UW vs. Utah State hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Shawn Harrison, who covers Utah State men’s basketball for The Herald Journal in Logan, Utah, about Wednesday’s first-round game at the Mountain West Tournament with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at Noon MT at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Follow on Twitter: @hjsports

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison

How would you describe the season for Utah State with a new head coach and a pretty experienced roster returning from last season?

It has been disappointing. There were high expectations with the preseason polls and the veterans coming back. Plus, the new coach had been part of the program for so long the transition was smooth. I really believe the Aggies never fully recovered from David Collette quitting the team two days before the first game. That was a huge blow.

What has been the biggest changes under first-year coach Tim Duryea, and how do you see the program moving forward under his leadership?

Duryea has allowed the athletes to create more on their own when they push the ball. The offense is not as structured as it was under Stew Morrill. Duryea also is much more calmer, but has shown some emotion the last month and the players have said they like seeing him get fired up. As far as moving forward, there are some highly regarded recruits that have verbally committed. If they can get them signed when the time comes around, that would be a big step forward.

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MW Tournament could be a wild one

The Mountain West came up with a hashtag for its conference basketball tournament this year: #MWMadness.

That may be a good way to describe how the men’s tournament plays out this year.

2016 Mountain West Tournament

2016 Mountain West Tournament

Of course, as I say this watch it be chalk all the way through. But if the regular season was any indication, expect the unexpected.

No. 2 seed Fresno State seems to be the popular pick as the Bulldogs seem to be playing the best basketball of all the teams. Top seed San Diego State quietly just gets it done.

Boise State and New Mexico have the talent to win this tournament, but so do lower seeds like Colorado State, UNLV, Utah State and yes, even Wyoming — although the Cowboys will be hard-pressed to win four games in four days with seven scholarship players available.

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UW vs. San Jose State men’s hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Kevin McCarthy, who runs the Spartan Roundball blog that covers San Jose State men’s basketball, about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 7 p.m. MT Wednesday at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Kevin McCarthy

Kevin McCarthy

San Jose State remains in last place in the Mountain West, but it appears significant progress is being made in the rebuilding of the program. Would you agree or disagree with that, and what has been the most significant improvements?

Progress has definitely been made. The squad can play competitively with the lower half of the conference teams but just not for a full 40 minutes. The freshman starters, Ryan Welage, Cody Schwartz and Jaycee Hillsman, along with Brandon Clarke have demonstrated Mountain West talent in flashes. Various additions to them, such as greater weight and strength, experience and the honing of current skills, along with some more players, will get the Spartans on a much more equal footing with anyone in league.

What still needs to happen for the Spartans to be a consistent competitor in the conference?

Foremost is the need for a true point guard. The team lacks a talent who can limit turnovers while running the offense,  penetrate and either score or pass the ball while also being — at very least — an average defender. Whether it is Hillsman stepping up or not, a consistent shooting scoring guard is a must. Plus, a replacement of sorts in the frontcourt for Frank Rogers is required. The youngsters must return with better bodies and improved skill sets.

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UW vs. San Diego St. hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Mark Zeigler, who covers San Diego State men’s basketball for the San Diego Union-Tribune, about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 8 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @sdutzeigler

Mark Zeigler

Mark Zeigler

The Aztecs were picked to win the league in the preseason and they’ve shown why. Has this team played and performed like you thought? If not, what has been different?

I think they are now. They certainly weren’t in November and December, when they went 7-6 and lost three at home, including back-to-back games at Viejas Arena for the first time in 11 years. But this team was always going to take longer to coalesce because of its youth, with two freshmen starters and two sophomores in the rotation. If anything, most figured this team would be better offensively and a little worse defensively than last season. In reality, the two teams have been pretty alike — challenged on offense, nails on defense.

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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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UW vs. Fresno State men’s hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Robert Kuwada, who covers Fresno State men’s basketball for the Fresno Bee, about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Robert Kuwada

Robert Kuwada

Tip off is at 7 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

What is the health status of the Bulldogs heading into this game as they were without four frontcourt players in their last game at Nevada?

Fresno State will go into the game short, but could have at least one player back. Forward Torren Jones has been ruled out and forward Karachi Edo and center Terrell Carter II are doubtful. Forward Paul Watson (calf) could be back, but coach Rodney Terry said they are not going to push and risk further injury. Watson would be a critical piece against the Cowboys – he defended Josh Adams most of the second half in that first matchup down here and he was 3 of 12 over those 18 or so minutes.

Fresno State’s win over first-place San Diego State last week showed how good the Bulldogs are, but aside from the recent rash of injuries and illnesses, what has led to some of the inconsistent play with this group? 

That’s a very good question. It’s a bit weird for an older team with guys like Marvelle Harris, Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis that have played a lot of college basketball, but the consistency of effort hasn’t always been there. I think the loss at San Jose State with a chance to win a third conference game in a row was a tipping point, though, because they have been a lot more competitive since even while missing some key pieces. The Bulldogs beat UNLV without Jones, who had 18 points and eight rebounds in the first meeting. They beat San Diego State without Jones and Edo and with Watson going down early in the second half. They came from 13 down in the second half to force overtime before losing at Nevada, losing Carter that morning. They’re just are competing much better now than they did early in the year.

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UW at Boise State men’s hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Dave Southorn, who covers Boise State men’s basketball for the Idaho Statesman, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 2 p.m. MT at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.

Follow on Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

Take us through the shot by James Webb III in the loss at Colorado State Wednesday night in terms of what you saw and the entire decision-making process from the officials. What is your take on the whole situation, and how do you think the team will respond after the loss?

I’ve never seen anything like it…and spending the last three days writing about 0.8

Dave Southorn

Dave Southorn

seconds of one game, I still don’t get it. The Mountain West was in a no-win situation, but offering an explanation Thursday that wound up being wrong (timer was not synced to arena’s clock), it made it worse. Webb clearly got the shot off, and it clearly had an effect with a poor start to the second overtime. I’m not sure if Boise State should have been given the win retroactively, but I think it would’ve probably created a whole lot less negativity for the league. The team was understandably upset, and coach Leon Rice said the continuing drama hasn’t helped, but this team needs wins now, so it can’t let it slow them down.

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UW at Boise State men’s basketball notes

Coming off its first bye of the conference season, the Wyoming men’s basketball team plays at Boise State at 2 p.m. Saturday at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

So how did UW use its bye week — or at least its time not having a mid-week game?

Larry Shyatt

Larry Shyatt

Coach Larry Shyatt said the team took Sunday and Tuesday off. It practiced “hard” Monday, and “lifted hard and had a long individual skill development” workout Wednesday. The team began preparations for Boise State Thursday. The coaches also spent time on the road recruiting.

Boise State (16-9 overall, 7-5 Mountain West) has lost four of its last five games, including a crazy 97-93 double-overtime loss at Colorado State where a game-winning 3-pointer by junior James Webb III was ruled no good by the officials.

Here is the link from the MW’s statement about how that game ended: http://www.themw.com/news/mw-16-official-stmt-end1OT-bsu-csu-mbk

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UW vs. Utah State men’s hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Shawn Harrison, who covers Utah State men’s basketball for The Herald Journal in Logan, Utah, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 4 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @hjsports

The Aggies were picked to finish third in the Mountain West this season, but are 11-10 overall and 3-7 in league play. What has happened with this team?

Well, I skipped ahead and could say look at question two. That is certainly part of the problem, but not being able to finish games has been a big problem. Throw out the New

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison

Mexico game, and Utah State has held second half leads in most of its MW losses. The Aggies lost by three to San Diego State at home and then lose by three at Boise State after leading nearly the entire game. Scoring droughts have haunted them in every loss. Rebounding has been sketchy at times, and the lack of defending has been a problem. Head coach Tim Duryea has said this team lacks toughness once MW play began.

How has the loss of sophomore post David Collette prior to the start of the season affected this team — even now?

It certainly caused problems in the early going and is still an issue. Utah State planned on going to the big man a lot on the offensive end, and Collette certainly had presence on the defensive end with his ability to block shots and rebound. It put the team in a scramble mode the first month as the Aggies tried to change their approach with no consistent scoring threat at the post. There were a lot of games in a short span of time, and with Collette leaving two days before the opener, it didn’t give the team much time to adjust the game plan. The only true post man left is Elston Jones, who plays well at times, but is no David Collette. Utah State had gone small at times with Grayson Moore playing the five and had some success with the energy he brought to the court. However, Moore fractured a bone in his foot four games ago and is most likely done for the season. The Aggies are still trying to figure out how to get by with one true post and several undersized guys asked to fill in at times. Plus, it is an easy excuse to fall back on when things aren’t going well.

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UW at Air Force men’s hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force men’s basketball for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colorado, about Tuesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 7 p.m. MT at Clune Arena at the Air Force Academy.

Follow on Twitter: @BrentBriggeman

What’s gone wrong for the Falcons now at 10-12 overall, 1-8 in the conference and losers of eight straight games? 

What hasn’t gone wrong, that would be a better question. First, the team hasn’t been able to complete athletically in the league. Nevada and UNLV simply overwhelmed them

Brent Briggeman

Brent Briggeman

physically. Fresno State clogged passing lanes with its length, forcing 17 turnovers and turning that into a 28-6 advantage in points off turnovers. Wyoming, New Mexico and San Jose State shot well. It’s been something different every game, though a consistent theme has been the Falcons’ shooting woes. Beyond that, Air Force has been playing with an injured point guard in Trevor Lyons (shooting hand).


Has this recent spiral surprised you, and are there signs or hopes that it will end? 

I don’t think it has been stunning. Air Force started the season 10-4, but other than an overtime victory over New Mexico State, the wins weren’t against Mountain West-caliber teams. When it played up against Ohio State, Colorado the results were lopsided. It was obviously going to be a season where a lot of things had to go right, and they haven’t. As for signs of a turnaround for this season, I’m not sure they’re there.

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