ray Lopes as part of the Vandal coaching staff? Do the assistant coaches typically get introduced before the game?

Lopes era one to forgive or forget?
Lopes returns with Idaho, but Bulldogs still feel effects of his reign here.
Daniel Lyght
The Fresno Bee
Fenruary 27, 2009

Vonn Webb met Ray Lopes on a sunny day at a golf course in 2002.

The opinion of Lopes he formed that day never changed, even after Lopes admitted in March 2005 that he violated NCAA rules as the men's basketball coach at Fresno State.

"He's a good guy," said Webb, a former Bulldogs assistant under Lopes and now an assistant at UC-Riverside. "He has a real good demeanor and treats people real well. We hit it off the first day we met. Not even as coaches but as people."

Tonight's matchup between the Bulldogs and Vandals will be former Fresno State coach Ray Lopes' first game back in the city since leaving in disgrace in 2005.

Ex-colleagues, fellow coaches and past players say they've forgiven Lopes and that he is a good person. People make mistakes, they say.

But what about Fresno State fans?

Go here for the remainder.

We hope this isn't seen as being gratuitous but here are links that provide some background to Lopes' tenure in Fresno:

Some accusations against Lopes

This offers a bit more

Lopes' response to these accusations

Here's Pettis testifying in another legal matter involving Fresno State

A look at the WAC games today

TMB and his Vandal Nation site provides your rundown on all the games in the WAC today -- and obviously is scraping the very bottom of the barrel to include a certain quote ;-):

WAC men’s hoops preview: Feb. 28
Travis Mason-Bushman
Vandal Nation

It’s a broken record, but the Western Athletic Conference keeps proving that, as Kevin McCarthy says, “any team can beat any other team” — in men’s basketball, at least.

The thundering crash of high-ranked teams could be heard across the West on Thursday night. #2 Nevada fell to the conference doormat, #9 Fresno State. #3 New Mexico State was edged by #8 Louisiana Tech. Most painfully, the #5 Idaho Vandals were crushed on the boards and on the scoreboard by the #6 San Jose State Spartans. Only #1 Utah State evaded the trend in their comprehensive deconstruction of the #7 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.

The midpack muddle we’ve referred to before, is even more unclear now than it was Thursday morning, if that’s even possible. Here’s the way they line up:

#2 Nevada (8-5)
#3 Boise State (7-5)
#4 New Mexico State (7-6)
#5 Idaho (6-7)
#6 San Jose State (5-8)
#7 Hawaii (5-9)
#8 Louisiana Tech (5-9)

Go here for the remainder.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Utah State gets a basketball committment

Jay Drew is back so soon with an item about a Utah State commit:

High-scoring Texan commits to Utah State
Jay Drew
Salt Lake City Tribune
February 27, 2009

Utah State's men's basketball program has received an oral commitment from Preston Medlin, a senior at Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas.

A 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Medlin averaged 22.5 points per game in the regular season...

Go here for the remainder.

We've also seen the kid listed as 6-3 but that may be outdated. MaxPreps has him at 6-5 and that is more than likely what his high school entered. His weight is 165. Per Texas Hoops and analyst Blue Zertuche, it looks like he added more ballhandling skills and a going-to-the-hoop aspect to his outside shooting this season. He will visit Logan on March 7.

The WAC beat reporters check in about last night

Sam Wasson at covers New Mexico State athletics like no other and we found this observation of his intriguing and one we didn't think of:

"...When we got home we checked the rest of the WAC scores. Imagine our surprise when we saw scores from the other two games. Fresno State, the last place team in the league, knocked off Nevada, the 2nd place team in the league. And San Jose State, the 7th place team in the league, beat Idaho, the 5th place team in the league. That combined with Louisiana Tech, the 8th place team, beating the Aggies, the 3rd place team, you had a night where 9, 8 and 7 beat 2, 3 and 5 respectively. Boise State coaches, fans and players no doubt counted themselves lucky to not be playing last night, staying out of the carnage..."

Jared Eborn checks in with his report on last night's Aggie win:

Morrill lets Ags celebrate after team clinches WAC
Jared Eborn
Deseret News
February 27, 2009

LOGAN — Stew Morrill is typically not one to get caught up in parties, celebrations and definitely not in mosh-pit-type environments.

After Utah State's 82-62 win over Hawaii on Thursday night at the Smith Spectrum, though, Morrill couldn't stop himself from breaking out as big a smile as he's been seen with in a while and had no intention of stopping his team from getting rowdy on the floor.

"They put themselves in a place to celebrate," Morrill said after the Aggies captured an outright Western Athletic Conference title, "and I want them celebrating."

And celebrate Utah State did.

The dominating win over the Warriors was followed by a lengthy frenzy on the floor with championship T-shirts, nets being cut down and students hoisting players onto their shoulders...
Go here for the remainder.

Shawn Harrison does the same:

Home sweet home
Shawn Harrison
Herald Journal
February 27, 2009

There was no late-game drama Thursday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

Utah State came out and took care of business from the get-go against the Rainbow Warriors from Hawaii. In doing so, the Aggies clinched the Western Athletic Conference regular season title with a 82-62 victory in front of 8,717 fans.

“We have had a lot of ties for first, but this is the first outright one we have won in awhile,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “This group has been an unbelievable group to coach.”

The last outright conference title came back in 2000, when the Aggies went 16-0 in the Big West Conference. This is the fourth season in the WAC for USU, which was co-champions last season with Nevada, Boise State and New Mexico State...
Go here for the remainder.

Fresno State continues to confound, no more so than last night as Steve Cleveland's team wins despite Paul George going scoreless:

'Dogs men down Wolf Pack
Fresno State shows growth in closing stretch.
Daniel Lyght
The Fresno Bee
February 26, 2009

Fresno State forward Sylvester Seay said earlier this week that he "had something" for Nevada's star freshman forward Luke Babbitt.

He had something for everybody Thursday: his coaches, the pro scouts and fans at the Save Mart Center, too, bringing them to their feet time and again.

Seay finished with his third career double-double, scoring 28 points to go with 11 rebounds and four blocks as he helped lift Fresno State to a 68-66 Western Athletic Conference win in which a number of different Bulldogs needed to make key plays...
Go here for the remainder.

Here's Chris Murray with his report:

Bulldogs' hot shooting sinks Wolf Pack
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

FRESNO, Calif. -- In a game with plenty of unusual visuals, it was the image shortly after the final buzzer sounded that was the most bitter for Nevada basketball fans to swallow.

It was that of Wolf Pack freshman Luke Babbitt bent over at the knees with his head buried in his jersey after his potential game-winning 3-pointer skipped off the rim as time expired.

While Babbitt tried to pin Nevada's 68-66 loss to Fresno State on Thursday night on himself -- "I should have made it," Babbitt said. "The loss goes on my shoulders tonight. I played terrible." -- it was a series of issues that doomed the Wolf Pack before announced crowd of 8,619 fans at Save Mart Center.

There was Sylvester Seay torching the Wolf Pack inside and out to the tune of 28 points.

There was Fresno State nailing 11-of-19 3-pointers, including 7-of-9 in the second half.

And most back-breaking of all, there was a rare five-point play that gave the Bulldogs a late lead it wouldn't relinquish...
Go here for the remainder.

Louisiana Tech proved once again that the Dogs of Ruston are also dangerous:

Aggie men's basketball team falls at Louisiana Tech
Las Cruces Sun-News

RUSTON, La. — The New Mexico State men's basketball team's four-game winning streak was snapped at Louisiana Tech, 80-71, on Thursday in Ruston, La., inside the Thomas Assembly Center.

The Aggies fall to 15-13 overall, 8-6 in the Western Athletic Conference while Louisiana Tech continued its hot play to move to 5-9 in league play.

The Bulldogs earned a split in the regular season series after falling 65-63 on Feb. 16 at the Pan American Center...
Go here for the remainder.

Finally, we'll include our SJSU - Idaho game report:

San Jose State handles Idaho 72-64

It was redemption time for the Spartans Thursday night as they beat Idaho 72-64 at Walt McPherson Court, thereby splitting the season series with the Vandals

San Jose State maintained a four-point lead from at least the eight minute mark of the second half, actually widening it with three minutes remaining.

With 3:29 showing, Idaho's Mac Hopson missed on a one-and-one at the foul line and DeVonte Thomas followed that a 14-foot jumper from the right side to make the score 62-56 in SJSU's favor.

Vandal Brandon Wiley also misfired on the front end of a one-and-one but then so did Thomas at the Spartan end.

With clock down to 2:25, Hopson was fouled again but was errant on both his double bonus free throws.

C.J. Webster was fouled and the Spartan center nailed both his attempts at the foul line, extending the San Jose State lead to 64-56.

Idaho managed a three-pointer, plus three free throws when Luciano de Souza was fouled attempting a three-pointer but could never pare the lead as they were forced to foul and gave up made free throws...
Go here for the remainder.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Results in the WAC tonight

We'll be back tomorrow with the beat reporters but here tonight's results via the various school sites:

Rolle's Double-Double Leads Tech to Third Straight Victory
Bulldogs on a Three-Game Winning Streak
February 26, 2009

RUSTON -- While one junior Bulldog was joining the 1000 Point club, another junior Bulldog finished with his fifth double-double of the season, and the pair helped the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (13-16; 5-9 WAC) to an 80-71 win over the New Mexico State Aggies Thursday night in the Thomas Assembly Center in front of 1,668 fans.

It took junior Kyle Gibson just eight minutes to score his first six points to become the 33rd Bulldog in Tech history to join the 1,000 Point Club with his second three-pointer of the first half. Gibson finished with 17 points for the game.

Junior Magnum Rolle finished with his fifth double-double of the year, as well, with a career-high 25 points and 12 rebounds for the night, while junior Jamel Guyton added 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field. The win marks Tech's third straight in a row while the Bulldogs continue to fight for seeding in the upcoming Western Athletic Conference tournament in two weeks...

Go here for the remainder.

USU Clinches Regular-Season WAC Title With 82-62 Hammering Of Hawai'i Thursday
Wilkinson Nets Career Home Best 27 Points, Quayle Ties Career-High Eight Assists
Feb. 26, 2009

LOGAN, Utah - Utah State clinched the Western Athletic Conference men's basketball title outright with an 82-62 win against Hawai'i Thursday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

USU improved to 13-1 in WAC play, winning back-to-back WAC regular-season titles after finishing in a four-way tie last season. The Aggies also improved to 26-3 overall, tying for the most wins in the country.

Hawai'i lost its second in a row and third in the last four, falling to 13-14 overall and 5-9 in WAC action...
Go here for the remainder.

Seay's 28 points and five-point play higlighted head coach Steve Cleveland's 200th career victory.
Bulldogs Best Second-Place Wolf Pack, 68-66
February 26, 2009

FRESNO, Calif.-- With an aggressive attack sparked by determined pack of Bulldogs, Fresno State knocked off the second-place Nevada Wolf Pack 68-66 on Thursday night in the Save Mart Center.

"Tonight, whether it was getting a defensive stop or making a big basket, this team made plays to win the game," head coach Steve Cleveland said of the win that earned him his 200th career victory. "We took care of the ball and got the ball where we needed to get it against a very athletic and tough team.""

Junior forward Sylvester Seay delivered another statement as he scored 28 points, with 20 of those coming in second half, and pulled down 11 rebounds for his third career double-double. Seay has notched at least 20 points in four consecutive games and now leads the team in scoring by averaging 15.6 points per game on the season.

Sophomore forward and Academic All-District honoree Nedeljko Golubovic recorded a career-high 18 points while draining four 3-pointers for the second straight game...
Go here for the remainder.

Men's Hoops Tops Idaho, 72-64
San Jose State Athletics

San Jose, Calif.-----For the first time this season, five San Jose State University players scored in double figures and reserve forward DeVonte Thomas came up with his best game of the season in a 72-64 win over the University of Idaho.

Justin Graham led the Spartans (12-14, 5-8 WAC) in scoring with 17 points and handed out six assists without a turnover. Graham scored 13 of his team-high total after halftime and made his first five field goal attempts of the second half...
Go here for the remainder.

TMB on the WAC tonight

Now we're not trying to go all chi-chi on you but we're jumping to the conclusion that you are well aware of Travis Mason-Bushman -- heretofore to be known as TMB -- and his Vandal Nation blog. We won't ask for a show of hands but he is providing superb coverage of the Idaho athletics and especially the resurgent Vandal men's basketball program. TMB checks in with coverage on tonight's games:

Vandal Nation
Everything Idaho Vandals
Travis Mason-Bushman
WAC men’s hoops preview: Feb. 26

The Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball season is in the home stretch, with just two weeks to go before the conference tournament in Reno. Utah State has already clinched a share of the regular-season title and is all but a lock to capture it outright. But as we’ve detailed, four teams — Nevada, New Mexico State, Boise State and Idaho — are still desperately fighting to be “Best of the Rest,” and this week’s set of games should go a long way toward shaking out the contenders.

As explained previously, the real trick right now for WAC Tournament contenders is getting a #2 or #3 seed. The way the brackets are paired — (1/8, 4/5), (2/7, 3/6) means that, in all likelihood, whoever gets the #4/5 set will meet Utah State in the semifinals… and could see their run end there. Whoever wants to get to meet USU in the finals, will have to come out of the 2/7, 3/6 bracket. The fight for second and third, then, becomes crucial...

Go here for the remainder.

An update on Idaho Vandal basketball

Jake Alger has a good piece below on Vandal hoops:

Vandals' depth improves
Jake Alger
Idaho Press
February 25, 2009

One of the Idaho men's basketball team's biggest drawbacks is slowly but surely working itself out — at the perfect time.

The Vandals' main blemishes have been extremely easy to spot all season. First, they routinely get pounded on the glass. That's no way to win with any consistency, as their 13-13 record alludes to.

But second, and perhaps most importantly, their depth has been questionable at best.

Luckily, as the 2008-09 season winds down and overworked players begin to run out of gusto — both physically and emotionally — a few key developments are making UI's depth look better, if not strong...

Go here for the remainder.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nick Jezierny's WAC Notebook

Nick Jezierny checks in with his weekly take on the WAC:

WAC notebook: Boise State, Idaho have postseason possibilities
WAC commissioner Karl Benson says as many as seven conference teams have a shot at one of the four postseason tourneys.
Nick Jezierny
Idaho Statesman

WAC commissioner Karl Benson said this week that as many as seven men's basketball teams from the conference have a shot at the postseason, including Boise State and Idaho.

And the Broncos and Vandals are planning on exploring all postseason options, even if it means spending money.

"I think there is a cost if you don't do it," Idaho athletic director Rob Spear said. "You have to look at the longterm benefit to the program. ... It would cost you more to not go than to go."

The Vandals (13-13 overall, 6-6 WAC) and Broncos (17-9, 7-5) have filled out the required paperwork for postseason tournaments.

There are four tournaments this year - the NCAA Tournament, the NIT, the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) and the new Postseason Tournament.

In all, there are 129 postseason spots for the 330 eligible Division I programs...

Go here for the remainder.

Chris Murray with a great feature

We love articles like the following so yet another top o' the hat to Chris Murray:

The top five players in the WAC by class
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

In today's newspaper, we wrote about the WAC's bright future. There are only a handful of impact seniors in the WAC this season (Gary Wilkinson, Mark Sanchez, Tim Pierce and Dwight O'Neil are the only seniors who average more than six points per game). That means a lot of young talent is getting experience this season, which should bode well for the future. Below are the top five players in the WAC (by class).


1. Luke Babbitt, Nevada: Babbitt might not only be the best freshman in the conference. He might be the best player in the conference. The Galena High grad is averaging 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season and has become more and more efficient as the season's progressed. He is shooting 46.2 percent from the field, 45.2 percent from three and 82.1 percent from the line. While you would think opposing coaches might want Babbitt to turn pro ASAP, Hawaii coach Bob Nash said that by Babbitt staying, the entire profile of the conference could be lifted.

2. Paul George, Fresno State: If Babbitt is 1, then George is 1A. The rail-thin wing might be hitting a touch of a slump recently, but he is still averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He can also knock down the three (45.8 percent) and has proven to be an efficient scorer. Once he adds some more muscle, watch up. But George isn't alone in Fresno, as the team has a quartet of talented freshman playing this season (one of whom is a little lower on this list).

3. Troy Gillenwater, NMSU: Gillenwater ran into some disciplinary issues a couple of weeks ago, but is back on the court and producing. Like Fresno State, the Aggies are a young team and Gillenwater is the prized freshman. He is averaging 12 points per game in 23.5 minutes, but must improve his rebounding (4.1 per contest). When was the last time the WAC had three impact freshmen like Babbitt, George and Gillenwater?

4. Hamidu Rahman, NMSU: Rahman might be overshadowed by Gillenwater, but he is plenty good himself. The New Jersey native is a legit 7-footer in a league that doesn't have too many of those. He's also well-built at 240 pounds and has put up seven points and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the field.

5. Mychal Ladd, Fresno State: With the suspension of O'Neil, Ladd has gotten the chance to start and is doing his best to keep that job. He is averaging 14 points and six rebounds per game in the last eight contests and 10 and four overall this year. The 6-5 wing from Seattle can be a plus-rebounder for his size, but like most freshman, needs to tighten his defense...

Go here for the remainder.

It's going to be Vegas

No, we didn't sit down with the late (meaning now thankfully no longer doing infomercials) but unlamented Miss Cleo nor, to our knowledge, did Donald Rumsfeld label any of the competitors 'deadenders' but we're making a prediction here and now: the WAC tournament's next destination is Las Vegas.

Here's Chris Murray with more on the subject:

WAC tourney in Reno for now; Is a neutral court coming later?
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

I asked Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox about the WAC Tournament earlier today and this is what he had to say about hosting the event: “The coaches voted to have the tournament at a neutral site and the neutral site wasn’t approved by the presidents. Every conference city had a chance to bid on this, and they shouldn’t be angered because our community stepped up. This is a good event for the community. It brings a lot of people to town. This is a great place to visit, and we’re excited to host it. There’s some different responsibilities when you host it, and it changes your routine. I think the last time that we won it (in 2006) was the only time Nevada won a conference tournament that it hosted. So, we have to manage that situation appropriately...”

Go here for the remainder.

Shawn Harrison with a Tai Wesley feature

Shawn Harrison offers an article today on Aggie forward Tai Wesley. Our expectations this season were that Wesley would play with more consistency than last season and produce better numbers. The comparison for conference play: this season: 11.8 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 55% overall shooting, 25/36 assist-to-turnover ratio versus 11.6 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 65% overall shooting, 33/27 assist-to-turnover numbers last season.

So he's not quite there but should be the go-to frontcourter for USU in 2009-2010.

Wesley integral for Ags
Shawn Harrison
Herald Journal
February 25, 2009

There is just something about playing against Hawaii that has brought out the best in Tai Wesley when it comes to scoring.

The Aggie sophomore forward had his best outing against the Rainbow Warriors last year in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, scoring a career-high 27 points. In three games against Hawaii, Wesley has averaged 18.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He recorded a double-double last month on the islands with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“I have had some good games against Hawaii,” Wesley said earlier this week after a practice. “I don’t know what it is. Maybe I just like to give my parents a good show.”

The son of Susan and Hiagi Wesley has done that. His parents live on the island of Oahu, working at BYU-Hawaii. So they have been able to see the road games, along with close to 50 other relatives and friends. They just happened to be in Utah last year and were in attendance for his career night in Logan. However, they will not be there Thursday when Utah State takes on Hawaii at the Spectrum. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m...

Go here for the remainder.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hawaii looking for a fifth place finish

With most eyeing who will finish near the top in the WAC, the jostling among the second-tier teams is also something to watch. Hawaii is hoping to end up as #5 in the WAC:

Good news, bad news: 'Bows have shot at fifth — also last
Dayton Morinaga
Honolulu Advertiser
February 24, 2009

In a best-case scenario, the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team could still finish as high as fifth place in the Western Athletic Conference.

In a worst case, the Rainbow Warriors could finish in last place in the nine-team WAC.

In short, there is still much to be decided in the final two weeks of the regular season for the 'Bows.

"You can look at all the options, and it's fun to do that sometimes," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "But the bottom line is we can't worry about all the other scenarios. We just have to focus on what we can do."

With three regular-season games remaining, Hawai'i is 13-13 overall and in sixth place in the WAC at 5-8.

The 'Bows are scheduled to depart Honolulu tonight for a crucial two-game road trip. They will play at first-place Utah State on Thursday, then at seventh-place San Jose State on Saturday...

Go here for the remainder.

Chris Murray weighs in on BrackBustering

We have yet to locate his birth certificate but odds are that Chris Murray's middle name is Prolific -- or at least it should be. Here's the first of three articles he provided in today's Gazette-Journal.

WAC 'Buster future looking up
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
February 24, 2009

The BracketBuster weekend delivered its share of good news and bad news for the Western Athletic Conference.

But as WAC commissioner Karl Benson glanced over the final BracketBuster results -- the league was 5-4 overall, but lost two of three televised games -- he saw it as a lost opportunity.

"We probably didn't take full advantage of what I thought was a very, very attractive slate of games in terms of the WAC being in position to win more than five," Benson said.

However, this might be the last time over the next couple of years that the league lets a BracketBuster weekend slip by without making some noise.

With the WAC composed largely of freshmen and sophomores, things appear to be looking up for the conference -- which has experienced a couple of down seasons...

Go here for the remainder.

Chris Murray ranks the WAC this week

Chris Murray offers his weekly WAC rankings:

Utah State tops in WAC rankings, but will Nevada be the tournament team?
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

1. Utah State
Record: 25-3, 12-1
Last week’s rank: 1
Last game: Lost to Saint Mary’s, 75-64, in Moraga, Calif.
Next: Thursday vs. Hawaii

Comment: WAC commissioner Karl Benson says Utah State is “definitely a bona fide at-large team” for the NCAA Tournament, but one more conference loss might test that hypothesis...

Go here for the remainder.

The final of Chris Murray's articles today

Here's yet another piece Chris Murray turned out today:

Surging into WAC Tournament? Maybe not
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
February 24, 2009

Reason would suggest that the better you are playing heading into the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, the more success you will have in the tournament. But sometimes reason is wrong.

Utah State coach Stew Morrill said there is little correlation between how you're playing leading up to the tournament and how you fare in it.

"I think any time you can put wins together, it is positive, but as far as relevancy toward the conference tournament I haven't seen any, believe it or not," said Morrill, in his 23rd year as a head coach. "I think you can be struggling going into the conference tournament and all that matters is how you play that week. I think you can be playing really well and all that matters is that week. So, I've seen both."

Morrill's assessment has been proven accurate by the past few WAC Tournament champions...

Go here for the remainder.

Nevada watching a guard

student4ever on the Silver and Blue MB has an item on a junior backcourter Nevada -- among many others -- is eyeing.

student4ever's post is based on this item:

CS8 boys basketball notes: Regional seeds go according to form
Jim Ruppert
The State Journal-Register
February 20, 2009

...Madison in demand

Lanphier junior Karl Madison has made his way onto the national radar as far as recruiting goes.

Shanklin said in the past week that representatives from both UCLA and Vanderbilt have been in town to discuss Madison. Northwestern, Nevada and all of the schools in the Missouri Valley Conference have made recruiting pitches...

Go here for the remainder.

We have been Drew-less for too long

Jay Drew at the Salt Lake Tribune has been our go-to guy for Utah State recruiting news but the table has been bare of late. However, he's back with an item for USU fans:

Utah State in running for 6-4 shooting guard from Florida
Jay Drew
Salt Lake Tribune
February 23, 2009

Utah State is still in the running for a 6-foot-4 senior guard from Florida, according to the St. Petersburg Times newspaper.

Chris Perez of Olsdmar Christian High School in the Tampa, Fla., area, visited Utah State last weekend and has received a scholarship offer from the Aggies. He watched USU beat Call State Bakersfield and was reportedly impressed by the crowd turnout...

Go here for the remainder.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Looking at Louisiana Tech's recent games

Ron Tyler and A Closer Look at LATECH Hoops offer some new material:

Quick three game recap
February 23, 2009·

So life sometimes gets in the way of blog. It happens. This was quite a week. Another buzzer beater loss (sounds familiar) and two enjoyable victories.

Quick game recaps in a couple sentences.

New Mexico State- Dawgs play ugly but hang around and make huge comeback in last four minutes. Final shot goes in and comes out. Video here

Houston Baptist – Tech destroys a bad basketball team. Up big at half. Second half repeat of first. Neither Gibson or Guyton played more than 25 minutes – a season first.

Murray State – Close game against team with much higher RPI through first half. Tech keeps a two possession lead most of second before actually making free throws in last two minutes to push it out for a nine point victory...

Go here for the remainder.

Is New Mexico State the team to avoid in the upcoming tourney?

Jerry Reed's "When You're Hot You're Hot" is ricocheting around the cranium right now as the Aggies appear primed for the WAC tournament. Let's see how the final two weeks of games plays out.

Saturday's explosion shows Aggies offense has turned the corner
Jason Groves
Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES — Now is the time that teams across America want to be playing their best basketball.

That is certainly the case for the New Mexico State University men's basketball team with the tipoff of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament 16 days away.

At least on the offensive end.

Saturday's 94-86 victory over Cal State Fullerton was the Aggies' fourth straight victory and their sixth win in their last seven games.

The Aggies shot a season-high 63 percent from the field on Saturday after a season-best half — 78.3 percent in the second half. NMSU knocked down 12 3-pointers, which is the second most for a single game behind the 17 they knocked down on Dec. 28 against Loyola Marymount.

NMSU is shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from 3-point land in the last seven games...

Go here for the remainder.

Sumo basketball?

Yeah, it's obviously a slow day for WAC basketball news but this did catch our eye (hey, why doesn't H & R Block put us in that commercial?):

From Shawn Herrison in the Herald Journal:

"...USU’s coach also likened the play at times to “sumo wrestling,” but was quick to add the officiating was consistent. The Aggies just needed to match the Gaels’ physical play. That didn’t happen..."

Go here for the complete article.

Jared Ebron of the Deseret News also weighs in with his take on Saturday's Utah State - St. Mary's contest.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We missed this earlier

There been a bit of shift in the team dynamics at Fresno State and it seemed to pay off last night:

'Dogs learn lesson in tipping Aggies
Daniel Lyght
The Fresno Bee
February 21, 2009

Fresno State players finally had enough Saturday night.

Enough of the missed opportunities, the mistakes, the close losses.

The locker room at halftime was heated, with players on each other about all three.

"Guys are fed up and tired of losing," junior forward Sylvester Seay said. "We have to hold each other accountable. We can't hold the coaches accountable because it's our fault. It's about time we realized that and got on each others' butts in a positive manner."

The scene was long wished for by coach Steve Cleveland, who saw players speaking intelligently about mistakes made with a competitive fire. He said it was a "huge step" in the right direction for the team as it inched over nonconference foe UC-Davis with a 71-70 win.

Cleveland said the team has never been vocal about anything and that they're reserved teammates and good friends.

"There's always a hesitancy [to get on a teammate] when you have good friends out there," he said. "Tonight they had a little bit of an edge. That can be controlled. There's nothing wrong with a teammate challenging a teammate..."

Go here for the remainder.

Chirs Murray with a Brandon Fields feature

It would be too simplistic and incorrect to lay the ups-and-downs of Nevada basketball this season solely at the feet of Brandon Fields -- but it has been a factor. Chris Murray has an article on Fields here:

Big game could turn Fields' season around
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
February 22, 2009

Nevada's Brandon Fields has always seen himself as an underdog -- so much so, that when the junior was named to the preseason All-Western Athletic Conference second team, he said he'd rather somebody else get the honor.

"I'd really rather not even know I was on second team because I've always been an underdog my whole life and never got publicity," Fields said back in October. "That just helped me make my game better because it let me know I need to go harder ever day."

Unfortunately for the Wolf Pack, Fields has flown a little too low beneath the radar for much of this season -- first losing his starting spot in the Nevada lineup and then watching his offensive effectiveness plummet.

But in the Wolf Pack's 71-70 victory over Virginia Commonwealth on Friday at Lawlor Events Center, Fields might have found his season's turning point.

After another frustrating first half of basketball -- in which Fields was 0-of-3 from the field with three points -- Nevada coach Mark Fox challenged him.

"He chewed me out at halftime," Fields said, "and I came back with some toughness..."

Go here for the remainder.

A little more about yesterday in Moraga

Yes, it was in Moraga and the students there can get it going in their smallish venue but we never expected anyone to out-tough Utah State in the paint. Gary Wilkinson and Tai Wesley haven't been dominant of late but it's not like Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson are the Fearsome Twosome. Samhan and Simpson are good college players -- very good at times -- but not necessarily dominators. No, the sky hasn't fallen in Logan but this loss more than likely means the Aggies better win the WAC tourney in order to weat Dancin' shoes. Do let us know if you see it differently and please provide why.

Here's Martin Renzhofer with his report on the contest:

St. Mary's dominates paint in victory
Martin Renzhofer
Salt Lake Tribune

Utah State, it appears, was more excited by the prospect of playing St. Mary's than it was about putting that emotion into action.

On Saturday afternoon, in front of a national ESPN audience in a BracketBuster matchup, the Aggies were busted, 75-64.

USU posts Gary Wilkinson and Tai Wesley could do nothing with SMC's hulking 6-foot-11 center Omar Samhan, who dominated the paint inside McKeon Pavilion. Meanwhile, Gaels guard Mickey McConnell was perfect from the field as he scored 22 points, nearly 16 more than his average...

Go here for the remainder.

It was as expected

We had hopes -- high ones at that -- but not based on the evidence at hand. The 'quantifiables' lent themselves to the WAC winning some and losing others as part of the BracketBuster event and that is just what happened.

Here's Shawn Harrison starting us off:

Slow start dooms Utah St.
Shawn Harrison
Herald Journal
February 22, 2009

MORAGA, Calif. — A timid start and some missed shots down the stretch spelled doom for the Aggies Saturday afternoon at McKeon Pavilion in a ESPNU BracketBusters game.

Host Saint Mary’s was able to end Utah State’s perfect record (3-0 before Saturday) in these made-for-television games for mid-major conferences with a 75-64 victory. The Gaels pulled away at the end, but led for most of the game.

“We decided to play the last 10 minutes,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said.

Even then, the 23rd-ranked Aggies missed some golden opportunities to notch a big road win...

Go here for the remainder.

Harrison also has another article here.

Jared Eborn provides his take:

Cautious Aggies lose to Gaels
Jared Eborn
Deseret News
February 22, 2009

MORAGA, Calif. — Stew Morrill said his Utah State basketball team played "cautious."

Aggie center Gary Wilkinson used the word "tentative."

Whatever it was, the Aggies played poorly for the better part of 30 minutes and could well have put their hopes of an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament in serious jeopardy after falling to St. Mary's, 75-64, in front of a sold-out McKeon Pavilion and a national ESPN2 audience.

"They got us on our heels with their physicalness," Morrill said. "The advantage goes to the aggressor, and they were certainly the aggressor out there."

That much was evident in the way St. Mary's post players attacked USU's on both ends of the court. With double-double candidates Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson imposing their will on the Aggies, the Gaels enjoyed a comfortable lead for most of the game.

The loss was particularly harsh for USU (25-3). The ESPN BracketBusters matchup was a chance to boost its RPI and national stature with a road win over a quality opponent...
Go here for the remainder.

New Mexico State did its part in keep the WAC's honor:

Castillo has career night in Aggies win
Jason Groves
Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES — An unlikely player went shot-for-shot with one of the better opposing guards seen in Las Cruces all year.

New Mexico State University sophomore guard Gordo Castillo connected six times from long range for a career-best 20 points in a 94-86 ESPNU BracketBuster victory over Big West member Cal State Fullerton on Saturday at the Pan American Center.

"It just seemed like I was more open tonight probably because they were focused on (Jahmar Young) and the other guys," said Castillo, who was one of six NMSU players in double figures. "They were leaving me open so I just had to knock down shots."

Castillo helped the Aggies match Fullerton senior guard Josh Akognon's individual effort as part of an unconscious season-high for a half 78.3 percent team percentage for the Aggies in the second half.

"I didn't know that we were that high until right after the game," said Aggies head coach Marvin Menzies, whose team shot a season-best 63 percent for the game. "That's what happens when you take high percentage shots and stay in the system..."
Go here for the remainder.

Boise State get busted by Portland State in BracketBuster
BSU falls behind by 23 points to Portland State in the first half and never recovers in its second consecutive setback.
Nick Jezierny
Idaho Statesman

PORTLAND - One thing the Boise State men's basketball team has been able to pride itself on this season is the ability to bounce back from a bad performance.

Well, you can cross that off a quickly shrinking list of good things about these Broncos.

Three days after a miserable home loss to Idaho, Boise State went out and laid an egg in its nationally televised ESPNU BracketBuster game at Portland State.

The Broncos fell behind by 23 points in the first half and a too-little, too-late rally in the second half added up to a 93-81 defeat at the Stott Center.

"As a coach, you're real disappointed because you hope your guys bounce back better than that," Boise State coach Greg Graham said. "Normally after losses we've answered the bell better..."
Go here for the remainder.

Idaho also did its bit:

Vandals prevail in physical battle with Northridge
Travis Mason-Bushman
Vandal Nation

The Idaho Vandals took down the Big West Conference-leading Cal State-Northridge Matadors tonight in the Cowan Spectrum, 78-75.

In a bitterly-contested ESPNU BracketBuster non-conference matchup, the clash of playing styles and tempers resulted in an exciting and fast-paced show for the 2,202 spectators on hand. The Vandals shot the lights out with a 68.4% average from the field, but in a game punctuated by 43 fouls and 37 turnovers, were unable to close out Northridge...
Go here for the remainder.

Hawaii may have left something behind in Fresno:

'Bows' bracket busted
Brian McInnis
Honolulu Star Bulletin
February 22, 2009

After a half of basketball that could have put the Hawaii "H" on the side of a milk carton, the Rainbow Warriors emerged from the ranks of the missing.

'Bows' bracket busted Unfortunately for the Rainbows, a surprising UC Irvine team was present all night and took UH's best shots to hang on for a 76-70 win in an ESPN BracketBusters game last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

A crowd of 4,169 watched the Rainbows come up short after cutting a 20-point second-half deficit to one. Five Anteaters scored in double figures as the visitors from the Big West poured it on early but sweated out a furious 46-point second half from UH (13-13 overall).

After Hawaii churned a 26-8 run and pulled to 61-60 on two Brandon Adams free throws with 1 minute, 59 seconds left, UCI went on a 12-5 spurt to fend off the Rainbows. Kareem Nitoto hit two 3-pointers in the final minute but the Anteaters made 11 straight free throws (and 19 of 21 for the game) to close it out.

UCI connected on eight of its nine 3-pointers in the first half in building a 14-point halftime lead against the listless Rainbows, who looked to be a step behind after arriving home from Fresno, Calif., on Friday evening.

The Anteaters have been mired near the bottom of the Big West and didn't appear to be a threat on paper to steal a win with a 3-9 road record entering the night...
Go here for the remainder.


UC Irvine holds off Hawaii, 76-70
Dayton Morinaga
Honolulu Advertiser
February 22, 2009

Seemingly everything about the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team was late the past two days.

Late return home. Late-arriving defense. Late rally.

In the end, it was too little, too late for the Rainbow Warriors in a 76-70 loss to UC Irvine last night.

"It was all on us," Hawai'i guard Kareem Nitoto said. "We just came out and laid an egg out here. It really hurts to come out here and disappoint ourselves and our fans."

A crowd of 4,169 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched the Rainbow Warriors drop to 13-13. The game did not count in the Western Athletic Conference...
Go here for the remainder.

Louisiana Tech went on the road and snatched a win against Murray State:

Tech men wrap up non-conference play with win over Murray State
News-Star news services
February 22, 2009

MURRAY, Ky. — The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (12-16; 4-9 WAC) used good shooting and hustle to down the Murray State Racers (15-11; 10-5 OVC) Saturday in non-conference action by a final score of 69-60 in the Regional Special Events Center in front of a crowd of 2526 MSU fans.

“It’s always nice to go back home with a win,” Tech head coach Kerry Rupp said. “That was a very hard fought game against a very good opponent. This team plays very good at home, and we got a good one today. Our kids stepped up and played 40 good minutes and found a way to win today...”
Go here for the remainder.

Fresno State, coming off a tough loss at home to Hawaii, was one better than UC Davis:

Bulldogs beat UC-Davis in ESPN BracketBusters game
The Fresno Bee

Of all of Sylvester Seay’s seven rebounds tonight, his seventh was the most important.

The Fresno State forward grabbed an offensive rebound off a Paul George missed free throw with 1.7 seconds remaining and time expired, giving Fresno State a 71-70 win at UC-Davis in an ESPN BracketBusters men's basketball game.

Play was riddled with mistakes from both teams, as the Bulldogs and Aggies scrambled in a fast-paced, back-and-forth battle...
Go here for the remainder.

Finally, San Jose State stayed in its funk with a loss to UC Riverside:

Spartans fall to Riverside 53-52

It was another contest where each change of possession in the last five minutes was crucial and the Highlanders proved to be one point better Saturday night and nabbed a 53-52 victory. UC Riverside tallied nary a point in those last 300 seconds but still triumphed.

At the 5:05 mark, Riverside's Kyle Austin scored on a soft jumphook in the lane, advancing his team to a 53-46 lead and the points total the Highlanders would have for the game.

With 2:28 remaining, Justin Graham rebounded a Robert Owens miss and scored on a layup from the right side to make it a three-point deficit, 53-50...
Go here for the remainder.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nevada starts the BracketBuster event off right

In a comeback victory and minus Coach Mark Fox, the Wolf Pack did just enough to hand Virginia Commonwealth a loss Friday night.

Nevada gets thrilling win over VCU
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
February 21, 2009

Like many people across the country, all Nevada coach Mark Fox could do for the final 8 minutes of his team's BracketBuster game against VCU on Friday night was watch it on television.

Still, he knew the Wolf Pack was in good hands -- those of David Carter.

Under the guidance of the longtime Wolf Pack assistant coach, Nevada mounted a comeback for the ages inside Lawlor Events Center to beat VCU, 71-70, in front of 6,205 boisterous fans.

Down 60-51 with 8 minutes, 20 seconds remaining -- when Fox was ejected after picking up his second technical foul in 18 seconds -- Nevada closed the game on a 20-10 run to turn what looked like a certain loss into an improbable victory...

Go here for the remainder.

For a bevy of post-game quotes, go here.

Utah State makes the New York Times

We don't wish to make it bigger than it is but for any WAC basketball team to receive a feature article in the New York Times is remarkable. A hat tip to the Aggies. And yes, The Refraction is justly noted.

Off the Grid and on the Radar, Utah State Keeps Winning
Greg Bishop
New York Times
February 20, 2009

LOGAN, Utah — North of Salt Lake City near the Bear River mountains, visitors find a small college town in the valley, blanketed with snow and ranked among the safest cities in America — for everyone except opposing basketball teams.

The 26-year-old forward Gary Wilkinson is a former high school dropout who leads Utah State (25-2) in scoring and rebounding.

In his 11th season at Utah State, Stew Morrill has won at least 23 games in 10 consecutive seasons and is 157-12 at home.

Home to Utah State, this postcard city of nearly 50,000 boasts a coach who wins as consistently as anyone in college basketball, a hornet’s nest of a student section, and a mascot, the bull Big Blue, who descends from inside the overhead video screen during introductions.

Utah State (25-2) plays at St. Mary’s (21-5) on Saturday in a rare national television appearance. The game will showcase an Aggies’ roster filled with junior-college standouts, academic casualties and calculated risks, including players from three countries and six states and seven players who embarked on Mormon missions...

Go here for the remainder.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Jeff Ledbetter update

Out of Irvine Valley CC, Jeff Ledbetter signed a letter-of-intent with Idaho in November. In 29 games so far this season, Ledbetter is averaging 13.7 points per game, with 78 three-pointers. His points per game is tops on the team.

Overall, the 6-3, 190 Ledbetter is shooting 40.6% from the floor (131-323) and 38.4% on his three-point attempts (78-203).

He is tops on the team in assists with 2.7 a game and also in steals at 2.1 per contest.

Travis Mason-Bushman on the remaining WAC games

Travis Mason-Bushman analyzes the remaining games in the WAC schedule and the upper tier teams jockeying for position in the upcoming tourney.

Vandal Nation
The Argonaut’s Idaho Vandals blog
Travis Mason-Bushman
February 19, 2009

The Vandals’ huge home-floor upset of the Boise State Broncos has reset the outlook for the rest of Idaho’s season, and raises the serious potential of a top seed in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament. With four games left, it’s possible… but not without help.

Utah State has already clinched at least a share of the regular-season title, and is all but a lock to take the #1 seed. Four more teams, including the Vandals, are locked in a bitter struggle to be crowned Best of the Rest.

The real trick is getting a #2 or #3 seed. The way the brackets are paired — (1/8, 4/5), (2/7, 3/6) means that, in all likelihood, whoever gets the #4/5 set will meet Utah State in the semifinals… and could see their run end there. Whoever wants to get to meet USU in the finals, will have to come out of the 2/7, 3/6 bracket. The fight for second and third, then, becomes crucial...

Go here for the remainder.

A little more on Tyrone Hansen's latest departure

Chris Murray has talked with Tyrone Hansen's latest former coach.

Hanson's dismissal from JC team 'very similar' to Nevada situation
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
February 20, 2009

Former Nevada basketball player Tyrone Hanson was given a second chance at Nevada and threw it away. He was given a second chance at Arkansas-Fort Smith and did the same.

Hanson, who was kicked off the Wolf Pack in October 2007, was dismissed from his junior college team earlier this month for nearly an identical transgression.

"It was a very, very similar situation that occurred at Nevada," his JC coach, Josh Newman, said Thursday, declining to provide the exact rule he violated.

Prior to last season, Nevada coach Mark Fox removed Hanson from the Wolf Pack when the sophomore went to a Halloween party after being instructed not to go out that night -- his second violation of team rules (the first was a positive marijuana test, which resulted in him being suspended from a scrimmage). Hanson was beaten and robbed at the Halloween party, which resulted in a triple homicide...

Go here for the remainder.

Move the WAC tourney?

Craig Hislop of KVNU has a contribution today in the Herald Journal about the WAC tournament:

WAC needs to move tournament
Craig Hislop
Herald Journal
February 20, 200

It came up again Tuesday at the Coppermill coach’s luncheon and, true to form, Stew Morrill was hardly timid in his response.

“It” is the Western Athletic Conference post-season basketball tournament and why can’t we, asked an exasperated Aggie fan, get this thing at a neutral site?

In a few days — and most certainly with a regular season championship secured — the Stew Crew heads to Reno and the WAC tourney which will determine the league’s official representative into the NCAA Tournament.

Hosting this year is Nevada’s Wolf Pack, a program in recent years that’s always at or near the top in regular season standings. They’re plenty good enough already, why should they have home court advantage in an era when, be assured, Utah State will never host this tournament.

Murmur all you want, the Pack’s got it, this year and next.

Coach Morrill Tuesday reminded the crowd WAC coaches once voted — unanimously — that when the tournament’s two seasons in Las Cruces were done, the proceedings thereafter be conducted at a neutral site...

Go here for the remainder.

A Shawn Harrison feature on Stavon Williams

We love features on the young men who rarely get media attention and Shawn Harrison comes through today:

Knocking down 3’s
Shawn Harrison
Herald Journal
February 20, 2009

When he is on, look out.

A handful of Aggie opponents have witnessed first hand just how hot Stavon Williams can get. When the junior starts scoring, it usually comes in a flurry and mostly from 3-point range.

“Stavon is a guy that can take three shots and score nine points,” Utah State associate coach Tim Duryea said. “A threat like that, especially when you have an offensive post presence like we do, a guy like Stavon coming off the bench is even more valuable. Guys like him are rare.”

And the Aggies are glad to have him...

Go here for the remainder.

Hawaii takes down Fresno State

It wasn't always the prettiest to watch but the effort on the court was everpresent. No game comes down to a single play but certainly a key play was freshman Bryce Cartwright going for a stolen pass and missing and Kareem Nitoto's subsequent layup. Nobody seemed to rotate over to shut off Nitoto's drive.

From Daniel Lyght:

Hawaii men sweep past Bulldogs
Fresno State unable to rally in final minutes vs. Warriors.
Daniel Lyght
The Fresno Bee
February 20, 2009

Prime time was Sylvester Seay's time Thursday night at the Save Mart Center, but his 22 points, rim-shaking dunks, and soft shooting touch couldn't lift Fresno State over Hawaii in a nationally televised game on ESPN2.

The Bulldogs lost 73-69 in the return game of the Western Athletic Conference series, completing the Warriors' season sweep.

Still, Thursday night's contest went much more smoothly than the first meeting between the teams, in which the Bulldogs were trampled 69-43 in Honolulu. The Bulldogs scored just 10 first-half points in that game.

"It was close but we're not there yet because we're not at the point yet where everybody is doing exactly what they need to do at that exact time," coach Steve Cleveland said. "There's a great deal of fight in this group and they're going to compete and not quit, but over 40 minutes we made too many mistakes..."

Go here for the remainder.

Here are a pair of staff reports from the two Hawaii newspapers:

Star-Bulletin staff
Feb 20, 2009

The Rainbow Warriors were steely when it mattered against Fresno State and escaped with a 73-69 victory last night at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.

Roderick Flemings put in 12 of 13 free throws en route to 22 points and 12 rebounds as Hawaii (13-12, 5-8 Western Athletic Conference) moved past idle San Jose State for sole possession of sixth place in the WAC. It was UH's second road victory in WAC play and its second home-and-home sweep of a conference opponent this year.

After allowing Nevada to score the game's final eight points in a 47-46 loss on Saturday, the Rainbows stayed composed late by scoring on six of their final eight possessions.

That included four straight pressure free throws made by Flemings and Kareem Nitoto to put the game away in the final 21 seconds...
Go here for the remainder.


UH turns back Fresno State
Flemings has 22 points, 12 rebounds in 'Bows' 73-69 road victory
Advertiser Staff

The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team proved it does not belong on the bottom of the Western Athletic Conference with a 73-69 road victory over Fresno State last night.

The Rainbow Warriors moved into sole possession of sixth place in the WAC by completing a home-and-home sweep of the last-place Bulldogs.

In a game nationally televised on ESPN2 from the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., Roderick Flemings had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead a balanced Hawai'i attack.

"We didn't do things to beat ourselves," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "We stayed in our offense, we stayed focused no matter what the situation, and I thought our defense really stepped up in the second half."

The 'Bows improved to 13-12 overall and 5-8 in the WAC. Hawai'i may have played itself out of the play-in game for the WAC Tournament because it now owns sweeps of eighth-place Louisiana Tech and ninth-place Fresno State...
Go here for the remainder.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Idaho brings a broom

Well, Idaho did it so without further babbling:

Idaho rallies to beat BSU, complete season sweep
Nick Jezierny
Idaho Statesman

Call it good defense or bad offense - it was probably a combination of both.

But the bottom line is what happened in the final 9 minutes of Wednesday night's men's basketball game between Boise State and Idaho allowed the Vandals to rally for an improbable 56-54 win in front of 10,246 fans at Taco Bell Arena on Marvin Jefferson's basket with 4.3 seconds left.

Boise State (17-8 overall, 7-5 WAC), which started the game on a 15-2 tear, made only one field goal in the final 9 minutes, allowing the Vandals (12-13, 6-6) to sweep the season series against their in-state rival for the first time since the 1998-99 season.

"To beat an instate rival on the road, in that kind of basketball game in this kind of atmosphere, it's as big as it gets for the University of Idaho," first-year Vandal coach Don Verlin said.

And it doesn't get any more disappointing for the Broncos, who were playing in front of their largest home crowd of the season...

Go here for the remainder.

Here's Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation:

Our final score IN AN ABSOLUTE THRILLER, Idaho Vandals 56, Boise State Broncos 54. We’ll have a complete game report in the morning - until then, please check the liveblog archive for a play-by-play game account!

9:30 p.m. Mountain: I’m sitting on the student bus using BSU’s Wi-Fi until we leave, so these will be quick thoughts… Marvin Jefferson had an absolute career night. He was clutch all-around, sinking free throws, making huge blocks and scoring the game-winning bucket with 4 seconds left. He stayed out of foul trouble, again - he has turned a corner and the Vandals are better for it.

3 a.m. Pacific: I’m back in Moscow, with a few more thoughts.

The Vandals looked desperately lost in the first five minutes, and the game was looking for all the world like the same offensive collapse that doomed them in Honolulu. The scoreboard read 15-2 in favor of Boise State and Idaho was shooting 1-for-10 from the field. The Broncos seemed to be able to drain 3-pointers at will (led by Paul Noonan’s precision shooting), and they were having their way on the boards as well...
Go here for the remainder and here for his update.

Brian Murphy checks in about the disappointment permeating Boise:

Daily Debate: Bronco men squander a big opportunity
Brian Murphy
Idaho Statesman

Boise State sucked the air out of the ball, the noise out of Taco Bell Arena and the steam out of their budding fan base in the second half Wednesday night.

The Broncos did it by standing around. And standing around. And standing around.

Seemingly every second-half possession for the Broncos became an agonizing routine - pass the ball around the perimeter while the shot clock dwindled down, then have someone try to go one-on-one against the rival Idaho's defense.

Boise State gave away 25 seconds on each possession. A team that loves to push the tempo and play in transition allowed itself to be dragged into a back-alley brawl, a grind-it-out game that clearly favored the visitors...
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Greg Allen scores 35

We don't know the current status of matters between Eureka High (CA) backcourter Greg Allen and the Idaho Vandals but such should become more concrete in a months or six weeks when recruiting picks up. Allen scored 35 in a game last night:

Sunk in overtime: Eureka takes advantage of Mack mistakes for win
Ray Aspuria
The Times-Standard

EUREKA -- Fighting back to tie the game and taking advantage of a technical error, the Eureka High boys basketball team defeated McKinleyville 72-62 in overtime on Tuesday night in the opening foray of the Dick Niclai Tournament.

Watching its sizable lead vanish before them in regulation, McKinleyville was down 64-62 in overtime with 1:12 left to play.

Panthers' co-head coach Aaron Hungerford looked up at the scoreboard and instructed his players to foul until they got six, one short of the one-and-one bonus free throw situation. The players followed orders, but, what Hungerford thought was the sixth foul was actually the seventh.

The scoreboard he relied upon was incorrect and the decision to foul sealed the game.

The foul put Eureka's Greg Allen (who finished with a game-high 35 points) on the free throw line...

Go here for the remainder.

Idaho versus Boise State on Wednesday

At the risk of repeating, we usually don't post game previews but Nick Jezierny has such a great one today that it deserves greater circulation.

Matchups: The games within the Boise State-Idaho game
Nick Jezierny
Idaho Statesman

There is no doubt about the key matchup in Wednesday night's men's basketball game between Boise State and Idaho.

Point guards Mac Hopson of Idaho and Anthony Thomas of BSU are the unquestionable team leaders and the spark plugs for their teams.

"It's a matchup that both guys enjoy, and I think it's the key matchup for the game," Idaho coach Don Verlin said. "I think Boise has a lot of good players and can score in a number of different ways, but it seems like when they have really played well that Anthony Thomas has kind of been their catalyst."

But it's not the only one that will help determine the outcome of the WAC game between the Broncos (17-7, 7-4) and Vandals (11-13, 5-6).

"Anthony's no different than Hopson," BSU coach Greg Graham said. "When Hopson's on, they're hard to beat. When Anthony plays (well), we're much better..."

Go here for the remainder and that's an order.

Jason Groves with a nice feature on NMSU's point

Prior to this season, if someone has queried us as to who Hernst Laroche is, we probably would have said a movie or television character actor. Maybe he was in "The Lives of Others" a superb German movie which deservedly won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Now it's certainly true we don't get out and around much but our guess is most folks would have offered a similar answer.

Jason Groves came to our rescue earlier with the 411 on Laroche and here he fills us in on how successful a season the freshman is enjoying:

Laroche improves for NMSU basketball team
Jason Groves
Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES — Hernst Laroche had an interesting pair of games over the weekend.

In Western Athletic Conference home games, the New Mexico State freshman point guard from Montreal had two opposite stat lines, but the result was the same — two Aggies victories.

"We are trying to go strong before the WAC Tournament," Laroche said.

With his nine assists on Monday against Louisiana Tech, Laroche passed Josh Jenkins for the most assists by a freshman in school history with 114 on the year...

Go here for the remainder.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We almost forgot...

Somehow we almost overlooked this lengthy feature on Idaho Assistant Coach Ray Lopes. There is one very personal but crucial question we would have liked to see asked and answered in the article: why did Lopes cheat? It seems incomplete without this.

Lopes rebounds with Vandals
William Love
Idaho Press

Ray Lopes can't help but laugh when asked about the unique relationship between the state of Idaho and his coaching career.

Lopes is a native of Connecticut and graduated high school in California, but it's in Idaho where he started coaching basketball after a successful two-year playing career at the College of Idaho. And it's in Idaho where Lopes made his return to the profession after his resignation as head coach of Fresno State in 2005 in the wake of recruiting violations.

"Maybe there is a bigger picture for me within the basketball world and the state of Idaho — I don't know," Lopes said. "I am sure if there is it will be a good thing, because I have had nothing but good years up here..."

Go here for the remainder.

It's Chris Murray Day at PTW

No, we are not Chris Murray's agent nor are we in any way related to the Murray clan so put those rumors to rest before Matt Drudge gets ahold of them. But here's yet another article today from Murray:

WAC notebook: SJSU players might get along too well
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
February 17, 2009

Before the college basketball season started, the most popular dark horse in the Western Athletic Conference was San Jose State.

After all, the Spartans returned all five starters from the previous season -- each of whom averaged at least 10 points per game -- and added impact transfer Adrian Oliver from Washington.

The WAC coaches thought enough of SJSU to vote the team fourth in the preseason poll, even though the Spartans were coming off an eighth-place finish in league.

However, SJSU has gone from dark horse title contender to fighting to stay out of the WAC Tournament play-in game.

The most obvious contributing factor to that has been a siege of injuries...

Go here for the remainder.

Chris Murray on WAC pairings

We didn't know which way to swing for an introduction here. Our first reaction (craven as it was) to Chris Murray's opening paragraph was quite the sexist one as he omitted, well, you know -- and his editor is probably breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Dragging ourselves out of the gutter (or at least our mind as the rest is quite comfortable positioned thusly), we loved the idea behind this article. Good work!

WAC analysis: Picking the WAC's best pairs
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal
February 17, 2009

Good things often come in pairs. Peanut butter and jelly. Abbott and Costello. Batman and Robin. Mario and Luigi.

The same holds true in sports, where dynamic duos have captivated audiences while leading their team to championships.

In football, there's Montana and Rice. In basketball, Jordan and Pippen. In baseball, Ruth and Gehrig.

Here's a look at the best duos in Western Athletic Conference basketball.

1. PG Armon Johnson and PF Luke Babbitt, Nevada

This locally grown duo gives the Wolf Pack a true inside-out presence, with the 6-foot-3 Johnson running the point and the 6-9 Babbitt capable of scoring on the low block or the perimeter.

Their 31.4 combined points per game is second in the WAC (behind only NMSU's Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson, 31.8 ppg). If anything, Nevada has become too reliant on Johnson and Babbitt carrying the scoring load. They have scored 45.4 percent of the team's points this season -- the most of any pair of players in the league.

"They've got two guys, that a lot of people think will play for money someday, in point guard Armon Johnson and fabulous freshman Luke Babbitt," Utah State coach Stew Morrill told the Standard-Examiner earlier this season...

Go here for the remainder.

Chris Murray offers his WAC team rankings

Chris Murray is out with his weekly WAC team rankings:

Nevada, Boise State battle for second spot in WAC rankings
Chris Murray
Reno Gazette-Journal

1. Utah State
Record: 24-2, 12-1
Last week’s rank: 1
Last game: Lost to Boise State, 66-56, in Boise
Next: Wednesday vs. Cal-State Bakersfield

Comment: Despite the loss to Boise State last week, Utah State can still drop one more game (maybe two) and expect to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament...

Go here for the remainder.

Another take on the crowd at the Boise State - Utah State game

Shawn Harrison of The Herald Journal has a WAC column today (go here) and a section of it amused us.

Storming the court

There is no arguing BSU fans love their football and support the team at home or on the road.

But when it comes to basketball, well, let’s just say they are still in search of fans. It’s weird, because there have been some good Bronco teams over the past few years.

There was a rather large crowd on hand when USU came to town, but a big reason was the football team being on hand for an autograph session before the game — which required a ticket to the basketball game — and many Aggie fans showing up.

The chanting USU students — led by the group that call themselves the “Spectrum on Wheels” — certainly added to the atmosphere. The Bronco students seemed to be more concerned with what was going on in the Aggie section than what was going on between the hoops.

When it came time to celebrate the upset over the ranked Aggies, the students did storm the court. I’ve been asked by people who watched the game on television if security didn’t allow more Bronco students onto the court. No, that’s all there were.

I’m not good with numbers, but perhaps there were a 100 or so.

At least each of the BSU students got to get up and personal with the Bronco players.

The Spectrum on Wheels? Doesn't the Mann Act prohibit crossing state lines for the purposes of... Oh, we guess we're confusing matters or in what some simply call our normal state of mind.

A Hawaii recruiting target?

Here's a kid Utah State was looking at (maybe still is) and now Hawaii is too.

Markovich heating up again
Anthony Ray Recruiting Analyst

The top remainning uncommitted recruiting target in the state of Arizona's 2009 class has been Basha High School's 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior guard Nick Markovich.

Markovich saw his recruitment soar in the fall, especially after being selected as the Tournament Most Valuable Player from last year's Arizona Preps Fall Showcase. As a result, Markovich received numerous visits to his school by college coaches, including visits from assistant coaches from such schools as Iowa, Colorado State, Utah State and SMU...

...Markovich will also be receiving a visit at Tuesday's (2/17) home game against St. Mary's HS from assistant coach Larry Walker from the University of Hawaii...

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