Posted on: March 6, 2012 9:25 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 11:19 am

What-to-know conference previews: WAC

Mark Fox was the coach and Nick Fazekas the star last time Nevada was positioned to make the NCAA Tournament.

Now Fox is at Georgia and Fazekas is playing professionally in the Philippines.

But Nevada -- with a different coach and different star -- is back.

The Wolfpack finished the regular season with a 25-5 record and won the WAC title by three games. They've only lost twice since Nov. 25. They only lost one league game -- to Idaho in early February. And yet, still, Nevada probably needs to win the WAC Tournament to ensure a spot in the NCAA Tournament because David Carter's team is 0-3 against the Top 50 with an RPI in the 40s. That's not awful, but it's not great either. So the Wolfpack would be wise to win three games in Las Vegas, cut nets and relax. Anything short of that could make for a stressful Selection Sunday.

New Mexico State is the No. 2 seed this week.

Nevada beat the Aggies twice this season by an average of six points.



Schedule: Wednesday through Saturday in Las Vegas

Title game: Saturday at noon ET


  • Deonte Burton (Nevada)
  • Olek Czyz (Nevada)
  • Vander Joaquim (Hawaii)
  • Preston Medlin (Utah State)
  • Wendell McKines (New Mexico State)

Conference RPI: 12

KenPom.com rating: 12

Sagarin rating: 13

NCAA tournament locks: None

NCAA tournament bubble teams: Nevada

Last NCAA tournament appearances

  • Utah State: 2011
  • Boise State: 2008
  • Idaho: 1990
  • New Mexico State: 2010
  • Hawaii: 2002
  • Nevada: 2007
  • Fresno State: 2001
  • San Jose State: 1996
-- Gary Parrish
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Gary Parrish, WAC
Posted on: January 26, 2012 3:33 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 3:38 pm

Nevada's Carter answering critics with success

Deonte Burton has helped get Nevada out to an 18-3 record. The Wolf Pack are one of the quietest teams in hoops with a really impressive mark. (AP)

By Jeff Goodman

Nevada coach David Carter heard the whispers last season, whether he was the right man for the job. The Wolf Pack had won at least 20 games seven consecutive seasons and expectations had risen in Reno. 

"Oh, yeah," said Carter, who took over for Mark Fox after a decade as an assistant to both Fox and Trent Johnson. "I didn't expect fans to understand, but we had seven freshmen and 10 new players. I knew we were going to struggle." 

But 13-19 doesn't fly at Nevada -- even if you only bring back one starter and lose nearly 90 percent of your offensive production. Well, Carter has those in Reno on his side again, after a 16-3 start -- which includes 13 consecutive wins and a 5-0 start in WAC play. 

Tonight, though, is where Nevada can put some distance between itself and second-place New Mexico State when the teams meet in Las Cruces. 

"I think there's more pressure on New Mexico State to hold at home," Carter said. 

He's right because if the Wolf Pack pull out the road win, Carter's team will hold a two-game lead over the Aggies and still have New Mexico State at home in the final regular-season game. 

Carter's group is led by sophomore point guard Deonte Burton, who is averaging 15.2 points and 4.8 assists per game and went for 31 in a win over Washington and 28 in a loss at UNLV earlier this season.

"Last year was the first time he ever played point guard full time," said Carter, who compares him to one of Jay Wright's old 'Nova guards. "He understands the system and when he goes, we go." 

USC transfer Malik Story dropped about 20 pounds in the offseason and has excelled, averaging 14.5 points while shooting 49 percent from beyond the arc. Another transfer, ex-Duke forward Olek Czyz, is putting up 11.4 points and 6.1 boards and senior big man Dario Hunt is nearly averaging a double-double (9.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg). 

The three losses are all legit: against Missouri State in the season-opener, at UNLV and against BYU. The loss to to the Cougars was the last time that Nevada tasted defeat and that was way back on Nov. 25. 

Carter said the season may have changed on Dec. 2 against a Washington team that pummeled them a year earlier. 

"That was the turning point," he said. "It showed us we belonged." 

Now, if Carter and his players can get a victory tonight at New Mexico State, the Wolf Pack will likely have earned one of the elite spots in the Feb. 18 Bracket Busters event. 

That's reserved for the best mid-major teams in the country.  

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 24, 2011 11:17 am

Xavier now 0-3 since the Cincy brawl

By Matt Norlander

Has anything gone right for Xavier since around 1:50 p.m. on Dec. 10? In the dead of the night, while you were sleeping and getting in as much rest before your Christmas Eve festivities, the Musketeers got knocked off in overtime, 84-82, by 6-5 Hawaii. Prior to last night, Hawaii hadn't beat a team ranked higher than 297 in KenPom's system. Xavier was once 8-0 and looking Final Four-caliber. Now does anyone have any idea what's happening?

It's bizarre. Only Dezmine Wells was missing from last night's game for X, still serving his four-game suspension for his involvement in the brouhaha with Cincinnati. Tu Holloway scored 26, Mark Lyons had 18. X was better on the boards, forced more turnovers and hit nine 3s to Hawaii's four. But it still lost. It still can't correct itself in the wake of college basketball's ugliest moment this season.

I've said before I would try my best to never schedule my team between Dec. 22 and Dec. 26 due to the holidays and all distraction/homesickness that comes with it, but Xavier's problems have little to do with being preoccupied by Christmas -- they'll be playing on Dec. 25 as is, only in the lowest-tiered bracket of the Diamond Head Classic. The game will be against 3-6 Southern Illinois. This is a tournament Xavier should have won; it's really something to see how everything's changed in the past two weeks.

This team is spiraling down right now, obviously. It's a turn of events no one saw coming. The power of punches and the side effects have led to three straight losses and certainly damaged this time psychologically. The last time the program lost three in a row was early in the 2004-05 season, which was Sean Miller's first year as Muskies head man.

Can you get healthy off of Southern Illinois? I don't know, but Gonzaga comes next, on New Year's Eve, and the Bulldogs will be ready and awaiting the challenge -- if it ends up being that. The good news is X gets that game at home.

I can't call it karma -- Cincy was just as at fault for the fight, and it's averaged 96 points in four straight wins since the brawl -- but in no way did I think Xavier would fall apart like this. You didn't, either. Seasons can get away from teams fast in college basketball. We've seen many examples of promising starts spin out into NIT bids. I don't think Xavier's hurtling toward that inferior tournament, but I do think a team that claimed to be proud, brash, unwilling to back down to anyone has looked rattled and intimidated for the past two weeks.

"Zip 'em up" was first a Xavier tough-guy motto. Then it became a point of criticism. Now it's a mocking call.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:24 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 12:31 pm

Utah State fans taunt BYU's arrival

By Matt Norlander

This is just great. You know, Utah State's probably got a top-10 fan base (passionately and creatively speaking) among college basketball programs. But they don't really receive the national love for that. To be fair, Wild Bill's act has taken off in recent years and us Twitter addicts chime in on the decorative nature of the student section while watching games late at night.

Still, most everyone doesn't realize or endear themselves to the nutbags in Logan. The games haven't begun yet (so close!), but that didn't stop USU's students from letting BYU know they're in for a world of hell during tonight's game.

It's arrogant, harmless, passionate and well-organized. Looking forward to peering in for another season at the Spectrum.


Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 3, 2011 10:12 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 10:59 am

Hawaii gets military training of its own

By Matt Norlander

A few weeks back we told you about VCU undergoing Navy SEAL-like training as a prep for its preseason. The idea isn't novel, but only a handful of hoops teams actually endure such rigors each season, so we wanted to highlight it.

Since Hawaii's supplied some video, we're more than happy to give the Warriors credit for grinding it out with the Marines. And like VCU's players, Hawaii's had no idea what was coming until they got to where they were going. Early Saturday morning the team was transported to the Marine Corps Base, located in Kaneohe, which is on the island of Oahu.

Below we have what is going to be the first of a few videos. But, whereas VCU had three early-morning training sessions, Hawaii's players were forced to survive just one morning, and two hours total, of brutality from barrel-chested officers who were all too willing to break in the basketball newbies. The Warriors were decent last year, going 19-13, but losing their first five conference games to start the slate forced the club to chase the rest of the way.

The video below is basically what you'd expect it to be: an officer berating the slack out of Hawaii's players.

Hawaii Basketball - Warriors Train With Marines from Warrior Insider on Vimeo.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: June 2, 2011 11:26 am
Edited on: June 2, 2011 11:58 am

Utah/BYU feud heats up over transfer

Larry KrystkowiakPosted by Eric Angevine

The Church of Latter Day Saints comes in for a lot of ribbing these days. There's the BYU honor code scrap from this past winter, and a hit Broadway musical from the creators of South Park. Those of us who aren't members of the church don't understand the strictures believers willingly adhere to, so they seem like fair game to make light of.

One of those strictures is the requirement that young church members travel to perform a religious mission. It's the reason players for Utah, BYU, Utah State, Weber State, etc. are often older than their peers - they leave and come back to continue their playing careers.

Apparently, there's an unwritten rule that players on Mormon missions cannot be recruited by other programs. Utah - on its way to the Pac-12 - is accusing Brigham Young - on its way to the WCC - of violating that rule. 6-foot-7 forward Josh Sharp is a Utah signee who has been away for two years. He's enrolled in summer classes at BYU while still on his sojurn, though BYU has not officially signed him, and can't comment on his status as a result.

Here's a statement from new Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak (right), as cited in the Salt Lake City Tribune:

"We want Josh to be a part of our program and are disappointed that rival schools can take advantage of a loophole in the system should they choose," Krystkowiak said in the statement last week. "Josh attended classes here for a year, signed an NLI and financial aid agreement [but not simultaneously], and we want him to continue his education and playing career here. It is my understanding that there is an unwritten rule that players cannot be recruited by other schools while they are serving missions. To do so is not only inappropriate, but it creates an atmosphere of ill will."

The Tribune article is careful to note that there is no evidence clarifying whether Sharp contacted BYU of his own accord or was "recruited" by the school while he was away. However it happened, though, the in-state rivalry seems primed to bubble away in perpetuity, even as the two schools drift in opposite directions on the currents of conference realignment.

Photo: US Presswire
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: May 31, 2011 9:36 am
Edited on: May 31, 2011 9:43 am

Is Utah State blocking potential WAC rivals?

Recent DI convert Utah Valley feels it can challenge for WAC supremacy.

Posted by Eric Angevine

Let's be honest. There's not much drama left in the WAC these days. With the conference undergoing frequent mitosis on football grounds, the league's guiding lights are left scrambling to preserve some semblance of basketball viability for the near future. To that end, they've brought the Denver Pioneers aboard as basketball-only members, and are considering doing the same for Seattle, a school that only recently resumed playing DI hoops.

Several other institutions of higher learning are under consideration for WAC slots, and one of them is already crying foul over alleged interference. Utah Valley, which just completed an 11-1 run through the inaugural Great West hoops season, is gunning to move up to the WAC as soon as possible, setting up a natural rivalry with league basketball bully Utah State. In fact, the Mouse that Roared (technically, they're Wolverines, but bear with me here) is so confident of success that it feels the Aggies are blocking the realignment bid, ducking the no doubt onerous task of recruiting against the school down the road in Orem, Utah.

"Other people in the WAC tell me that if Utah State would support us … we would get in," Utah Valley athletic director Michael Jacobsen told The Salt Lake Tribune last week. "We don’t think that we’re getting that support."

WAC commissioner Karl Benson acknowledges that UVU is being considered for a spot, but hasn't publicly addressed the Utah Valley foofaraw. So we'll leave it to Utah State president Stan Albrecht to give the more blunt assessment, again from the Tribune.

"That’s a bunch of B.S.," Albrecht said. "There’s nothing to block. We haven’t even met yet. People have been getting way ahead of themselves on the issue, and it’s unfortunate. Until we meet in June, there’s really nothing to talk about. The notion that we wouldn’t want to compete for recruits is completely untrue. Give me a break. We’ve competed for decades against Utah and BYU, and we’ve done quite well."

Heh. He's got a point there. In addition, as always, any and all conference realignments at the WAC level are filtered through the lens of football, a sport in which the 2012 version of the WAC will be largely irrelevant. Utah Valley doesn't sponsor football, so they're no help there. Craig Hislop of the Cache Valley Herald Journal laid that argument out in pretty definitive terms in a May 27th column:

Utah State's reality is this: If the WAC doesn't remain a viable football-playing conference, it leaves Aggie athletics in a world of hurt, speaking of desperate people.

Boise State leaves the league July 1. Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii will follow a year later.

When the 2012-13 academic year begins, five of the current WAC members will be elsewhere. The league has covered that contingency adding Texas-San Antonio and Texas State. So in 2012-13, WAC football will include seven schools. That is enough.

Let's say New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech search for other conference options. That rumor is out there, but it gets little traction since neither school appears atop the expansion lists of other conferences. But, should they ever depart, the WAC's football goose is cooked.

Thus, it's Utah State's top priority, and it should be the WAC's as well: Explore every option that keeps football a WAC-sponsored sport. Why be in a hurry to add basketball-only schools in June?

Where will Utah Valley be in a year? Where they are right now. Just as anxious and ambitious. And just as available.

The Aggies aren't standing IN Utah Valley's way; they're standing UP for keeping WAC football viable.

Bravo for Utah Valley, honestly. The school is making noise and staying in the discussion, even if they're full of it. As Hislop points out, however, all of the leverage -- as well as all of the risk -- falls on the side of the league's current members, of which Utah State is the most prominent. At this point, the world is still full of geographically reasonable options for the WAC. One of the most logical places for the league to look would be Montana, where the Grizzlies of the Big Sky have a viable DI hoops squad AND one of the best FCS football programs around.

The WAC needs to add gridirion to its diet. Until that craving is satisfied, Utah Valley will be stuck shouting from the sidelines.

Photo: US Presswire
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 13, 2011 1:35 am

Welcome to the Dance, Utah State Aggies

Utah State wins the WAC againThe No. 1 Utah State Aggies had little trouble securing their NCAA tournament bid in Las Vegas, beating the No. 2 seed Boise State Broncos 77-69 in Orleans Arena. Tai Wesley and Brockeith Pane each scored 19 to lead the Aggies to the WAC title over the MWC-bound Broncs. Senior forward Nate Bendall, who averages just over six points per game, had a fine evening with 16 points, and sharpshooter Brian Green threw in another 12.

The Aggies have been the team to beat in the WAC all season long, and the final game of the league in its current state empatically confirmed that early prediction.

The Vitals

Player to watch: Wild Bill, the portly gentleman who directs the fan response to action on the court. He is by far the most recognizable face in the gym when the Aggies play.

Record: 30-3 (15-1)

Colors: Blue and white

We're thinking: 10 seed

Kenpom ranking: 17

RPI: 39 

Best win: at St. Mary's

Worst Loss: at Idaho

Interesting stat: Utah State is a reasonably effective offensive team, but it's a great defensive team. The Aggies rank in the top 15 in defending opponents both inside and outside, and kenpom.com tags them as the 2nd best defensive rebounding squad in the nation. All of that combines to make them the sixth-best team by defensive efficiency rating, which should make them a very dangerous team to face in the Big Dance.

Most recent tourney appearance: 2010, lost to Texas A&M in the first round.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com