Three concerns for Wyoming football heading into spring drills

Are you ready for some football?

Wyoming is, and it starts spring drills Monday. It will be culminated by its spring game on Saturday, April 25.

I will have an analysis piece and feature in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and also at wyosports.net with more on UW spring football in terms of things to watch, etc.

But for now, here are my top three concerns for the Cowboys heading into spring:

Lucas Wacha

Lucas Wacha

1. Linebacker: Other than junior Lucas Wacha, there really isn’t much experience at any of the three linebacker spots. Senior Malkaam Muhammad returns, but even though he’s played in 17 games over his career, it mostly has been on special teams. Players and coaches have raved about Wacha this offseason, and he’s up to about 218 pounds now compared to 205 last season. Wacha will be the middle linebacker this season, and 218 pounds is awful small for that position. However, Wacha has shown that size doesn’t always matter for him as he’s been productive over his first two seasons along the outside. Muhammad must show he can play consistently well. Several players have switched positions and moved to linebacker. I think one of the outside spots will be secured by

Will Tutein

Will Tutein

junior Will Tutein, who moved over from safety. Tutein played more of a linebacker in UW’s final game against New Mexico last season, and he has good athletic ability to play there. Also will be curious to see how junior Eric Nzeocha makes the transition from receiver/tight end to linebacker. The brother of former UW linebacker Mark Nzeocha, Eric has some good natural ability and athleticism. How he makes the transition from offense to defense will be interesting. If I had to guess right now, those would be the three guys I think would be the starters coming out of spring.

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UW sports live chat replay

Here’s the replay of WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s weekly live chat on University of Wyoming sports on Thursday, March 26.

Some great conversation and opinions of UW men’s basketball and its run to the NCAA Tournament, as well as spring football for the Cowboys which begins Monday.

For more UW and high school sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

Live Blog University of Wyoming sports live chat

Jack’s Journal: Wyoming senior guard Jack Bentz’s final take on Cowboys’ NCAA Tournament experience

University of Wyoming senior guard Jack Bentz is going to write a daily journal entry on his and the team’s experiences this week at the NCAA Tournament in Seattle.

Here is Bentz’s final take Friday after the Cowboys lost 71-54 to Northern Iowa.

 

Thank you.

Jack Bentz

Jack Bentz

The season is over. For the five seniors it was the last time we put on a Cowboys uniform. While the game did not turn out the way we had planned, we can honestly say that we gave it our all this year. Congratulations to Northern Iowa, we lost to a very good basketball team.

As the final chapter ends on this year, many thanks are necessary. On behalf of the team, I would like to thank the coaches, fans, and the whole state of Wyoming for the support and making it an incredible year, and for some of us four years. It is truly an honor and privilege to represent Wyoming and wear the brown and gold. Words cannot explain the gratitude and appreciation we have for everyone along this journey.

This season and group of guys were special and we are saddened that it is over. However, as only true Cowboys can, we are riding off into the sunset with our heads held high. I am equally excited to watch and support our team for years to come and wish the underclassmen nothing but the best. We have great leadership and direction under coach Shyatt, who will sustain a winning culture. Playing for The University of Wyoming has been an amazing experience.

Again, thank you.

 

Northern Iowa 71, Wyoming 54: 3 takes, notes and quotes

Tough way for Wyoming’s season to end with a 71-54 setback to Northern Iowa in the second round of the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament Friday at Key Arena in Seattle.

The No. 12 seed Cowboys (25-10) led for a total of 1 minute, 2 seconds of the game, which was early in the first half.

Here are my three takes from the game:

1. Too many shooters: Northern Iowa shot 46 percent from the field, but was 9 of 18 from 3-point range. Five different players made at least one 3-pointer, and five players also scored in double-digits. The Panthers just kept running shooters out on the court. Ten players got into the game, only one played 30-plus minutes and eight logged between 16 and 28 minutes.

Josh Adams

Josh Adams

2. Too many lulls: UW gave up runs of 10-0 in the first half and 13-3 to start the second half. Against a team like Northern Iowa, which is now 31-3 and 11th-ranked in the nation, that is too much to overcome. The Panthers also did a good job of doing what UW takes pride in doing — playing good defense. They took junior guard Josh Adams out of the game as he was just 2 of 9 from the field and had four points. They also did a good job of taking senior forward Larry Nance Jr. out of the game until the second half. Nance sparked a 14-0 UW run with 10 straight points during that spurt. But Northern Iowa did a good job of doubling Nance with two guys about 6-foot-8 to 6-9.

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UW vs. Northern Iowa: 3 keys, notes, quotes and video

My three keys for Wyoming’s game with Northern Iowa in the second round of the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Tipoff is at 11:40 a.m. MT Friday from Key Arena in Seattle.

1. Defend the perimeter: Probably sounds like a broken record for the Cowboys, but they face a Northern Iowa team that shoots nearly 40 percent from 3-point range. The Panthers have eight players who have made between 15 and 50 3s this season, and five that shoot better than 40 percent from behind the arc. Guys big and small can shoot the ball for Northern Iowa. It will make some shots, but if the Cowboys allow them to get hot from outside it will be a long game.

Josh Adams

Josh Adams

2. Continued good play from Adams: Junior guard Josh Adams was the Mountain West Tournament MVP by averaging 18.7 points and shooting 49 percent from the field over three games last week in Las Vegas. Adams needs to have a similar-type game against Northern Iowa. Attacking the basket when the opportunities are there, as well as knocking down some perimeter shots are musts. Adams doesn’t need to put the game on his shoulders, and it will be important for others to be involved. But if Adams and senior forward Larry Nance Jr. can score, things open up for others.

Here is my video preview for today’s game:

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Jack’s Journal: UW senior guard Jack Bentz gives his take on Cowboys’ NCAA Tournament experience

University of Wyoming senior guard Jack Bentz is going to write a daily journal entry on his and the team’s experiences this week as the Cowboys prepare to play in the NCAA Tournament against Northern Iowa.

The game is at 11:40 p.m. MT Friday at Key Arena in Seattle. Here is Bentz’s take from Thursday.

 

Preparation meets opportunity.

Today was our last day of preparation before the game tomorrow. We began the day with a morning practice at Seattle Pacific University where we did a lot of work with the scout team. As a four-year scout team veteran, it is our job to impersonate our opponent’s personnel and simulate their offensive and defensive schemes.

Jack Bentz

Jack Bentz

From there we went to Key Arena, the site of where our game will be played and the former home of the Seattle Supersonics, to have another workout. Before we took the floor, though, we had a NCAA team media session. After the media obligations, the Pokes stepped foot on the Key Arena floor and were greeted by Wyoming fans and “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” playing from the speakers. During the workout, the goal was to get a feel for the gym and arena. After we warmed up we did our normal pre-game ritual of everyone taking a charge. This time, however, was different. After the last person to go, coach Shyatt jumped in and took one himself. At 63, his form and technique was impeccable. We were all very impressed and just happy to see him get up afterwards. Our workout consisted mostly of ball handling and a lot of shooting.

As the game draws near, we are reminded of what’s at stake. While we are preparing for this game like every other, we know that this tournament is one-and-done. Northern Iowa is a very good team, very well coached and is 30-3 for a reason. Nevertheless, we are embracing the moment and are determined to leave it all out on the floor. As the saying goes in March Madness, “survive and advance.”

We will have a team dinner and film session and then it is time to rest and get our minds right for the game. We are eagerly looking forward to tipoff and seeing a lot of brown and gold in the stands at Key Arena. Go Pokes!

 

UW-Northern Iowa men’s basketball Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Andrew Logue, who covers Northern Iowa men’s basketball for the Des Moines Register, about Friday’s NCAA Tournament Second Round game between No. 12 seed Wyoming and No. 5 seed and 10th-ranked Northern Iowa.

The game starts at 11:40 p.m. MT and will be televised on TBS.

Follow on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue

 

Andrew Logue

Andrew Logue

How much similarity do you see between Northern Iowa and Wyoming? Both are among the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, but aside from that, what else do you see?

The similarities are philosophical. Last season, Northern Iowa allowed 69.3 points per game (highest of coach Ben Jacobson’s nine seasons), and finished with a 16-15 record (the fewest wins of Jacobson’s tenure). This season, the Panthers went back to their original blue print. Both these rosters were assembled to fit a specific approach to the game. That’s why Jacobson says he began following the Cowboys from afar, when their defensive numbers “popped out.”

 

At 30-3 there hasn’t been many times the Panthers have struggled, but when they have, what have teams been able to do to beat them?

If 6-foot-8 senior Seth Tuttle struggles, the Panthers have problems. He was limited against Virginia Commonwealth, and Evansville has a deceptively good defensive player in the post. There have also been times when UNI struggled with quicker guards (Illinois State) who take defenders off the dribble and get to the basket for layups. So, if you’ve got big bodies in the paint, flex your muscle. And if you’ve got a talented point guard, attack.

 

How do you see the match-up between Tuttle and Wyoming forward Larry Nance Jr.?

It’ll be the matchup we all talk about. And then during the game, they’ll probably neutralize each other. I can see Nance having something to prove, considering the attention Tuttle has received. Then again, Seth really is a student of the game and had watched Larry play several times before Selection Sunday. He was giving us a scouting report on Wyoming minutes after the bracket was unveiled. If Tuttle is motivated, he can take UNI to another level. Just hit rewind on the win over Wichita State.

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Jack’s Journal: Day 3 of UW senior guard Jack Bentz’s take of NCAA Tournament experience

University of Wyoming senior guard Jack Bentz will provide WyoSports and this blog with a daily diary of his thoughts as the Cowboys go through the process of preparing for the NCAA Tournament. Here’s the third installment from Wednesday, March 18:

Seattle bound.

Jack Bentz

Jack Bentz

After a solid morning practice in Laramie, we loaded up our bus and headed to the Laramie regional airport. There, waiting for us, was a huge 737-charter jet, accompanied by some pretty distinguished guests. Governor Matt Mead, Maury Brown, Tom Burman, and Adam Waddell were all on board. Not to mention our cheerleaders and other members of the Cowboy Joe and UW athletic administration. If that’s not cool enough, get this: All 12 of us players were reserved first class! As you can imagine, the guys were pretty excited.

As we flew into Seattle, the view from our plane windows gave us some beautiful aerial views of scenic Seattle skyline and famous landmark, the Space Needle. We then landed and upon arrival, climbed into a Seattle Seahawks team bus. From there, we drove through the city and passed Safeco Field (Mariners) and Century Link Field (Seahawks) en route to our downtown hotel.

Inside the hotel, NCAA official hosts greeted us, welcoming us with gift bags full of snacks and NCAA March Madness gear. The team will room with their same teammates that we’ve roomed with all year. For me, this is my second year rooming with Junior (Hankerson) and thank goodness he is not a snorer. We also have a team meeting with film followed by a team dinner at a restaurant.

While the trip has obviously gotten off to a great start, we are treating this like every other road trip, which is with the mindset of a “business trip.” There are certainly many perks that come with playing in the NCAA tournament, but we know what our main reason is for being here. There is a time and place to enjoy the moment and there is a time to take care of business. We are already looking forward to tomorrow’s practice and our last day of pregame preparation.

Jack’s Journal: Day 2 take from Wyoming senior guard Jack Bentz

University of Wyoming senior guard Jack Bentz will provide WyoSports and this blog with a daily diary of his thoughts as the Cowboys go through the process of preparing for the NCAA Tournament. Here’s the second installment from Tuesday, March 17:

 

“Win the day.”

Jack BentzThis has been the team’s motto for the past month. As the season progresses, coaches and players are determined to take advantage of every day and make the most of each opportunity we take the floor.

Coach (Larry) Shyatt’s message was to not look backward and only focus on what’s ahead of us — today’s practice and Northern Iowa. We had a great practice, film session and team dinner. The team is definitely locked in and we’re starting to learn more about Northern Iowa through film and scouting reports.

We are very fortunate to have a coaching staff as experienced and accomplished in the NCAA Tournament. Their history and expertise in the tournament is invaluable to us. We are able to learn from them about the ins and outs of the tournament and how to effectively prepare as well as game plan for our opponent.

Today we will have practice in the morning and then it is wheels up to Seattle. The team will be chartering out of Laramie in the afternoon and we are packing for five days. We all have our raincoats ready and I’m told Papa Shy’s gold sweaters are waterproof — so don’t worry, Poke Nation.

Bentz shares Wyoming NCAA Tournament experience with you

University of Wyoming senior guard Jack Bentz will provide WyoSports and this blog with a daily diary of his thoughts as the Cowboys go through the process of preparing for the NCAA Tournament. Here’s the first installment:

Back to work.

Jack Bentz

Jack Bentz

After a long week in Las Vegas, we could not wait to return home to Wyoming, with the Mountain West Conference championship trophy in our hands, and championship hats on our heads. On top of that, we could not believe the amount of people who came to the NCAA Selection Show watch party Sunday at the Gateway Center.

We cannot thank all of the fans and supporters of our team enough. It is truly an honor to represent the state and wear the brown and gold. And to be able to enjoy that moment together, seeing our name announced, was truly special.

Despite all the celebration and post-tournament festivities, we were eager to get back to work. We had an afternoon practice and weight lifting in the A-A (Arena-Auditorium), where the focus was solely on ourselves. While the coaches have been watching lots of game film on Northern Iowa and preparing scouting reports, we took today to clean things up on our offense and defense from the past tournament. Not to mention getting our wind back and re-acclimating ourselves to the unforgiving 7,200 feet altitude.

One of Coach Shyatt’s favorite quotes is “don’t drink the poison.” The poison stands for negative distractions, i.e. social media, “bracketologists,” or anything else that can get in our way and impair our vision.

We have already heard this message from Coach Shy multiple times throughout the year (for some of us four years) and I can guarantee it won’t be the last time we hear that phrase this week.

The team is on edge and excited to not only continue playing but to travel to Seattle, determined to win. Tomorrow is a new day and another opportunity to get better.