CBI championship format intriguing to Cowboys

One thing you can say about the College Basketball Invitational — its not afraid to be different.

As Wyoming and Coastal Carolina get ready to play Monday for the CBI championship, it’s not a one-game format. When the CBI was created 10 years ago it went with a best-of-3 series for the championship.

Allen Edwards

UW (21-14) plays at Coastal Carolina (19-17), located in Conway, S.C., at 5:30 p.m. MT. Game two is in Laramie at 7 p.m. MT Wednesday. If a third game is necessary, UW hosts that one as well at 5 p.m. MT. All games are televised on ESPNU. If you’re wondering why a potential third game is at such an odd time, don’t blame UW, it has to do with TV.

As for the best-of-3 format, first-year UW coach Allen Edwards said: “We’ll try it out. It’s differnet when you think about what is traditionally done in college basketball. It has more of a NBA feel. I’m interested to be a part of it and see.”

The NBA now uses best-of-7 series’ for all of its playoff games. There used to be best-of-5 for early round playoff matchups. The travel between Laramie and Conway is 1,810 miles and that will make things interesting for that second game in Laramie Wednesday — not just how both teams adjust from the first game, but also fatigue from travel, etc.

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UW predictable in trying to get Naughton going early

The Wyoming men’s basketball team has been predictable at the start of games, and first-year coach Allen Edwards is fine with it.

Jordan Naughton

Jordan Naughton

The Cowboys (16-9 overall, 6-6 Mountain West) almost always look to get the ball to sophomore post Jordan Naughton on its first few offensive possessions. It did so in their 102-100 four-overtime win over Fresno State Wednesday night. Naughton scored in the pain on UW’s second offensive series.

“I don’t care if opponents know we’re going to him or not, we’re going to him,” Edwards said. “We want to get him going because I think he can be a really good player in this league. When he demands the ball, he’s a much different basketball player than when he’s just out there.”

The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Naughton has played in all 25 games this season for UW, and started 24. His numbers aren’t eye-popping at 5.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 14.8 minutes per game.

But he’s had some good games and moments for the Cowboys this season.

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Initial thoughts of UW men’s hoops

It was nice to break out of football mode for a couple of hours Thursday night to watch the Wyoming men’s basketball team. The Cowboys easily defeated Division II Chadron State 75-50 in front of a packed house of 1,187 at Eastern Wyoming College.

After a slow start for UW, the game was never in doubt, which is what you would expect in an exhibition game.

First, here is first-year UW coach Allen Edwards after the game:

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Adams firmly stands behind his teammates

On Jan. 4, Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams tweeted out — to paraphrase — that despite what critics have said, he wouldn’t trade his current group of teammates for anything.

Josh Adams

Josh Adams

Adams has been the undisputed leader of the Cowboys this season — on and off the floor. He leads the team in virtually every statistical category, and enters Wednesday’s game at San Jose State fourth in the nation in scoring at 24.8 points per game.

Adams scored a season-low 12 points in UW’s 59-57 home win over UNLV last Saturday. He did a lot of other things well in that game despite shooting 3 of 14 from the field and 1 of 7 from 3-point range. He had a game-high five assists, was 5 of 6 from the free-throw line and added two steals and two blocked shots.

Simply put, the Cowboys don’t win that game without Adams.

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UW’s young bigs learning as they go

The season has been an up-and-down one for Wyoming men’s basketball so far with a 7-8 overall record.

Same can be said for the Cowboys’ young post players — sophomores Jonathan Barnes and Hayden Dalton and true freshman Jordan Naughton. Dalton and Naughton are in their first years at UW. Barnes is in his second.

I’m not including sophomore Alan Herndon here, even though this is just his second year in terms of playing for the Cowboys and third year in the program. He, too, has had is ups and downs, but for now we will consider him the veteran.

Larry Shyatt

Larry Shays

Coach Larry Shyatt knew the youth and inexperience in the post would be “challenging” this season.

“Watching their development has been outstanding for us in practice,” he said. “In games it’s been a different guy on a different night stepping up or struggling. Nothing has been a surprise, but what need to do is develop a little more consistency.”

The 6-foot-8 Dalton averages 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He’s pulled down five or more rebounds in six of UW’s 15 games, but at 185 pounds it is evident that Dalton struggles against bulkier guys inside. That was evident in last Saturday’s 71-68 loss at Nevada where Dalton was 0 of 5 from the field, with many of those misses inside.

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Cowboys say they will be more focused in regular-season opener

I don’t think anyone felt good about Wyoming’s 77-69 overtime loss to Division II Fort Lewis last Saturday.

Yes, it was an exhibition game. Even though the Cowboys’ three best players — senior guard Josh Adams, junior guard Jason McManamen and sophomore forward Alan Herndon — didn’t play the last 15 minutes or so based on the decision coach Larry Shyatt made earlier in the week, there was a level of disappointment.

Talking to the players this week, they seem determined that won’t happen Friday when the Cowboys open the regular season against Bristol University out of Anaheim, California.

Alan Herndon

Alan Herndon

“Increased focus,” said Herndon on what practice has been like so far this week. “Coaches have been more on edge. We know we have to prepare a lot better. We know we have to prepare and respect every single team we play no mater what their name is.”

Added McManamen: “It was tough. You don’t want to lose any game no mater who you’re playing. We have to learn from it. It will make us hungrier for this game Friday. We’re going to be ready.”

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UW men’s basketball signs four in 2014-15 recruiting class

Here is a list of the four players the Wyoming men’s basketball team signed Wednesday:

G Austin Conway, 5-10, 165, Overland HS, Aurora, Colorado

F Justin James, 6-7, 180, Oldsmar Christian School, Port Saint Lucie, Florida

F Andrew Moemeka, 6-8, 200, Oldsmar Christian School, Lake City, Florida

F/C Jordan Naughton, 6-10, 220, Etiwanda HS, Rancho Cucamonga, California

This class addressed immediate needs from the 1-5 positions for UW, and it still has one scholarship left to give.

Here is video highlights from Conway’s junior year, who was the first to commit in this class back on July 1:


James was the last to commit in mid-September, and UW beat out Mississippi State to get him. A player Cowboys coach Larry Shyatt said can play four different positions on the floor, including point guard. Here are his junior highlights:


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UW men’s hoops adds key piece to 2014-15 recruiting class

The verbal commitment of 6-foot-7 versatile guard/forward Justin James may have capped off the best recruiting class the Wyoming men’s basketball program has landed in recent memory.

Granted, all five players committed must sign, and all are supposed to during the early signing period in November.

Here is the full list:

G Austin Conway, 5-10, 165, Overland HS, Aurora, Colorado

F Justin James, 6-7, 180, Oldsmar Christian School, Port Saint Lucie, Florida

F Andrew Moemeka, 6-8, Oldsmar Christian School, Lake City, Florida

F/C Jordan Naughton, 6-10, 220, Etiwanda HS, Rancho Cucamonga, California

F Eric Turner, 6-5, 193, The Villages HS, The Villages, Florida

The class seems to address the future needs of the program. Conway is regarded as one of the quickest point guards in the region — and perhaps in the country. James said Conway is “crazy fast” when I talked to him on the phone Monday.

Turner, who averaged nearly 24 points per game as a junior in high school, seems like a good scorer along the wing. Moemeka and Naughton add size.

Justin James

Justin James

James is the wildcard here because he has played the 1, 2 and 3 spots in high school, and his coaches think he may be able to do that at UW. Whether he does or not remains to be seen, but his versatility is what stands out, and what has made programs like San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico so good in the Mountain West in recent years is players who can play numerous spots on the floor.

Wyoming has not had a lot of players like that in the most recent past.

Here are some video highlights of James as a junior in high school to give you a taste of what I’m talking about:

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