Here is the second part of my Q&A swap with New Mexico men’s basketball beat writer Mark Smith of the Albuquerque Journal.
The following are questions Mark had for me, and my answers. The first part where Mark answered my questions are still posted on the blog.
What was the reaction when Larry Shyatt was re-hired as coach? Were fans surprised, and how are they supporting him so far? When Shyatt became a legitimate candidate there was about a 50-50 split of those who wanted him back and those who didn’t. Once he was hired, those against it either got real quiet or changed their minds. I’ve heard, seen and read nothing but support for Shyatt since then.
The 14-2 start has to have folks coming back to the AA. What have the crowds been like and do you think it can recapture the spirit of some of those great Cowboy seasons? Unfortunately, the fast start has not brought the fans back yet. Wyoming’s largest home crowd has been announced at 4,643, and most of the other home games the school announced crowds in the 4,000 range. I think it’s a combination of a weak nonconference schedule, timing of some of the games (over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks) and some fans still in a wait-and-see mode with the program. I expect with conference play starting, and with New Mexico coming in Saturday, crowds to start to be better. Some early conference wins will help that.
The win at Colorado is very impressive, but how good is this team? Can it compete for the Mountain West title and an NCAA berth, or is an NIT the more realistic shot? This team has bought into playing defense and being unselfish. It’s not the most gifted or talented team offensively, and will have to rely on that defense to win and compete in games when the offense is cold. This team is better and has bought into what Shyatt and his staff want. I’m not ready to put Wyoming in the class with New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State. Right now, any postseason appearance for the program would be good, and I think NIT or lower is more realistic than the NCAA Tournament.
For a while, JayDee Luster was leading the nation in assist-turnover ratio. Dynamic point guards have been one of the Cowboys strengths the past decade. How good is Luster and where does he fit in when compared to guys like Brandon Ewing and Jay Straight? If any player has taken to the coaching by Shyatt and his staff it has been Luster. He is one of the most improved players on the team and maybe in the Mountain West. Luster isn’t a scorer like Ewing and Straight, but can score if teams ignore him. Luster’s size still limits him when it comes to many things, and he often plays too aggressively and gets into foul trouble. Luster has been a good point guard for the Cowboys, but not quite in the class with Ewing and Straight.
As with your question to me, what is your take on this game? What does Wyoming need to do to win, and do you think it will win? We will see how good Wyoming is, or how far it has come Saturday. One game won’t define the rest of its season, but with that said, I think New Mexico is too good right now for the Cowboys to beat. The keys for Wyoming will be to continue to play good defense, have posts Leonard Washington and Adam Waddell hold their own inside and have someone knock down a few outside shots. They may be able to do that in spurts, but probably not enough to knock off the Lobos. I think New Mexico wins by seven, 67-60.