Offseason news and notes from the WAC.
The Broncos had their shot last season, and will now be doing a lot of starting over.
Boise State was 25-9 overall, tied for the WAC lead in the regular season with a 12-4 mark, and then won the WAC tournament to qualify for the team's first NCAA berth since 1994.
All that was with the best post tandem in the league -- first-team all-conference Reggie Larry and second-teamer Matt Nelson. They accounted for 35.1 points and 16.5 rebounds per game. The other lost starters are forward Tyler Tiedeman (13.9 ppg) and guard Matt Bauscher, a member of the WAC's all-defensive team. All four signed this summer to play professionally overseas.
It starts with junior guard Anthony Thomas, who averaged 8.5 points and had 141 assists, the third-best total in school history.
Boise State has eight other returning letterman, but none who averaged more than 4.8 points -- that being wing Paul Noonan, a sophomore who will be asked to play a leading role this season.
The Broncos were 10th nationally in scoring last season (81.4) with the talent and experience to play the fast pace coach Greg Graham prefers. How to replace all that scoring is big concern, as Boise likely will dip back to the middle of the WAC.
The summer brought plenty of change to Fresno State's roster.
Part of the bad news was that 6-foot-5 guard Bryan Harvey, who averaged 10.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 17 games last season before being declared academically ineligible, will not be returning. The school announced on Aug. 14 that he would transfer to an NAIA school, where he would be immediately eligible.
Harvey would have been a big help to a Fresno State team already dealing with the loss of starters Kevin Bell, Eddie Miller, Hector Hernandez and Alex Blair.
On the plus side, Cleveland picked up a commitment (for the 2009-10 season) from area big man Greg Smith, rated the 35th-best prospect in the nation by Rivals.com. Smith had originally committed to Arizona.
For this season, Cleveland added combo guard Brandon Sperling in August. He is from Fresno's Buchanan High School. That move was needed because standout recruit Reggie Moore, a point guard, asked out of his letter of intent in July.
In other summer developments, Fresno State added junior college wing Brian Seals for this season.
There aren't a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Hawaii's upcoming season, but the biggest one is Roderick Flemings, a 6-7 junior college All-American who picked the Warriors over Kentucky.
Flemings made that decision in April, when he signed a letter of intent, but bigger news came in the summer when he finished up the classwork he needed to become eligible.
Flemings averaged 20.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.7 steals per game last season at Weatherford College in Texas. Head coach Bob Nash said Flemings is the program's best recruit since Anthony Carter in 1996.
Hawaii is in dire need to star power after losing its top four scorers -- Matt Gibson (17.0 ppg), Bobby Nash, (13.7), Riley Luettgerodt (12.8) and Jared Dillinger (9.7). Even with those guys, Hawaii was just 11-19 overall and 7-9 in the WAC.
Junior forward Bill Amis (8.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg) is the only returning start for a young team that likely will struggle to match last season's conference record.
Idaho has a new coach -- Don Verlin -- and a roster that features only five guys who played for the Vandals last season.
Transition is nothing new for Idaho, which had actually looked as if it was making some progress, finishing 8-21 overall and 5-11 in the WAC last season. But the school gave George Pfeifer his walking papers after only two seasons on the job.
Verlin has a good resume, having served as an assistant to Stew Morrill for 15 seasons, including the past 11 at perennial winner Utah State.
Verlin made a clear, early statement that he was in charge. After the spring semester, he dismissed the team's best player -- second-team all-conference forward Jordan Brooks -- as well as good 3-point shooter Mike Hall.
That might mean more short-term growing pains for Idaho, which probably will battle just to stay out of the WAC cellar this season while Verlin works on establishing a foundation and working hard on the recruiting trail.
The Bulldogs took their lumps last season in coach Kerry Rupp's debut. While it was difficult to go through a 6-24 season, it was somewhat acceptable because 2008-09 looked so much better.
Louisiana Tech could make a big improvement in the WAC this season because three big-school transfers now become eligible -- post players Magnum Rolle (LSU) and Kenneth Cooper (Oklahoma State), and guard Jamel White (Nebraska).
The Bulldogs also welcome former Idaho player David Jackson, who averaged 7.2 points as a freshman before playing last season in junior college. Center Shawn Oliverson, more of a project, spent a season at Cornell.
Rupp is going to have to incorporate so many new players to the roster this season. He has just four returning players. After the spring semester, Dwayne Lathan, Brandon Mims, Drew Washington and Orren Tims were all dismissed.
Rupp knows he can count on junior guard Kyle Gibson, who averaged 16.5 points last season. Point guard J.C. Clark averaged 9.5 ppg last season, but probably will have a smaller role this time around because of all the new talent.
Nevada isn't as big or as talented as recent Wolf Pack teams. But in what looks like a collective youth movement throughout much of the WAC, Nevada might still be the team to beat.
The Pack was 21-12 overall and 12-4 in the WAC last season, but failed to win the conference tournament and was shut out of the NCAA tourney. And that was with 6-11 center JaVale McGee, who then was an early entry into the NBA Draft, where he was the 18th overall selection.
McGee is one of four players gone from last season who were at least 6-8.
Also gone is 6-5 guard Marcelus Kemp, who averaged 20.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season.
So, why will Nevada still be a favorite to win the WAC?
Start with sophomore combo guard Armon Johnson, the league's Freshman of the Year last season, when he averaged 11.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Then add in 6-9 freshman forward Luke Babbitt -- a local high school star who was rated No. 31 nationally by Rivals.com -- and you've got the makings of a championship team this season.
You also have a combination that could really wreak havoc in the WAC for two more years beyond that.
Coach Marvin Menzies might need patience this season. Ten of his 14 players are either freshmen or sophomores.
He has one senior.
Menzies lost nine players from last season's team, which was 21-14 overall and tied for first in the regular season with a 12-4 record. Among the departed are guards Justin Hawkins and Fred Peete, big men Martin Iti and Hatila Passos, and forward Wendell McKines, who left after a promising freshman season.
On the other hand, most teams in the WAC would trade for Menzies' talent.
This should be the season in which sophomore forward Herb Pope lives up to his recruiting hype. Limited to 16 games last season while the NCAA sorted out his eligibility, Pope still started 12 of those contests and averaged 11.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
The 6-8 forward will be a top candidate -- perhaps the No. 1 candidate -- for conference player of the year.
He will have help from junior guard Jonathan Gibson (a returning starter who averaged 12.2 ppg and is one of the league's top long-range shooters) and sophomore guard Jahmar Young, who averaged 10.3 points last year.
Young, however, is facing a September trial date on misdemeanor charges of assault, battery and resisting arrest.
San Jose State's long suffering might be over.
The Spartans, who haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1996, is the only team in the WAC to return all five of its starters from last season. SJSU faded down the stretch, finishing 13-19 overall and 4-12 in the conference.
It's still a big jump to the top of the league, but with much of the rest of the league rebuilding, San Jose State has a great chance to be one of the top three or four teams in the conference.
The only key loss is senior guard Jamon Hill, who averaged 6.7 points and served as an injury replacement for Justin Graham.
Graham, a 6-4 point guard, is back for his sophomore season after averaging 10.7 points and 2.9 assists as a redshirt freshman. His numbers would have been better if he had not been slowed by a January elbow injury.
This is a balanced team -- all five returning starters averaged between 10.1 points and 11.3 points last season -- that will get a huge boost with the addition of former Washington Husky Adrian Oliver. The sophomore guard will be eligible in December.
San Jose State lost eight games by six points or less last season; its easy to see the Spartans turning that around this year.
Utah State has been in some sort of postseason tournament for nine consecutive seasons. The Aggies have enough to make it 10, even without star guard Jaycee Carroll.
Carroll, a shooting ace and the school's career points leader, exhausted his eligibility, but the Aggies do have three returning starters from a team that went 24-11 overall, 12-4 in the WAC and advanced to the NIT, where they lost in the opening round 61-57 at Illinois State.
Carroll signed in August with an Italian team.
Utah State doesn't appear to be a major threat for the NCAAs, but the Aggies are a consistent program that isn't expected to just fade away. They have won 23 games in nine consecutive seasons.
The 2008-09 team starts up front with 6-9 senior forward Gary Wilkinson, who averaged 13.3 points and 7.0 rebounds while earning second-team all-conference honors last season. He is joined by another 240-pounder -- sophomore Tai Wesley, who made a mid-season splash and finished at 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
They should each increase their production as they become the focus of this post-Carroll team.