UW vs. Colorado State hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Kelly Lyell, who covers Colorado State men’s basketball for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

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

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At 12-8 overall and 4-3 in the Mountain West, is this where you thought the Rams would be at this point of the season? 

Kelly Lyell

Kelly Lyell

I thought the Rams would be a game or two ahead of where they are right now. I figured they’d still have Gian Clavell and his 20-plus points a game, as well as a favorable schedule to start Mountain West play with home games early against UNLV, San Diego State and Utah State and only one tough road game in the first seven in the opener at Boise State.

How has Colorado State responded and played since losing senior guard Gian Clavell, its leading scorer at the time, to season-ending hand and shoulder injuries? 

The Rams have responded surprisingly well to Clavell’s loss, battling Kansas State right up to the buzzer just two days after learning he was out for the rest of the year and taking Boise State down to the wire, as well, in the MW opener on the road two weeks later. They lost a lot of offensive firepower when Clavell went down, but they seem to have stepped up some on the defensive end, knowing they won’t have his points to fall back on.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings this week. Figuring out the third through eighth or ninth teams once again was a challenge.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com. Only two MW teams have RPIs in the top 100, and seven are ranked between 112 and 176. As a league, the MW slipped a bit this week with a RPI of 12 out of 32 conferences. It has been at 11 the last few weeks. The Summit, Mid-American and Colonial leagues are currently ahead of the MW.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. San Diego State (14-6 overall, 7-0 MW, 64 RPI): The Aztecs remain the only undefeated team in the MW, and have the league’s longest winning streak at seven. The team will be tested this week with two games in the state of Nevada.

2. Boise State (15-5, 6-1, 60 RPI): The Broncos are more like 1A in the rankings, but its three-point home loss to San Diego State on Jan.16 is the difference. They responded well with two double-digit wins this past week.

3. Nevada (12-7, 4-3, 112 RPI): Some thought I was nuts for having UNLV third last week, and many may think the same having the Wolf Pack this high. But remember, these are weekly power rankings, and Nevada earned the jump up with wins over Wyoming and UNLV last week. Do I think Nevada will finish third in the MW? No, but for now it earned the jump up the rankings.

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UW vs. 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 today’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 2 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

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Boise State was predicted to be among the top teams in the Mountain West and has played like it at 14-5 overall and 5-1 in the conference. What have the Broncos done well when they’re winning, and what areas — if any — do they struggle?

Though some fans hoped they had at least one win against the likes of Michigan State and

Dave Southorn

Dave Southorn

Arizona (which they played twice), this is about as good as many had hoped the Broncos would be. They’ve done it thanks to a continued focus on increasing their athleticism, able to attack the basket but shoot with players like Nick Duncan and Anthony Drmic. The Boise State offense has been great against everyone except long, athletic squads like Arizona and San Diego State. Four players average at least 11.3 points per game, so options are aplenty. The Broncos haven’t been great in the half court defensively, with teams shooting 43.5 percent overall, but they have forced at least 15 turnovers in six of the last seven games.

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UW vs. Nevada basketball Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Chris Murray, who covers Nevada men’s basketball for the Reno Gazette-Journal, about Wednesday’s game with Wyoming.

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

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It will have been 18 days since the last time Wyoming played Nevada — a 71-68 Nevada win in Reno. Has anything changed a lot with he Wolf Pack since that first game?

Chris Murray

Chris Murray

Well, Nevada still can’t shoot. The team ranked 350th out of 351 teams last year in 3-point shooting against Division-I opponents and sits at 339th in the nation this year. Nevada made 5-of-11 3-pointers against Wyoming in the first matchup, one of its best shooting efforts of the season. But this team struggles to score and its defense and rebounding has slipped since it lost AJ West, who also missed the first game. It’s basically the same Nevada team that is reliant on creating turnovers, scoring in transition and playing with pace. Nevada had a good offensive night in its win over Wyoming earlier this month and will need a repeat of that Wednesday to score the sweep.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings this week, and there are some changes near the top.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com. Only two MW teams have RPIs in the top 100, and eight are ranked between 121-193. As a league, the MW still has a RPI of 11 out of 32 conferences.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. San Diego State (12-6 overall, 5-0 MW, 68 RPI): The Aztecs are the only undefeated team in league play after an impressive 56-53 road win at Boise State last Saturday. San Diego State has won seven straight conference road games going back to last season. It is showing why it was picked as the preseason favorite to win the MW.

2. Boise State (13-5, 4-1, 52 RPI): The loss to San Diego State snapped a 17-game home winning streak, and the Broncos were just 1 of 17 from 3-point range. Look for this team to bounce back, but for now, it drops from the top spot in these power rankings.

3. Utah State (10-7, 3-3, 129 RPI): After starting 0-3 in league play, the Aggies responded with two wins last week at home against Air Force and at Colorado State. Senior guard Chris Smith, the MW Player of the Week, averaged 27 points and nine rebounds in the two victories. Stiffer tests await this week with a home game with UNLV and a road game at San Diego State.

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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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MW men’s basketball power rankings

We enter the third week of conference play, and while there wasn’t a lot of movement among the top teams in my power rankings, there was some among other teams.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com, and nine of the 11 MW teams have RPIs of between 100 and 181. As a league, the MW has an RPI of 11 out of 32 conferences.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. Boise State (12-4 overall, 3-0 MW, 49 RPI): The Broncos remain the top dog in the conference. They’ve won nine in a row. Junior forward James Webb III has won back-to-back MW Player of the Week honors, and three this season. Boise State made nearly a 30-point rise in the RPI from last week.

2. San Diego State (10-6, 3-0, 100 RPI): We will see this week if the Aztecs are worthy of being ranked this high with road games at Colorado State and Boise State.

3. New Mexico (10-6, 3-0, 116 RPI): A four-game losing streak prior to league play seems a distant memory after winning three straight to open league play. The defense has improved, which has led to better offense.

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UW-Air Force men’s basketball Q&A

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

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

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Brent Briggeman

Brent Briggeman

At 10-4 so far, is that where you thought Air Force would be record-wise? If not, what has surprised you — good or bad?

I think this would have been an optimistic forecast. Air Force challenged itself in the nonconference, going to Colorado and Ohio State and playing NCAA tournament regulars like Robert Morris and New Mexico State. It won two of those games, and went on the road to notch wins over Denver and UC Davis. Given Air Force’s struggles on the road in recent seasons, those wins were no minor deal. I think it’s particularly surprising that the Falcons have done this without finding a shooting touch as a team, shooting 64 percent from the free throw line through the nonconference and 32 percent from 3-point range.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

One week into conference play, and the Mountain West is just as baffling as the nonconference portion of the schedule was.

A decent amount of movement this week, and I would expect more in the coming weeks. But here is how I think the MW ranks this week.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com. Nothing really stands out as far as the RPI goes, but it does indicate that from top to bottom, the MW is a solid league. Its RPI of 11 out of 32 conferences isn’t all that great, and it looks like the MW could be a one-bid league to the NCAA Tournament as of now.

Call it mediocre or poor, but this league isn’t as bad as many national people think.

I still think the league will get at least two teams to the NCAAs, and possibly three if all works out well.

As always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Boise State (10-4 overall, 1-0 MW, 70 RPI): The Broncos have the longest winning streak in the league at seven, and may have the Player of the Year in the MW in junior forward James Webb III. A tricky game awaits at Utah State Tuesday.

2. San Diego State (9-6, 2-0, 81 RPI): The Aztecs played like the Aztecs last week in a home win over Wyoming and an impressive road win at Utah State last week. The offense is still an issue, but the defense is not.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

I thought I would wait until the start of conference play to do my first Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings of the season.

Who is good and who is not may be more uncertain now than at the start of the season. But you have to start somewhere, so here we go.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com. As always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Boise State (8-4, 69 RPI): There was a head-scratching loss at Montana to start the season, but the only other losses for the Broncos have been to Arizona twice and now No. 1 Michigan State. A good mix of inside and outside production, and the team to beat as league play begins.

2. UNLV (9-4, 71 RPI): I’m a little hesitant to put the Runnin’ Rebels up this high, but they’ve not had any bad losses. However, UNLV let a double-digit second half lead at home to Arizona State slip away in a 10-point loss. As is the case most years, UNLV has the most talent in the MW, but can coach Dave Rice put it all together through the rigors of league play?

3. Utah State (8-3, 132 RPI): The Aggies have responded well after losing one of its best players — sophomore forward David Collette — who quit just prior to the season-opener. Utah State has not beaten anyone great, but has taken care of business against teams it should. This is a veteran team, which should help in the MW.

4. Fresno State (8-4, 129 RPI): A loss at Cal Poly was a surprise, but this is a big, physical and athletic team with enough talent to win the conference. Will see what the Bulldogs are made of this week as they play at UNLV and host New Mexico.

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