Cowboys get back to work

Thursday was the first day the Wyoming men’s basketball team returned to Laramie  from Christmas break, and it was the first of three days where the team will work on itself before getting into game prep mode for Wednesday’s game at SMU.

“We knew it was going to be a short break, but we still have a lot of business to take care of so we’re excited to be back,” senior point guard Derrious Gilmore said.

It’s been an up-and-down few weeks for the Cowboys. They had 10 days off (at least from games) between Dec. 8-18 for final exams. They then played two games in four days before coach Larry Shyatt gave them a few days off for Christmas.

After UW’s 56-40 win over UC-Santa Barbara on Dec. 21, the players said they were excited to have a short break, but were even more excited to get back to work and build off a 12-0 start.

That sentiment remained the same when the players returned to Laramie.

“The breaks helped us and made us work that much harder to accomplish what we want,” Gilmore said.

Added sophomore guard Riley Grabau added: “We’ve had a good start but it’s not over yet. “We  have to keep building it up that we can become a contender. Just work hard and get back in the right mindset.”

The SMU game will be UW’s second-to-last nonconference game. Its final nonconference tilt will be a return trip to Cal-State Bakersfield Feb. 6. However, the Cowboys begins Mountain West play Jan. 9 at home against Boise State.

When asked if the players get a feel for the intensity of conference play about to start, Gilmore said: “I don’t believe we look that far ahead. It’s about our next opponent and next game. We know conference play is coming up, but we aren’t looking that far. We still have a lot of work ahead of us before that.”

A typical statement from this team, and approach it has taken all season.

Did any of you catch New Mexico’s 55-54 win at No. 8 Cincinnati Thursday night? Impressive win for the Lobos, and one that will get them back into the top 25. Even though San Diego State lost to No. 3 Arizona (one of four teams in the nation now along with UW still in the top 25) in Hawaii on Christmas night, the Aztecs look good, too.

Conference play is going to be fun to watch and brutal to prepare for each and every night. I know a lot of you are upset UW isn’t ranked, but if the Cowboys get off to a good start in league play, they will be there. However, rankings or national pub for this team means nothing now. What matters is what happens in March.

And while the MW is among the top conferences in the nation this season, it needs to show that in March. The league is 60-85 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. Even though it sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament each of the last two years (and a good chance to get four in against this year), it has gone 5-7 in those games, including 1-4 last year. Since 2000, the MW has finished .500 or better in the NCAAs three times.

For more on UW hoops, including the status of Grabau’s recent knee injury and how Wednesday’s game with SMU is part of a 2-for-1 series between the two teams, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and go to www.wyosports.net.