As he has during football season and prior to the first Air Force-Wyoming men’s basketball game last month, Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs Gazette agreed to do a Q&A swap with me about Wednesday’s game in Laramie.
First are my questions and Frank’s answers, followed by Frank’s questions and my answers.
Let me know what you think.
What is the general feeling around the program after coach Jeff Reynolds was fired last week? It was unusual, because it was more optimistic and excited than almost any other coaching change I can think of. The relationship between the players and Reynolds had deteriorated. I don’t think athletic director Hans Mueh shared the players’ excitement about having to fire his coach, but when you saw how the players reacted after the news, it was clear it was the right time.
Were you surprised with Air Force’s performance in last Saturday’s home loss to Boise State? Is this now a team divided, so to speak, because of the coaching change? That’s the funny thing – none of what I said in the previous answer translated to the court. I was shocked. They played a lot harder, but just didn’t play any better. Maybe it was tough to concentrate on the next opponent with everything going on. I don’t think it’s a team divided at all, but Saturday’s performance was not good.
What players, if any, have taken on more of a leadership role on this team? I know guard Michael Lyons wants to be more of a leader, but that’s not his natural personality. The thing is, none of the upperclassmen are really outspoken. I think that’s an issue and a reason the team is still in this losing streak. The team took some bad shots early against Boise State, and nobody stepped up to admonish their teammates.
Where do you think Air Force matches up the best against Wyoming and what does it have to do well in Laramie Wednesday for a chance to win? I think Air Force needs to hit some shots, flat out. The Falcons haven’t shot well in a long time, and when you’re going against a good defensive team like Wyoming, it’ll be tough to snap out of that stretch. I also think they need to find an answer for Leonard Washington, who they just don’t match up well against.
What are your thoughts of the postseason chances in the Mountain West this season? How many NCAA Tournament teams and how many postseason teams overall? Well, I think three for sure go to the NCAA Tournament, and then I just don’t think Colorado State or Wyoming have enough juice to get an at large. But both would seemingly be a good pick for the NIT. I don’t know if TCU, Boise State or Air Force are deserving of a postseason bid.
I didn’t see New Mexico 48, Wyoming 38, but I assume they stopped the game at halftime or something? Seriously, how are the fans reacting to this slow style?The fans are fine with it because the team is 18-6. This style reminds them, at least many of the older fans, of when Wyoming was good when Shyatt was here in 1997-98 and during the Jim Brandeburg era in the 1970s and 1980s when they won conference titles and went to NCAA Tournaments. Some would like to see the team push the tempo, and I think eventually Shyatt does, too. But this team isn’t built to do that. But as long as it keeps winning, no one cares.
Aside from Leonard Washington, who is the Cowboys’ most indispensable player? Senior point guard JayDee Luster. His numbers don’t stand out, but he’s the only reliable point guard the team has. Junior-college transfer Derrious Gilmore was a promising player in the non-conference part of the season, but he’s been academically ineligible since the beginning of January. Wyoming hopes to get him back at some point, but the longer the wait the more that may not happen. True freshman Riley Grabau has done some nice things running the point, but isn’t ready for the MW defenses. If Luster is out of the game, Wyoming struggles to run its offense. Luster also is a good defender and can get “under” players and dive them nuts with his size. Ask CSU’s Wes Eikmeier about that.
Is Larry Shyatt the coach of the year in the MW? He’s on my short list, that’s for sure. What Steve Fisher and San Diego State have done after losing so much from last season’s 34-3 team is impressive and right now he probably gets the nod. But if Shyatt can get Wyoming to a third or fourth-place finish and pick up a big road win or two from here on out, he should get some consideration.
How are Wyoming fans reacting to this season? Great record, marquee win, but a terrible nonconference slate has to keep them out of any serious NCAA Tournament discussion. Will they schedule better next year? Shyatt scheduled based largely on what he had on his roster. He felt this team needed to learn how to win games and experience that. The schedule may be a little more aggressive, but there will be six new players next season. I expect a similar schedule with maybe a little more teeth.
Do you agree on my postseason assessment for the conference? I agree 100 percent. Wyoming could enter the at-large picture if it can win at San Diego State and/or UNLV, and then get to the MW Tournament championship game. CSU not winning a league road game (as I write this) hurts it too much, as well as its overall road record despite what the RPI says. TCU may get into the CBI or CIT. I don’t see Air Force or Boise going anywhere this season.