Coaches weigh in about keeping MW Tournament at Thomas & Mack Center

Wyoming men’s basketball coach Larry Shyatt spoke for a little more than 20 minutes Monday on behalf of the other 10 Mountain West men’s hoops coaches about the league’s decision to change the format of the MW Tournament to eight teams for both the men’s and women’s events starting in 2017.

Larry Shyatt

Larry Shyatt

In the past, and for the 2016 event, all teams were allowed to participate.

Here’s is Shyatt’s full statement from Monday. Quick hint, he didn’t hold anything back and needless to say, he wasn’t happy.

http://www.wyosports.net/shyatt-issues-statement-on-behalf-of-mw-hoops-coaches-on/article_642f6f4a-ad82-11e5-b81b-9bd0b26a88d4.html

The MW decision, which was released on Dec. 18, also included keeping the MW Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas — the home court for UNLV — through 2019.

UNLV has won three MW Tournament titles there, with the last one coming in 2008. The MW gets a good deal in terms of “rent” for the facility, which was the driving force to keeping it there.

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Some hoops and football stuff

This writer from CBSSports.com saw my Q&A piece with Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt.

http://eye-on-college-basketball.blogs.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/26283066/29611425

The Sporting News, one of my favorite publications, thinks the MWC will be in the BCS — even if its just for a little bit. I’m a skeptical about this. What do you think?

http://aol.sportingnews.com/ncaa-football/story/2011-05-26/bcs-would-have-a-hard-time-denying-mwc-entry

For the last couple of years I’ve had the privilege to so the Mountain West football and basketball previews for the Blue Ribbon College Football and Basketball Yearbooks. For any of you who haven’t seen them, they are full of great information, and its done mostly by beat writers who cover the teams and conferences. http://www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com/

Here is a sneak peek of my predicted order of finish in the MWC in football:

1. Boise State

2. TCU

3. Air Force

4. San Diego State

5. Wyoming

6. Colorado State

7. New Mexico

8. UNLV

Thoughts?

Hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday weekend.

Catching up with JayDee Luster

I talked to Wyoming senior point guard JayDee Luster today on a story I’m working on regarding academics and athletics. By the way, Luster will receive a degree in social sciences Saturday in just four years. Pretty impressive graduating in four years with the demands of being a student-athlete.

Anyway, I also asked him a few quick basketball questions:

On how things are going with the new coaching staff: “Everything is going great. I love everything. The workouts have been real good. Coach Shyatt put together a great staff. Everything is pretty good.”

On the five new recruits coming in: “All of them came in on visits got I got to play with them. I think we’re heading in the right direction. Coach Shy and the staff are definitely turning things around.”

On new point guard Derrious Gilmore, who comes from junior-college and like Luster also is 5-foot-9: “I think he has the skills to be a point guard.”

I also talked to coach Larry Shyatt for about 20 minutes today and plan to run a Q&A with him later this week. Don’t want to give a lot away now. But in terms some of the non-conference foes, there are home-and-home series’ with Idaho State and Seattle. Home games with Bradley, Northern Colorado, UC-Irvine, and at least one non-Division I team. Non-conference road games include Colorado, Denver and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

QB Club honors UW basketball seniors

The Cheyenne Quarterback Club honored the seniors from the Wyoming men’s and women’s basketball teams Tuesday night.

Djibril Thiam was the lone senior for the UW men, while Randi Richardson, Jade Kennedy, Aubrey Vandiver and Cheyenne Central graduate Hillary Carlson were honored from the Cowgirls. The club presented all five with senior rings, and the five also gave a brief speech.

The Cheyenne QB Club has done this for years for UW senior football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball players.

Some notes from the gathering:

–Carlson was the last to be introduced, being the hometown girl. Her high school coach, Chad Whitworth, presented her with her ring. Her dad told me that she has hired an agent and is waiting on opporutnites to play professionally, either in this country or overseas.

–Thiam also is hoping to play overseas and has hired an agent. He played three years for UW and had 82 career dunks, now known as “Thiam jams.”

–Vandiver certainly has a chance to play professionally somewhere. She was part of 96 wins in her career, played in 133 games — all school records — and finished her career in the top 10 in 10 different statistical categories.

–Cowgirls assistant coach Kristin Becker is leaving the team after five seasons to pursue a career away from basketball in Colorado Springs, Colo.

–Kennedy had the only triple-double in Cowgirls history this past season against Colorado State. She also wore jogging shoes when she played instead of regular basketball shoes.

–Thiam already has a degree from UW in communications. Richardson and Vandiver graduate next month. Kennedy has one semester left and Carlson will graduate next year.

–Was told UW has sold 6,500 season tickets for football so far, driven largely by the Nebraska game on Sept. 24. That’s 2,500 more than this time last year, and the school is hoping to reach 10,000 for the first time in school history.

–Extra bleachers will be put in the north and south ends of War Memorial Stadium for the Nebraska game, putting the stadium’s capacity at a little over 31,000.

–War Memorial Fieldhouse will have some work done on it as it will get a new track and infield surface. Both are more than 20 years old. The project should be done in August or September.

Pokes confident heading into play-in game

The Wyoming men’s basketball team is at least saying the right things heading into today’s play-in game with TCU here at the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas.

“The feeling that’s going on is positive. We think we can win. We’re going in with the mindset to win,” sophomore guard Desmar Jackson said.

This will be the Cowboys’ third play-in game in the last four years, and they’ve lost their previous two including a humbling 59-40 loss to Air Force last year.

“I think there are some pretty sour memories of the play-in game last year,” sophomore forward Amath M’Baye said. “I think everybody here is ready for this game and I think we will be better prepared for this game and this team will have a different mentality.”

See Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on this game, and on how the Cowgirls hope to end their MWC Tournament woes this year.

Also, live blog links are above this story for today’s UW men’s and women’s games. Hope you will join me.

Cowboys, Cowgirls prepare for MWC tourney

The brackets are out and the match-ups are set for the Mountain West Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas. Action begins Tuesday.

The Wyoming men and women both play Wednesday. The Cowboys play TCU in the play-in game at 3 p.m. MST. The Cowgirls get a bye in the first round as the tournament’s third seed, and get the winner of Tuesday’s six-seven game between New Mexico and San Diego State at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

I like the men’s chances against TCU. UW beat TCU by 10 a few weeks ago and the Horned Frogs have lost 13 in a row. UW is 2-5 since interim coach Fred Langley took over. The play-in game often times comes down to who wants it the most. I think UW will do just enough to win by five.

The winner gets top-seeded BYU, and UW hung with the Cougars for a while before a 102-78 loss Saturday in Provo. But the Cowboys can’t look ahead to that, they need to focus on the Horned Frogs.

The Cowgirls’ opener scares me. Not because UW lost its regular-season finale by 16 at home to top-seeded BYU Saturday. But because both New Mexico and San Diego State know what it takes to win games at this event, and the Cowgirls are just 3-11.

Both teams are dangerous, but that’s not to say UW isn’t, either. I talked to coach Joe Legerski last Thursday — less than 24 hours after his team went on the road and won at San Diego State — and he said this team continues to amaze him and that no challenge is too big. It’s nice that the Cowgirls have four seniors who have played in this kind of environment. If UW can avoid a slow start Wednesday it wins. If it starts slow, it will be tough.

That would set up a semifinal matchup with second-seeded TCU Friday. TCU swept the regular-season series. You know what they say, it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season. Hope that isn’t the case for UW Wednesday.

Any thoughts?

I will be live blogging all UW men’s and women’s games from the tournament. More information will be sent out soon.

Here is the men’s bracket: http://www.themwc.com/auto_pdf/p_hotos/s_chools/mwc/sports/m-baskbl/auto_pdf/mwc-11-m-baskbl-bracket

Here is the women’s bracket: http://www.themwc.com/auto_pdf/p_hotos/s_chools/mwc/sports/w-baskbl/auto_pdf/mwc-11-w-champ-bracket

Thoughts on Schroyer being fired

Can’t say it was surprising to hear Wyoming fired Heath Schroyer.

But the timing was surprising as UW pulled the plug on Schroyer late Monday afternoon.

Athletics director Tom Burman told me last season at about this time, and as recently as a couple of weeks ago he would wait until the end of the season to make a decision on Schroyer, or at very least evaluate where things stand.

It’s safe to say that Schroyer would have been fired at season’s end if the team continued its losing ways. UW is 8-15 overall, 1-8 in the Mountain West and has lost six straight. Even if UW won out I don’t know if that would have saved Schroyer’s job.

But something happended recently to change Burman’s mind to let Schroyer go now. What that was remains a mystery. Maybe he will tell us during a teleconference Tuesday at 11 a.m.

What do you all think of the timing of this firing? I know many of you have expressed that you wanted it done sooner than later? Now that it’s done, what do you think?

I tried to get a hold of numerous players tonight, but all I got was voice mail. Will be interesting to see how they react here on out.

I liked Schroyer and liked what he tried to do. His best years were supposed to come with strong sophomore and junior classes. Injuries derailed some of those goals, and perhaps poor judgement and decisions as well by Schroyer and even Burman when he extended Schroyer two years back to a five-year contract after a 19-14 record in the 2008-09 season.

Burman has fired three coaches with three years left on contracts — Schroyer, former men’s hoops coach Steve McClain and football coach Joe Glenn. Not a good precedent to set, but in Schroyer’s case Burman hired him.

Fred Langley will coach the team the rest of the season. He’s been Schroyer’s top assistant since both arrived in March of 2007. How do you think he will do? Do you think he can get this team to play any better?

Funny thing is, despite home losses to No. 7 BYU and Colorado State last week by a combined 10 points, UW played some of its best basketball in those games — at least defensively. The after-the-game handshake between Schroyer and CSU coach Tim Miles was longer than normal with some dialogue, and Miles came out and defended Schroyer to the media saying Schroyer needed more time with all the injuries he’s had to endure.

Perhaps the CSU game was the do-or-die game — beat your rival at home and live to see another day, or lose and hit the road.

But if that was the case, then why would Schroyer be on the Monday MWC coaches teleconference like normal? Schroyer was on the call and it was business as usual. There was no hint in his voice that something like this was going down.

Several names have been thrown around as possible replacements for Schroyer. See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for some names I believe UW should and will look at, and for more analysis on this firing.

Top UW-BYU basketball games

There isn’t much talk that Wednesday likely will be the last Wyoming-BYU men’s basketball game in Laramie, or at least for quite a while.

BYU moves to the West Coast Conference next season in hoops and most other sports, and will be an independent in football.

UW’s current basketball struggles has most to do with such little fanfare for Wednesday’s game. At 8-13 overall, 1-6 in the MWC and coming off a 39-point loss at No. 7 San Diego State last Saturday, most wonder how bad it will be Wednesday against No. 8 BYU.

The Cowboys have lost 11 straight to the Cougars dating back to 2005. The average margin of victory during that time for BYU has been about 13 points, and 17.5 points in the last five.

Good riddance if this is the last time UW sees BYU in Laramie, right?

But what is your favorite UW-BYU men’s basketball game or memory?

Even though I was only 11 years old at the time, my favorite was in 1982 when UW won at BYU 27-25.That win went a long way to helping the Cowboys get to the NCAA Tournament that year.

Other good ones include the last time UW swept BYU in the regular season, which was in 2005.

Steve McClain’s last game as UW’s coach was a loss to BYU in the semifinals of the MWC tournament in 2007. Not a favorite memory, but a memorable one.

Would love to hear yours.

See Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.comfor more on Wednesday’s game, including a look at what people are saying about BYU senior guard Jimmer Fredette, a candidate for Player of the Year in the country. Is he the best player to have played in the Arena-Auditorium? Would love to know your thoughts on that.

Also, the UW and BYU women play for first place in the MWC Wednesday. And, Wednesday is signing day for UW football. Look for a story on two of UW’s newest players from Germany in Wednesday’s papers. Also join me at 4 p.m. Wednesday for a live chat about the signing class and anything else UW related. See the top of this blog for the direct link.

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.