Tag:Mountain West
Posted on: May 25, 2011 3:12 pm

Conference Catch-up: Mountain West

New Mexico looks to rebound in 2011-12.

Posted by Eric Angevine

It may still feel like the Final Four just ended, but for most schools, the offseason is now more than two months old. With that in mind, all of us at the blog are going to take this week to give you what we’re calling “Conference Catch-Ups.” The motive is to recap the biggest storylines in college basketball’s offseason so far, plus keep your appetite whetted in what is the longest offseason in major American sports. In case you missed any of what's happened in the Mountain West, here it is.

The Big Stories

Headline No. 1: Realignment. Brigham Young, fresh off one of the best seasons in school history, is heading off to battle Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the burgeoning West Coast Conference. Utah is now in the Pac-12, and TCU is bringing Horned Frog madness to the Big East a year down the road. On the way in are Boise State (2011) and Fresno State and Nevada (2012). Our own Tony Barnhart questions the worth of the reconstituted league, but he’s talking mostly about football. Basketball-wise, the early returns are not likely to be as strong, either.

Headline No. 2: Lon Kruger is back in the Big 12. UNLV head coach Lon Kruger seemed like a guy who had been around and might actually be happy to finish out his career in Vegas. Not so. The former K-State, Florida, Illinois and NBA head man went back to the Big 12 to take over the Oklahoma squad that was left floundering by a legacy of talent without discipline built by Jeff Capel. Kruger is a relatively youthful 58, and may be just what the Sooners need to get back on track. In the meantime, it falls to Steve Fisher at SDSU and Steve Alford at New Mexico to provide a little continuity atop the league.

Headline No. 3: Rams bet on Miles. Colorado State didn’t make it to the Big Dance last season, but they could still hear the music well into March, which is something the school hasn’t experienced for some time. That was enough for AD Paul Kowalczyk, who gave head coach Tim Miles (right) a three-year extension with a reported $330,000 raise. Things are looking up in Fort Collins.

The Great Unknown

Can the momentum be maintained? Last season was a real thriller for Mountain West fans, as they watched San Diego State and BYU become top-ten programs behind dynamic players like Jimmer Fredette and Kawhi Leonard. UNLV was in and out of the national polls as well. Now both superstar players are headed for the NBA, Lon Kruger has departed, and the Cougars are no longer in the league. Will this evolving version of the conference retain any of the magic wrought in 2010-11? If there isn’t at least a slight dip in the league’s profile, it will come as a surprise.

NBA Draft report

Kawhi Leonard is rather wisely leaving SDSU while his stock is red-hot. He’s a bit undersized for a pro-level inside banger, but that’s never stopped him from yanking balls out of the sky or jamming them in the opposite hoop yet. Other than that, the biggest loss was The Jimmer, but that senior moment was unavoidable.


— Colton Iverson (Minnesota) to Colorado State.

— Zach Bohannon (Air Force).
— Nikola Cerina (TCU).
— Derrell Conner (Nevada).
— Marko Kukic (Nevada).
— Daylen Harrison (Wyoming).
— Sam Hicks (Boise State).
— Desmar Jackson (Wyoming) to Southern Illinois.
— Amath M’Baye (Wyoming) to Oklahoma.
— Maurice Wiltz (Colorado State).

Team commentary in 20 words or Less

Boise State hopes a change of scenery is a good thing.Air Force: Leading scorers Fow and Lyons come back to a middle-of the pack team that may still struggle to match up to the big boys.

Boise State: Former Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice oversaw a 20-win season for the Broncos in his first season. MWC will be a new challenge.

Colorado State: Tim Miles has the Rams on the right course. With BYU gone, there might be room at the top.

New Mexico: Dairese Gary is gone from a team that went 8-8 in the league last season. UCLA transfer Drew Gordon must make hay in his senior year.

San Diego State: The tourney-ready roster from last season has been dismantled by graduation and early entry. Expect a rebuilding season.

TCU: Annually one of the worst basketball teams in the MWC. Thanks to football prowess, will soon be Big East’s burden.

UNLV: By all accounts, the Rebs made a good move in hiring BYU assistant Dave Rice. Could be a contender next season.

Wyoming: Larry Shyatt comes back to a team that floundered badly in league play last season. Maybe he learned something new at Florida.

Photos: US Presswire

Posted on: January 25, 2011 6:05 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2011 6:29 pm

MWC releases open-ended, boring statement

Posted by Matt Norlander

My goodness. That logo. It's creating a permanent imprint on my retinas.

Anyway, my colleague, Mr. Angevine, wrote a terrific post his morning regarding the future of the Mountain West Conference and how it's on its way to becoming a Big Boy. (The WAC? Rut-roh.)

Hey, this whole expansion thing is still a pretty big deal, even if neither the Mountain West or the WAC have the cash or cache like that of the Big Six (ACC, SEC, etc.).

With dogged reporting coming on the heels of massive speculation, many were waiting for the conference brass to release a statement at the beginning of this week. The good news — that has happened. The bad — it's a whole lot of stale language and a bunch of non-answers.
"Over the past two days, the Board of Directors has engaged in a very thorough discussion of several key topics pertinent to the future of the Mountain West Conference. This has included, but not been limited to, issues related to television, the Bowl Championship Series and membership. The Board feels strongly the membership configuration already established going forward creates outstanding prospects for future success. In addition, we are continuing with our strategic initiatives related to our television partnerships and the MWC's efforts to effect change in the BCS structure. The Board is excited about what is undoubtedly a bright future for the Conference."
Anyone else really, really psyched?


Confused? Yeah, perhaps some of that. This is some major conference change we're talking about here, and it seems the MWC isn't proud enough to boast its most recent or impending additions. Is Utah State out of the running? Gotta be careful, I suppose. After all, the MWC has been treated like a trashy college sophomore for the better part of the past eight months .

I guess a little more consternation and opacity is par for the course.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 18, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 10:30 am

WAC has been slowly dying for 15 years

Posted by Eric Angevine

I can see how this happened. Bailouts are au courant these days. Nobody wants to see cherished institutions fold, or good people losing jobs. It's a tumultuous time. Nonetheless, I admit to a little confusion in the case of the WAC. As our colleague Jerry Palm informed us recently, the Western Athletic Conference has been the beneficiary of a sort of NCAA restraining order  that promises the league an NCAA tourney auto-bid as long as it can maintain seven hoops-playing members. This, for a league that essentially killed itself 15 years ago (I'll explain. Hold tight).

First, consider: are we doing the WAC any favors by keeping it on life support at this point? Looking at kenpom.com's Conference Ratings, the WAC is now the 14th most powerful league in the country , well behind likely one-bid conferences like the Missouri Valley, CAA, and Horizon League. Once Hawaii's hoops program joins the Big West, that conference -- currently ranked 15th -- will probably leapfrog the WAC as well. The schools that will join the WAC in order to give it the bare minimum of membership under the new rule aren't going to inspire fireworks displays, either. Here's the breakdown:

Texas State Bobcats: Looking back over 18 years in the Southland conference, one can see that the Bobcats had just one 20-win season. They won the league's auto-bid in 1997 with a 16-12 overall record and fell to Clem Haskins' Minnesota Golden Gophers as a 16-seed. In 1994, head coach Jim Woolridge managed a 25-win campaign that earned him the honor of a 15-seed, and an 18-point drubbing by John Calipari's UMass squad.

Texas San-Antonio Roadrunners: UTSA has had more recent success in the Southland, going 19-13 and garnering a 16-seed in 2004, only to score 45 points in a first-round pounding administered by Mike Montgomery's Stanford Cardinal. In 1999, Jim Calhoun and UConn did the honors. Way back in 1988 (hello, parachute pants!) the Roadrunners threw a scare into Lou Henson and the Illini, losing 81-72 in the first round.

Denver Pioneers: Denver has won Ice Hockey's Frozen Four multiple times, but has never been to the NCAA tournament in basketball. Even so, DU is the most promising addition to the new WAC. Under Joe Scott, who propelled Air Force into the Big Dance in 2004, the Pioneers are 5-0 in the typically competitive Sun Belt, having taken down a talented Western Kentucky team and Isaiah Thomas' FIU Golden Panthers along the way. If Scott can hold serve and win the school's first NCAA bid, he'll enter his new conference on a roll.

Now, I already feel bad about writing this. I don't want to disparage any of these basketball warriors from any of these fine institutes of higher learning. They're putting forth the effort day in and day out, and for their sake, I hope this is a good move. In terms of garnering multiple bids or higher seeds in the postseason, however, these moves are lateral at best right now. The last time the WAC got four bids to the dance, they went to UNLV, TCU, New Mexico and Rick Majerus' amazing Utah team that made the final game. Since those schools broke away, Nevada has garnered most of the league's noteworthy achievements, and they're headed to the MWC as well. Of the schools that are staying (for now) Stew Morrill's (above) Utah State program and New Mexico State are the cream of the crop, with both earning 12-seeds last season. Want to bet they're eager to fly the coop as well? The NCAA legislation to save the league's auto-bid may have been aimed at keeping at least those two competitive programs in the fold.

In football terms, where the real money lies, this is a huge step backward; adding two FCS programs and a non-football member is mere survival. The league's footprint shifts slightly eastward, and travel to Hawaii is eliminated, which will ease some financial strain, so that's a positive. Nonetheless, the WAC started to die the day the league expanded to 16 teams in 1996. That supersize move provided much of the impetus for the stronger schools to break off and form the MWC, starting the slow, painful dissolution of the WAC that is still being fought to this very day.

Ironic, isn't it? The WAC is being victimized by the very expansion gluttony it helped put in motion nearly 15 years ago.

Photo: AP

Posted on: January 7, 2011 1:47 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 10:31 am

Falling for the Jimmer Show

Jimmer Posted by Matt Jones

In order to better serve you the readers, we here at the College Basketball Blog have loosely divided up the conferences so that we each have three that get our sharpest focus.  For me, those three are the SEC and Big Ten, with which due to geography I am very familiar, and the Mountain West, a conference that up until this point, was most notable in my mind for always being confused with the WAC.  Up until this point, my experience with the Mountain West was generally limited to hoping to see a game at The Pit in New Mexico, making Steve Fischer jokes with all my friends and looking at my vintage Fennis Dembo poster that hangs in my office.  But now that I watch the Mountain West regularly, I can finally admit it…I am falling for the Jimmer Fredette Show .

I of course knew of Jimmer going into the season.  I watched in awe as he dropped 37 on Florida in the NCAA Tournament and hit two clutch threes in double-overtime that showcased his Robert Horry-like potential for game-winning heroics.  Going into the season, he made my preseason All-American team and I firmly believed he was the best upper classman in all of college basketball.  But those accolades were more about my admiration for his skill.  In the same way that we can all appreciate the beauty of Megan Fox from afar but only truly fall for those that we know, it takes something beyond gaudy statistics to make a player hit Stephen Curry-like levels of affection for me.  I need to see flair that recalls Harold “The Show” Arceneaux, not just box score domination.

Well now, after forgoing my usual routine of late-night Seinfeld reruns for a number of BYU games from the West Coast, it is official.  I am all-in for Jimmer.  Watching a game involving Fredette is an exhilarating experience.  As he comes down the floor, it is clear that literally anything can happen.  His tremendous handle allows him to take quicker players off the bounce, while also being able to stop on a dime and rise for a three that seems to come out of nowhere.  His game oozes with a confidence that some would mistake as arrogance, but I would classify as a “white boy swagger” that recalls former Kentucky guard Patrick Sparks (before he got fat).    He knows he is better than you and he also knows that because of the way he looks, you don’t really believe it.  So he is determined to not only show you he is better, but do it in the most dramatic way possible.

Before BYU’s victory on Wednesday night over UNLV, Rebel guard Tre’von Willis made the mistake of telling the media that Jimmer was “supposedly” the best player in the Mountain West Conference.  Whether Willis meant his adverb to motivate Jimmer is unclear, but Fredette noted after the game that he saw the comments.  While he told the media that it wasn’t a motivating factor, his play showcased a different conclusion.  He looked more focused and played with a spring in his step that seemed to suggest a different gear.  It shouldn’t however be a surprise.  The best play with a different swagger when the game means the most, and the win over UNLV gave BYU a very important early flesh wound over San Diego State for the conference crown.      

I admit that neglecting the Mountain West used to be a way of life for me.  Whether it was because of the late start times, the fact that every school seemed to be located in the desert or the impossibility to find the channel of the games, the Mountain West used to rank just below anything involving Jay Leno in terms of my list of priorities.  But now because of Jimmer, I would suggest that games in the MWC, specifically those involving BYU, are must-see tv.  While Kemba Walker and Jared Sullinger may be this season’s breakout stars and Duke is without question the nation’s best team, the part of college basketball that is most guaranteed to put a smile on your face is located in Provo, Utah.  I have fallen for the Jimmer show, and it is time that you do too.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com