MWC coaches back Fisher for national award

One of the more interesting questions and answers on Monday’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball coaches teleconference was if fellow MWC coaches thought San Diego State coach Steve Fisher deserves to be considered for national coach of the year. Fisher’s Aztecs are 22-1 overall, 8-1 in the MWC and sixth this week in The Associated Press top 25.

All of the coaches asked supported Fisher, which is what you would expect. Here’s what Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer said:

“No. 1 he’s a special human being. He’s a great guy. The thing that coach Fisher did and was given was a lot of time. His first three or four years they really struggled. The last five years they’ve been really good. He’s got them rolling and they’re going to be rolling for a while.”

“He’s got my coach of the year vote, for sure.”

Interesting comment about given a lot of time.

Fisher is in his 12th season at SDSU, which is the entire life of the MWC. In his first six seasons, the Aztecs went to one NCAA Tournament, one NIT and finished .500 or below four times. In Fisher’s last six years (and his sixth has yet to be completed) he’s won no fewer than 22 games. The Aztecs have been to two NCAA Tournaments and three NITsin the last five years, and will make it to their third NCAA Tournament in six years.

Schroyer is in his fourthyear, has finished above.500 once, has never finished above .500 in leauge play and has been to one post-season tournament — the CBI. Was this an indirect way of saying he needs more time at UW to get things going in the right direction?

Another interesting item about Fisher: He’s never won a conference coach of the year award. Even when he was at Michigan in the 1990s when he led the Wolverines to back-to-back NCAA Tournament championship game appearances.

‘That has to be the biggest travesty I’ve ever heard in my life,” Colorado State coach Tim Miles said.

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more from Monday’s teleconference, and for a preview of Tuesday’s Wyoming-New Mexico women’s basketball game in Laramie.

Tough times for UW hoops

I’m not trying to make light of the downtrodden Wyoming men’s basketball team right now. The Cowboys (8-13, 1-6) are coming off a 96-57 loss at No. 7 San Diego State, have lost five straight and face another top 10 team Wednesday in No. 8 Brigham Young.

Coach Heath Schroyer was asked Monday what’s happended to his team in conference play.

“I think it’s a combination of us having tough timing,” he said. “We’ve been injured and really banged up when we’ve gone on the road playing teams similar to we are. The league has never been this good. It’s a tough year to have some tough luck. It’s tough luck to be young, and a tough year to go through some tough luck.”

That’s a lot of use for the word “tough.”

It’s also tough when you’re last in the Mountain West Conference in scoring (66 ppg), field-goal percentage (43.8 percent), 3-point shooting (28.1 percent) and 3-point shooting defense (39.9 percent).

For more on the UW-BYU game and other news and notes from around the MWC, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

Also join me at 4 p.m. Wednesday for a live chat on UW’s 2011 football recruiting class. See the top of the blog for the link.

UW-Air Force postgame thoughts

Can it get any worse for the Wyoming men’s basketball team?

Yes it can.

The Cowboys lost 72-51 at Air Force Saturday afternoon at Clune Arena, and the same problems reared their ugly heads: offense and perimter defense.

UW shot just 37.9 percent from the field, and allowed Air Force to make 11 of 19 3s. The Cowboys got to the free-throw line six times and were 4 of 23 from 3-point range.

“We flew at the shooters and they made some contested shots,” UW coach Heath Schroyer said. “I thought our kids played pretty hard. … But when you get down against them, they can hit a couple of 3 that will break your back.”

UW trailed by as many as 15 in the first half, and 23 late in the game.

Six of Air Force’s 3s came from the corner, which seems like nearly ever 3 is made from by the opponents. This continues to be a problem in UW’s zone defense, but Schroyer and Co. is sticking with the zone. I didn’t see any man-to-man defense in this game, and you would think this would be a game where UW physically matches up a little better than other squads in the MWC.

I thought sophomore forward Amath M’Baye had a nice game with 13 points and seven rebounds. He looked good around the basket. And sophomore forward Brian Gibson had six rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench. he missed three shots in the paint. But he plays hard and he can rebound.

I was really impressed with Air Force sophomore guard Michael Lyons. He led all scorers with 17 points, all in the first half. He’s long and athletic and a pretty good athlete. Senior guard Evan Washington may have had the most impressive line: 11 points, nine assists, six rebounds, one blocked shot and only one turnover in 36 minutes. Sophomore guard Todd Fletcher, who averaged 4.6 points per game coming in, scored 13 and was 3 of 6 from behind the arc.

Seems like a lot of players have career games against the Cowboys these days.

Injuries weren’t a factor in this game for UW. Everyone played who should have played. The Cowboys just got beat, and beat bad.

Hate to think what UNLV, No. 6 San Diego State and No. 9 BYU will do to this team in the next three games.

For more on the Air Force game, see Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

Corner concerns

The topic of my Sunday column last week was the continued struggles in conference play the Wyoming men’s basketball team has had defending the 3-point shot.

Here’s a link to the column: http://www.wyomingnews.com/articles/2011/01/16/sports/20sports_01-16-11.txt

In four conference games UW is last in the MWC in 3-point shooting defense at 48.9 percent, and teams have averaged 11.5 3s per game.

And many of them have come from the corners against the Cowboys’ 2-3 zone.

Six of New Mexico’s 10 3-pointers came from at or near the corners. Same thing with TCU. But the Cowboys really struggled rotating to the corners last Saturday against Utah as 10 of the Utes’ treys were at or near the corner.

Utah coach Jim Boylen said his team made the extra pass to find the open player. Here’s what a couple of other MWC coaches told me when I asked them about their good 3-point shooting against UW.

“We were coming off a game where we played awful (an 83-49 loss at UNLV), and we were playing at home,” said TCU coach Jim Christian, whose team beat UW 78-60. “We shoot the ball much better at home, for whatever reason. I thought we played unselfishly. I thought our key players made shots early (guard Ronnie Moss and forward Garlon Green combined to go 9 of 17 from the field and 5 of 8 from 3-point range in the first half) so we played with a lot more confidence. I don’t think it was anything from their defense that we saw and was able to figure out. I think it was how we played and led us to get some good looks and build some confidence.”

There wasn’t a shot chart available from UW’s 73-60 loss at Colorado State to open MWC play on Jan. 4. But the Cowboys allowed a season-high 14 3s, and there were a fair share made from the corners. Senior guard Adam Nigon made 7 treys, including five in the first half.

“Wyoming is in a zone defense so you kind of know where your 3s are going to come from,” CSU coach Tim Miles said. “I think that helps a little bit. We had a senior (Nigon) that kind of willed us for that first half. Free-throw shooting and 3-point shooting I think are kind of catchy. They’re like a virus. One guy starts getting it and it gets to everybody.”

Needless to say, if UW is going to stay with a zone defense, and it likely will, it better work on better rotations and movement.

MWC men’s hoops news and notes

Wyoming’s next opponent, Air Force on Saturday, has already matched its win total from last season at 10. The Falcons are 10-6 and 1-2 in Mountain West Conference play and nearly beat UNLV at home last Saturday before losing 64-52.

“They’re playing witha lot more confidence, and the biggest thing is (Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds) has all his guys healthy,” UW coach Heath Schroyer said. “They’re much improved. They’re a lot better and they’re hard to play. They’re very good at home. They had Vegas on ropes and beat Utah at home.”

UW hopes to use this week to get some guys healthy and figure out a way to snap a 17-game road losing streak. For more on that, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com.

Some other news and notes from Monday’s MWC coaches teleconference:

–Air Force may have beaten UNLV last Saturday if it had made free throws, but it was only 12 of 25 from the line.

–San Diego State made 13 3-pointers in its 87-77 win at New Mexico. The Aztecs (19-0, 4-0) remain No. 6 in the nation.

–Brigham Young senior guard Jackson Emery will be honored prior to Tuesday’s home game with TCU for breaking the school’s career record for steals, previously held by Danny Ainge. Reynolds described Emery as one of the best shooters in the MWC. Emery shoots 38.8 percent from 3-point range.

–UNLV coach Lon Kruger said senior guard Tre’Von Willis (knee) is probable for Wednesday’s home game against Colorado State. Willis didn’t play at Air Force.

–Brigham Young senior guard Jimmer Fredette is getting a lot of national attention these days after his 47-point game last Tuesday at Utah. He was named MWC Player of the Week for the third straight week, fifth time this season and 12th time in his career.

“He’s more of a humble kid now than he was then,” said Cougars coach Dave Rose when asked how Fredette has handled all the attention this season. “At times I think it’s almost embarassing for him.”

Live Tweets from tonight’s game

Once again I will post live Tweets throughout the Wyoming-Kennesaw State men’s basketball game here in Laramie.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m.

You can follow the Tweets on the right side of the blog site, or follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rpgagliardi. Feel free to ask question or strike up a conversation.

Will go back to a live blog for next week’s conference opener at Colorado State.

News and notes around the MWC

A little bit of football and some basketball from around the Mountain West Conference:

http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20101228/SPORTS/12280330/CSU-men-on-road-getting-attention

http://www.gazette.com/sports/air-110224-force-independence.html

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700095183/Utah-Utes-basketball-Hawaii-trip-didnt-go-well-for-Runnin-Utes.html

http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/12/27/2729976/years-of-wandering-in-the-wilderness.html#

http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/12/27/2729979/tcu-safety-will-make-presence.html#

Hoops news and notes

The Wyoming men’s and women’s basketball teams are about a month into their seasons, with mixed results for both.

The men are off to a disappointing 3-5 start, which is last in the Mountain West Conference. But they are coming off an impressive 81-51 win last Saturday against Indiana State.

The Cowgirls are a solid 5-2, with both losses coming on the road.

Here are some interesting notes on both squads:

–According to CollegeRPI.com, the Cowboys’ RPI as of today is 276 out of 345 teams. Surprisingly, that’s not the worst among MWC teams. Colorado State is 292.

–The Cowgirls’ RPI, according to RealTimeRPI.com is 48. New Mexico is the top MWC team at 33.

–The Cowboys are third in the MWC in free-throw shooting (69.3 percent), but are second-to-last in rebounding margin (minus-2.8 per game) and assists (10.38 per game)

–The Cowboys’ average home attendance is 3,819, compared to 3,267 for the Cowgirls.

–The Cowgirls lead the MWC in defensive rebounding (32.9 rpg) and are second in rebounding margin (plus-6.3).

–The MWC has handed out player of the week honors each of the last four weeks. On the men’s side, three of them have gone to San Diego State (twice for forward Kawhi Leonard and this past week to forward Malcolm Thomas. The women’s award has gone to four different players.

The UW men play at UC-Irvine at 8 p.m. Friday night. The women play the second of a four-game homestand at 2 p.m. Saturday against Westminster College out of Salt Lake City.

Good news for UW men’s hoops

Fans care mostly about wins, but this is an important aspect of the Wyoming men’s basketball program that needed to improve, and it has.

The University of Wyoming Cowboy basketball team and head coach Heath Schroyer were recently recognized by FoxSports.com for the positive improvement they have made over the past three seasons with their Academic Progress Rate (APR). 

            In fact, Schroyer is ranked No. 3 among all NCAA Division I coaches for the Cowboys’ APR improvements over the past three seasons.              Eac academic year, the NCAA calculates a team’s APR.  Each team’s APR is based on eligibility, retention and graduation of each student-athlete receiving an athletic scholarship.             “First and foremost, this honor is a tribute to the young men in the Cowboy basketball program who have made a serious commitment to being student-athletes,” UW Director of Athletics Tom Burman said.  “Secondly, this is a job well done by coach Schroyer and his staff for recruiting young men who value academics, and putting them in a system where they can succeed.”            “I am really proud of all of our guys and my staff for their hard work and commitment to academics,” Schroyer said.  “This honor is a testament to a lot of hard work by many people.  I am excited about the academic culture we have established within our program.”             Since APR scores are released a season behind the current one, the improvements made by the Cowboys began with the 2005-06 season and went through 2008-09.  Schroyer became the head coach of the Cowboys on March 23, 2007, and the 2007-08 season was his first as the Pokes’ head coach.            The Cowboys have improved their single-year APR score 167 points, from a 771 for the 2005-06 season to a 938 for the 2008-09 season.            FoxSports.com’s rankings are not simply a list of the coaches with the top APR scores in the country, but rather rank the coaches’ overall improvements during the last three academic years.  Overall improvement was measured by subtracting the 2005-06 APR score from the 2008-09 total, even if the first score was inherited from another coaching staff.  In order to qualify for the rankings, a coach must have been with his current school during the 2007-08 season.

The author of the story, Jason Belzer, also gave Schroyer special accolades in closing his article, calling UW’s 167-point increase over two years “positively amazing”.

 Read the entire article at http://msn.foxsports.com/collegebasketball/story/coaching-academics

Cowboys land USC hoops transfer

Just got word that Wyoming signed 6-7, 230-pound forward Leonard Washington from Southern California. He will be eligible for the 2011-12 season, but will enroll at UW this fall.

See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune-Eagle or www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang or www.laramieboomerang.com for why UW coach Heath Schroyer likes this signing.

But as I was trying to find some information on Washington, I came across this from in a blog from the Orange County Register on why Washington left USC:

“The primary reason USC and Washington are parting ways is the player’s persistent poor attitude,” the source said.

“Washington strangely refused to talk the media this season, and apparently he treated others the same way.”

Interesting. USC also handed down a self-imposed ban of post-season play for the 2010-11 season amid the wrongdoing with former player O.J. Mayo.