Posted on: March 12, 2011 1:07 pm

WAC championship game preview

It's a classic No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup for the WAC final, which will be played at 10:00 p.m. on ESPN2

No. 1 Utah State (29-3, 15-1) vs. No. 2 Boise State (20-11, 10-6)

There's a pretty huge gulf between the Aggies and everyone else in the WAC this season. Stew Morrill's Utah State team has just two non-conference losses, to Georgetown and BYU, and just one aberration of a conference loss, a 64-56 loss at Idaho. The team has enough seniors to start a roaring game of shuffleboard at Del Boca Vista retirement home, and a veteran coach in Stew Morrill. So, even though this is a one-two matchup, the Aggies -- No. 17 in the national polls -- have to be the heavy favorites. Boise State is on its way to the MWC after this final shot at a WAC title, and they've had a really strong year under rookie head coach Leon Rice, so it's a certainty that they'll be gunning for the positive vibes a title shot will carry as they prepare to move up a notch.

For the Aggies, the primary player of note is Tai Wesley. At 6-foot-7, 240 lbs, Wesley is the primary inside threat. While he's not an elite shot blocker, he can do the job when necessary, helping seal off the interior and force opponents into difficult jump shots. To that end, he has the help of 6-7 junior Brady Jardine, who is a bit inconsistent as a scorer, but has thrilled the rowdy students at the spectrum with the occasional putback dunk off of an offensive rebound. As a team, the Aggies play great defense, and currently rank No. 8 in the nation in defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com.

Former Houston signee Brockeith Pane is the distributor who keeps the pistons turning for this club, dishing out 3.4 assists per game to go with his 11.4 points. Senior Brian Green is the designated jump shooter, and he excels behind the line. His knack for hitting the open jumper has helped keep defenders off of Wesley and Jardine all season long. Senior guards Pooh Williams and Tyler Newbold help round out a dangerous rotation.

For Boise State, the core unit is led by La'Shard Anderson. The senior captain is the Broncos' leading scorer and passer, and he's coming off of a 9-dish performance in the semifinal against No. 3 New Mexico State. He scores so much because he can, not because he has to. His passes find the able hands of fellow seniors Robert Arnold (12.6 ppg), Paul Noonan (10.5) and Daequon Montreal (10.3). For these guys, the move to the Mountain West is meaningless, and they'll want to go out with a bang. An NCAA tournament bang.

As mentioned above, Stew Morrill is a veteran coach with several NCAA appearances on his resume, so this will be really interesting in terms of figuring out how good Leon Rice is. The BSU head man moved over from his top assistant's gig at Gonzaga this summer, and has shown really well in his initial campaign. If he pulls off the upset here, he may be one to watch in the future.

WAC bracket page

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 1:27 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 6:56 pm

Conference tourney preview: the WAC

It’s sad to see the WAC in this condition. A league that once garnered four bids in 1998 has been lucky to get two on a consistent basis in the new millennium. Even the teams that will soldier through this year’s tourney will be greatly diminished by Tai Wesley gets it done for Utah Statenext season, as Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada prepare to go to the MWC, and Hawaii decamps for the much smaller Big West. This year, that leaves Utah State (28-3, 15-1) as the far and away best team in the conference, yet still a bubble team or worse if they fail to take the league auto bid.

The challengers are Boise State (19-11, 10-6), which forged a respectable season under new head coach and former Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice, and possibly Idaho (18-12, 9-7) or New Mexico State (15-16, 9-7), though neither of those last two seems particularly likely.

As the top seeds, Utah State and Boise State get double byes, skipping the first two rounds of play. Idaho and NMSU get a one-day reprieve and the four lower seeds battle in Las Vegas on March 9 for the right to face their more rested counterparts later down the road. The league's ninth member, Louisiana Tech, did not receive a berth in the postseason tournament.

As the WAC attempts to stave off complete collapse by inviting new low-RPI members, this tournament will look very different next season. Enjoy the current configuration while you can, if you can.

WAC bracket page


Title game: 7:00 p.m. ET, Saturday, March 12 (ESPN2)



  1. Tai Wesley (pictured), Utah State
  2. La’Shard Anderson, Boise State
  3. Troy Gillenwater, New Mexico State
  4. Adrian Oliver, San Jose State


Conference RPI: 13

KenPom.com rating: 10

Sagarin rating: 13

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Utah State


Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

Utah State: 2010 (lost to Texas A&M)

Boise State: 2008 (lost to Louisville)

Idaho: 1990* (lost to Louisville)

New Mexico State: 2010 (lost to Michigan State)

Hawaii: 2002 (lost to Xavier)

Nevada: 2007 (beat Creighton, lost to Memphis)

Fresno State: 2001 (beat Cal, lost to Michigan State)

San Jose State: 1996** (lost to Kentucky)

*member of Big Sky

**member of Big West

Posted by Eric Angevine

Photo: US Presswire

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: January 24, 2011 5:06 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 8:07 pm

Hoops takes root at hockey hotbed Denver U.

Joe Scott points Denver toward a brighter futurePosted by Eric Angevine

The University of Denver has NCAA championships. Seven of them. The fact that those banners were earned by the other denizen of 6,000-seat Magness Arena was actually a positive aspect of the basketball coaching job for Joe Scott (right), who came to the Rocky Mountains after three years at his alma mater, Princeton. Before that, it was four seasons and an NCAA appearance with the Air Force Falcons.

"I compare it a little bit to Air Force. Basketball was not ever that big of a deal before we got to Air Force. It was a football school," Scott said after a Friday morning practice. "I sort of felt the same way about hockey. The culture of winning and being successful is there, and transferring it to basketball was something they wanted to do here. It’s a good situation because of that."

When Scott left Princeton, it looked somewhat like he was jumping before he could be pushed. The program that annually battled Penn for the Ivy League championship had endured a 38-45 run under Scott, and alums weren't happy. But whatever the reason for the move, Scott now has the Pioneers sitting pretty in one of the most beautiful locations in the world. The team is steadily improving, going from 7-11 in the Sun Belt in Scott's first season, to 9-9 in his second, then 10-8 in his third. As of today, DU tops the conference's West division with a 6-1 record. It's a surprise, following a 4-9 non-conference showing, but Scott says it all fell into place naturally.

"We faced a lot of adversity early on. We have a 6-foot-8 senior, Rob Lewis, who’s out for the year. He was practicing with us, and sometime around November first, we found out he’s not going to be able to play," Scott related. "Our transfer center, Trevor Noonan, around October 28, he gets sick with an intestinal disorder and over the course of the next few weeks, he loses 30 lbs."

Scott also pointed out that many of the teams his Pioneers lost to -- Utah State, Colorado State, St. Mary's and Portland, specifically -- are doing very well right now. He developed the players he did have into weapons, telling them to emulate the teams who had beaten them, rather than getting down.

"Playing those kinds of teams was good for our guys, because that’s the kind of team we are now. We execute and make you pay."

Denver is peaking at the right time. With the Western Athletic Conference suffering several defections over the summer, his program has been asked to leap into the resulting gap, to begin annual play against the likes of Utah State and New Mexico State in the 2012-2013 season. Scott looks forward to the challenge.

"From a recruiting standpoint, the Sun Belt didn’t hurt us, but it never really helped us, because we don’t recruit in the Sun Belt states. Now we’re going to be playing in a league where, when we recruit, kids know the league," he said. "We’re Denver, we’re in the West. Going into a league that has more name recognition can bump up our recruiting a little bit so we can have some sustainability. We’ll be ready for the WAC. We’re in our sixth year of building the program and we’re doing OK right now. The timing is right for us, and I know it’s good for the school."

For now, Scott and the Pioneers are focusing on maintaining the lead they've built. After six straight wins, Saturday brought a road loss to Middle Tennessee State. The head coach says his kids need to focus on winning the regular season in the Sun Belt, after which he believes postseason success will come.

"The tournament’s a crapshoot. The truth is you should be playing your best basketball rolling into March so you give yourself the best chance in those three days. We’re here all year long, and sixteen regular season games are important, and over those sixteen games you can put yourself in the mix to challenge for a conference championship. That’s critically important."

Baby steps are important. Asking this program to ever win an NCAA championship might be asking too much, but you can bet they'd like to shoulder aside some of those hockey banners and hang a few Sun Belt and, eventually, WAC banners in Magness Arena.

Category: NCAAB
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