WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer swap with Scott DeCamp, who covers Western Michigan men’s basketball for the Kalamaoo (Mich.) Gazette.
Wyoming (20-13) hosts Western Michigan (21-12) in the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational at 7 tonight at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
Question: Was Western Michigan disappointed it didn’t get into the NIT, and in your opinion, has the team bought in to playing in the CBI?
Answer: I think it was understood that WMU was probably not going to be considered for the NIT. The Mid-American Conference is generally a one-bid league (for the NCAA Tournament), and that typically means the winner of the MAC Tournament gets the bid and loser goes to the NIT. Akron won the MAC tourney and received the NCAA automatic bid, Ohio lost in the MAC tourney finals and went to the NIT. WMU lost to Ohio in the MAC tourney semifinals, which essentially locked the Broncos into the CBI. I think WMU is excited about playing in the CBI. This is a young team with eight freshmen. Many people, before the season, expected the Broncos to finish in the .500 or sub-.500 range, so they’ve overachieved in some ways.
The big news of the day came about nine hours before the game when senior guard Luke Martinez pleaded not guilty to a felony aggravated assault and battery charge Wednesday morning in district court in Laramie.
A trial is set for Aug. 26-28, and Martinez is still suspended indefinitely from the team.
What was surprising was what Martinez’s attorney, Tom Fleener said to the media after the hearing.
“Luke’s the victim here,” Fleener said. “He’s lost his college basketball career. He wasn’t the aggressor that night. It was a bar fight in a college town and no weapons were used. While the injuries were certainly unfortunate, Luke’s the one that truly suffered today.”
According to an affidavit, a multiple witnesses reported to police that Martinez kicked a limp and unconscious man, Parfait Nayigihugu, in the face.
WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi exchanged email questions and answers with New Mexico men’s basketball beat writer Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal about tonight’s game at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
The first part is Grammer’s answers to Gagliardi’s questions. The second is Gagliardi’s answers to Grammer’s questions.
Look for Q&As with writers who cover UW’s Mountain West foes throughout the conference season.
Question: Aside from San Diego State being a good defensive team, what were New Mexico’s biggest struggles in last Saturday’s 55-34 loss on the road to the Aztecs?
Answer: The Lobos’ biggest weapon on offense this season has been the free-throw line, getting there 25.5 times per game. They’ve hit 377 free throws while their opponents have only attempted 304 (and made just 205). In fact, UNM is the only ranked team in the nation to have actually made fewer field goals than their opponents this season, yet have won 17 of 20 games. Saturday, a combination of SDSU avoiding foul trouble in general and UNM not adjusting to the game officials not calling the game very tightly led to UNM getting to the free throw line only 11 times. They seemed out of sorts on offense all game and I think it started with the fact that they abandoned what they do best: attack the basket looking for contact. UNM did not adjust to the officiating very well, as they failed to do in the first at Saint Louis on Dec. 31 when they scored just 13 points in a game the officials weren’t callinmany fouls. The lack of adjustment to the officiating took them out of everything they do on offense.
WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every week during the conference season.
Let him know what you think about these rankings — good or bad.
1. No. 15 New Mexico (16-2 overall, 3-0 MW, 8 RPI): The only undefeated team in league play after two weeks, and the only team in the AP poll. The Lobos also have the conference’s longest winning streak at three, which says a lot about how tough all the teams are. Faces a big home game tonight against Colorado State where both teams are equally as good in the backcourt and frontcourt.
2. Colorado State (15-3, 2-1, 17 RPI): An overtime loss at San Diego State is the only conference loss. This is the most veteran team in the league, and perhaps the most physical. Senior and first-year center Colton Iverson and senior forward Pierce Hornung combine to average 19.1 rebounds per game, and the Rams are the conference’s best rebounding team. CSU needs a signature road win in league play, and tonight it gets a shot at New Mexico.
It will be interesting to see in today’s Wyoming-San Diego State men’s hoops game if San Diego State has point guard Xavier Thames. He sat out the conference-opener last week at Fresno State with a bad back, and had no points and no assists in 25 minutes in the Aztecs’ 82-75 home loss to UNLV on Wednesday.
There are plenty of other guys that can play the point for SDSU. But still, that could be an interesting thing to follow today. This would have been a good game to get senior guard Luke Martinez back at 6-foot-4 to help defend the 6-3 Thames, 6-3 senior guard Chase Tapley or even 6-5 guard Jamaal Franklin — the reigning MW Player of the Year. SDSU also has a 6-8 freshman, Winston Shepard, than can play the point, or at very least, handle the ball.
–UW and San Diego State were a combined 8 of 56 (14.3 percent) from 3-point range in their last games. The Cowboys must make some 3s to have a chance to win today.
This should be a low-scoring game tonight as Wyoming leads the Mountain West in scoring defense (54.7 ppg), which also is seventh nationally.
Fresno State is third in the MW in scoring defense (60.4 ppg). Only two teams have scored more than 70 points on the Bulldogs this season — UCLA and New Mexico. Fresno State forces 15.6 turnovers per game and have 50 more steals than its opponents (123-73).
UW has yet to allow a team to score more than 70 points.
Fresno State averages a league-worst 61 points per game, shoots 39.3 percent from the field and under 70 percent from the free-throw line (68.1 percent).
WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every Tuesday during the conference season.
Let him know what you think about these first rankings heading into league play.
1. No. 15 San Diego State (14-2 overall, 2-0 MW, 29 RPI); The highest ranked team in the conference that won its first two league games despite guard Xavier Thames’ back troubles. The Aztecs won both of their games by a combined 10 points, but as stated last week, they remain the most complete team in the MW.
Twenty years ago, Larry Shyatt said he would have been upset — and everybody would have known it.
But at 61, Shyatt was disappointed his Wyoming men’s basketball team lost its first game of the season, 63-61 at home to Boise State Wednesday on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by junior guard Jeff Elorriaga.
He just kept his emotions in check.
“In my 40s I would have been throwing chairs, screaming, yelling and cussing,” he said. “But it is hard for me to do that when I know our team was connected. They were doing all the right things, other than (Boise State) had the ball in the final seconds.”
The Cowboys try to avoid an 0-2 Mountain West start at 4 p.m. today at Nevada (9-6, 0-1) in the Wolf Pack’s first-ever home game as a MW member.
“I love everything about the profession except the games,” said the 61-year-old Shyatt during Monday’s Mountain West coaches teleconference.
“Wins don’t seem to last too long. When you lose, it lasts forever. I love the game, the kids, this team and the level we are at now. I love being the underdog, but I don’t enjoy the games too much any more.”
I think a lot of coaches have similar feelings. Still, Shyatt has a deep passion for basketball. That will be a part of him long after he’s done coaching.
How Wyoming plays without senior guard Luke Martinez today at SMU has to be one of the biggest questions for the Cowboys.
Martinez fractured a bone in his right hand in an “off-campus incident” according to the school and is out indefinitely. How will UW replace his 14.5 points per game and 25 steals?
It won’t be by one person, although sophomore guard Riley Grabau is expected to start for Martinez today. This will be a chance for Grabau, true freshman Josh Adams and junior-college transfer Nathan Sobey to step up.
Who else do you think needs to step up their game for the Cowboys while Martinez is out?