Another new experience for many Cowboys as MW Men’s Basketball Tournament begins

There’s been a lot of firsts for Wyoming men’s basketball this season.

A first-year coach.

First-year players, and others with bigger roles.

Five UW players will go through another first Wednesday when the No. 7 seed Cowboys (18-13) play No. 10 Air Force (11-20) at 2:30 p.m. MT  in a first-round game. They will play in their first-ever MW Tournament game.

Justin James

Two in particular are sophomore guard Justin James and junior forward Hayden Dalton. Both were on the team last year, but were suspended prior to the tournament after being cited by Laramie police for drug use. James and Dalton are UW’s two leading scorers at 15.5 and 12.5 points per game, respectively.

“It hurt knowing I couldn’t be out there helping my team in some way. This year I’m ready to play,” James said.

Needless to say, UW needs both players to have good games Wednesday, but perhaps the biggest area is ball security. James and Dalton lead UW in turnovers. Between both, they average about five turnovers per game, and many of them are careless turnovers that can easily be avoided.

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Wyoming 35, Air Force 26 – postgame thoughts

A big game, big crowd and a big win for Wyoming in its 35-26 home victory over Air Force in front of an announced crowd of 26,623 at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon.

The Cowboys (4-2 overall, 2-0 Mountain West) had to hang on after it led 28-6 late in the third quarter. But it made some key plays at the end — offensively and defensively. Here are some of those plays and highlights:

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UW-Air Force football live chat replay

Here’s the replay of my live chat from Wyoming’s 35-26 win over Air Force in front of a season-high home crowd of 26,623 at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium Saturday.

For more UW sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and log on to wyosports.net.

Live Blog Wyoming vs. Air Force football live chat

Wyoming vs. Air Force football primer

Some notes and quotes for Saturday’s homecoming game for Wyoming against the Air Force Academy. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on ROOT Sports.

First, my No. 1 key for UW today:

Josh Allen

Josh Allen

Making plays through the air: Wyoming wants and needs to run the football, and it will try. However, Air Force allows just 53 rushing yards per game. On paper, it looks like UW redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen is going to have to make some plays in the passing game. How much remains to be seen, but there will be times when Allen must do that. Allen needs to be sharp and efficient today.

— As far as homecoming games go, UW is 44-44-3 all-time. At War Memorial Stadium, the Cowboys are 39-25-2.

— One quick note from last week’s 38-17 win at Colorado State. As most of you know the Cowboys’ defense didn’t allow any points in the second half. They also gave up just 134 yards of total offense, including two rushing yards.

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Ties vary to Air Force for UW players from Colorado Springs

The Air Force Academy is located just north of Colorado Springs, Colorado. As a service academy, its recruiting base is national, not just local.

Wyoming has six players on its roster from Colorado Springs, and their ties to the Air Force academy and Air Force football varies.

Ethan Wood

Ethan Wood

Senior punter Ethan Wood (Liberty HS) lived on the Air Force Academy for a brief time while his father worked there. He also attended a few football games as a kid.

Wood is coming off one of his best games in UW’s 38-17 win at Colorado State last Saturday. Wood averaged 44.5 yards per punt, four of his six punts were downed inside the 20-yard line — including two at the 1.

Wood said that was one of his best games in his career. However, he also said last year’s game at Air Force that UW  lost 31-17 may have been his best-ever. He punted eight times for a 47.1-yard average, including a long of 62 yards. Four of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.

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UW moves past Border War, prepares for Air Force

A new week and a new foe for Wyoming football to prepare for. The Cowboys (3-2 overall, 1-0 Mountain West) host Air Force (4-0, 1-0) at 1:30 p.m. Monday for homecoming.

Here is UW’s depth chart this week:

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The only change is true freshman Tyler Hall is listed as possible back up at the boundary cornerback spot with redshirt freshman Davion Freeman. Junior Rico Gafford remains the starter. Hall played in his first game last week at Colorado State. He finished with one tackle and one pass break up.

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Final MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here is my final Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings of the regular season.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com from games played through Sunday, Feb. 28. The MW is 12th in conference RPI, but the league now has three teams ranked in the top 100 after having just two for much of the season.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. San Diego State (21-8 overall, 14-2 MW, 58 RPI): An odd and unexpected collapse at home against Boise State that snapped a streak of 164 straight wins for the Aztecs when they led with five minutes left to play. Still the No. 1 team in the league, but perhaps more vulnerable now.

2. Fresno State (20-9 overall, 11-5 MW, 84 RPI): In second place alone in the conference, and has won eight of its last 10 games. Also has the longest winning streak in the league at four. I wouldn’t want to play this team in the MW Tournament, and the Bulldogs also are getting healthier from a physical aspect.

3. Boise State (19-10 overall, 10-6 MW, 82 RPI): An impressive come-from-behind  road win at Boise State without its best player, junior forward James Webb III, due a knee injury. Also made a big jump in the RPI after it was hovering around 100 last week.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings this week.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com from games played through Sunday, Feb. 21. The MW is 11th in conference RPI. Three MW teams are ranked in top 100 in the RPI, and seven are ranked between 112 and 200 out of 351 Division I teams.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. San Diego State (20-7 overall, 13-1 MW, 50 RPI): Just one game for the Aztecs this past week, which may have been a good thing as it makes a push toward the postseason.  An interesting week ahead with games at Wyoming and at home against Boise State.

2. Fresno State (18-9, 9-5, 94 RPI): In a tie for second place in the MW, and the team that made the biggest jump in this week’s power rankings. A game at New Mexico Saturday will tell a lot about the Bulldogs this week, but they are a team that can win the MW Tournament.

3. New Mexico (16-11, 9-5, 116 RPI): An impressive come-from-behind  home win over Boise State was followed up by a disappointing road loss at Air Force. Fans in Albuquerque are not happy with this team and its coach.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings this week.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com from games played through Sunday, Feb. 14. The MW fell from 11th to 12th in the RPI. Two MW teams are ranked in top 100 in the RPI, and seven are ranked between 112 and 172.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. San Diego State (19-7 overall, 12-1 MW, 49 RPI): Fresno State ruined the Aztecs’ chance of running the table in the conference, and that loss dropped its RPI from 43 last week to 49. But San Diego State remains atop the rankings for another week.

2. Boise State (17-9, 8-5, 93 RPI): The Broncos move up even though they lost (although statements from the MW two days afterwards confirmed they should have won due a video error) at Colorado State and ran all over Wyoming. The Broncos could be poised to go on a run as the season comes to a close.

3. New Mexico (15-10, 8-4, 118 RPI): A road loss at Utah State dropped the Lobos one spot, but they have a chance to climb back up as they host Boise State Wednesday. There isn’t a better one-two scoring tandem the league as sophomore guard Elijah Brown and junior forward Tim Williams.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings this week.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com. The MW moved up from 12th to 11th in conference RPI. Two MW teams are ranked in top 100 in the RPI, and seven are ranked between 112 and 180.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. San Diego State (18-6 overall, 11-0 MW, 43 RPI): Another nice week for the Aztecs as they extended their winning streak to 11 games. It’s not always pretty offensively, but this group finds a way to get it done — especially defensively.

2. New Mexico (14-9, 7-3, 112 RPI): The Lobos split their two games last week, including an overtime loss at San Diego State which there is no shame in. They are still playing like the second-best team in the MW.

3. Boise State (16-8, 7-4, 86 RPI): The Broncos escaped with a home win over Utah State and lost at Air Force. Boise State is reeling a bit, but it stays near the top of the power rankings for now.

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