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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MW not perceived as a good hoops league, but don’t tell Allen Edwards that

As Wyoming gets set to begin play in the Mountain West Tournament at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday against Air Force, it appears — and this isn’t breaking news — that the MW will again be a one-bid league to the NCAA Tournament.

Allen Edwards

Last year, San Diego State went 16-2 in MW play and was the top seed in the MW Tournament. It lost to Fresno State in the tournament’s championship game, and played in the NIT. Nevada won this year’s regular-season MW title, and although its RPI entering the MW Tournament is 36, the Wolf Pack seemingly has to win the tournament to get to the NCAAs.

Right, wrong or indifferent, on a national scale the MW is a mid-major conference. The days of getting multiple teams into the NCAA Tournament, let alone five not that long ago, are gone — at least until its 11 hoops-playing members win some notable nonconference games.

First-year UW coach Allen Edwards was asked about this perception Monday, and had this to say:  “Sometimes the perception hurts because of the year San Diego State (sixth seed) and New Mexico (fifth seed) has had, and probably because those guys not taking down a Power 5 team. This is a well-balanced league and we’ve been beating up on each other. Sometimes that looks bad. There are teams in this league can go into the (NCAA) Tournament and get a win. Nevada is a good team. So is Colorado State, Boise State, Fresno State. … I can go down the list all the way down to us (the seventh seed in the MW Tournament). I disagree with people saying it’s down year or a one-bid league.”

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Marshall’s contributions are more than what shows up on stat sheets

Morris Marshall’s career with the Wyoming men’s basketball team hasn’t been full of a lot of bright spots.

Morris Marshall

The 6-foot-4 guard came to UW last season from Santa Fe Junior College in Florida, and he averaged three minutes in eight games in 2015-16.

This season, with a new coach and more up-tempo offense Marshall’s role figured to increase. However, he’s dealt with a nagging shin injury since the summer. Although he’s been healthy the last few weeks, Marshall has played in only 13 games and averaged 6.5 minutes per contest.

Marshall’s final home regular-season game for the Cowboys is at 2 p.m. Saturday against San Jose State. Will he play, and how much, remains to be seen. But whether he plays or not, Marshall’s been an important part of this team according to one of its key players.

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UW sports live chat replay

Here’s the replay of my weekly live chat on University of Wyoming sports on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Plenty of talk about Wyoming’s 102-100 4OT win over Fresno State Wednesday night, along with some chatter about UW football, women’s hoops and even a little on wrestling.

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

Live Blog University of Wyoming sports live chat

MW men’s basketball: mediocrity or competitive?

First-year Wyoming coach Allen Edwards was asked Monday why he thinks the Cowboys’ opponent Tuesday — San Diego State — has been off this season. The Aztecs enter the game 11-9 overall and 3-5 in the Mountain West. They were picked to win the conference in the preseason by the league’s head coaches and select media. I was one of those media members, and also picked the Aztecs to win it.

“I think it’s because the league is more balanced than it has been. yet they’re only losing by a few points,” Edwards said. “Last year when going through league 16-2, they got a lot of wins by close margins. This year, they’ve not found a way to do that consistently. It may look like they’re having a down year, but many of those losses could have been flipped.”

That’s a good and fair point.

San Diego State is 0-6 in games decided by six points or less, or two possessions. Four of its five MW losses has been by six points or less, including three by three points or less. The Aztecs lost their last two games by a combined four points, but held double-digit leads in both.

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How I voted for the 2016 All-Mountain West football team

Wyoming was well represented as the Mountain West released its all-conference football teams Tuesday afternoon.

Those who voted were the 12 head coaches in the league, and selected media — including myself.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

Third-year coach Craig Bohl was the Coach of the Year. Redshirt freshman linebacker Logan Wilson of Casper was the Freshman of the Year. Four players made the first team: junior running back Brian Hill, senior tight end Jacob Hollister, senior offensive lineman Chase Roullier and sophomore free safety Andrew Wingard — all of whom I had on my first-team ballot. I also voted for Bohl and Wilson in their respective awards.

Here’s the link to see the entire 2016 All-MW football honorees:

http://www.themwc.com/news/mountain-west-announces-2016-football-all-conference-teams-and-individual-honors-11-28-2016

 

There was some controversy, at least among the fans.

Josh Allen

Josh Allen

UW redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen made the second team. Boise State sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien got the nod as the first-teamer. He’s the only player to be the first team quarterback in back-to-back years as a freshman and sophomore in league history. I had Allen as my first team quarterback, but if you look at the numbers, Rypien had the edge. You can’t go wrong with either one, and both were clearly the top two quarterbacks in the conference.

I was a little surprised that UW senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry didn’t make the first team. Colorado State junior Michael Gallup got the nod, along with Boise State senior Thomas Sperbeck, who was a no-brainer in terms of making the first team. Gentry and Gallup had similar numbers. Both caught 11 touchdown passes. Gallup had eight more catches (70 to 62) and 32 more yards (1,164 to 1,132). Gentry had a better yards-per-catch average (18.3 to 16.7).

Brian Hill

Brian Hill

Boise State fans were miffed that junior running back Jeremy McNichols didn’t make the first team. He certainly had the numbers to be there, and the way this league has been with running backs the last couple of years they should have at least three guys on the first team. But you also can make strong arguments that Hill and San Diego State senior Donnel Pumphrey (the MW Offensive Player of the Year) should be on there, too. Who do you leave off? Last year it was Hill.

Below is how I voted. Most of it lines up with the official results.

QUARTERBACK

Josh Allen – Wyoming

Brett Rypien – Boise State

RUNNING BACK

Donnel Pumphrey – San Diego State

Brian Hill – Wyoming

Jeremy McNichols – Boise State

James Butler – RB – Nevada

WIDE RECEIVER

Thomas Sperbeck – Boise State

Tanner Gentry – Wyoming

Michael Gallup – Colorado State

Jalen Robinette – Air Force

TIGHT END

Jacob Hollister – Wyoming

David Wells – San Diego State

OFFENSIVE LINE

Chase Roullier – Wyoming

Nico Siragusa – San Diego State

Daniel Brunskill – San Diego State

Mario Yakoo – OL – Boise State

Dylan Vail – Air Force

Fred Zerblis – Colorado State

Austin Corbett – Nevada

Jake Simonich – Utah State

Reno Henderson – New Mexico

Jake Bennett – Colorado State

DEFENSIVE LINE

Alex Barrett – San Diego State

Ricky Ali’ifua – Utah State

Sam McCaskill – Boise State

Kyle Kelley – DE – San Diego State

Nik D’Avanzo – New Mexico

Meffy Koloamatangi – Hawai’i

Ryan Watson – Air Force

Malik Reed – Nevada

LINEBACKER

Tau Lotulelei – UNLV

Dakota Cox – New Mexico

Tanner Vallejo – Boise State

Calvin Munson – San Diego State

Christian Tago – San Jose State

Kevin Davis – Colorado State

DEFENSIVE BACK

Weston Steelhammer – Air Force

Damontae Kazee – San Diego State

Jonathan Moxey – Boise State

Andrew Wingard – Wyoming

Brodie Hicks – Air Force

Malik Smith – San Diego State

Andre Chachere – San Jose State

Trayvon Henderson – Hawai’i

KICKER

John Baron II – San Diego State

Luke Strebel – Air Force

PUNTER

Hayden Hunt – Colorado State

Michael Carrizosa – San Jose State

RETURN SPECIALIST

Rashaad Penny – San Diego State

D.J. May – Wyoming

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

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Wyoming vs. Boise State football primer

Some pregame reading for Saturday’s Wyoming-Boise State game. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. MT at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

First, my No. 1 key to the game for the Cowboys. There are more, but this was what I choose as my top one:

Play keep away: Meaning Wyoming needs to win the time of possession game, and obviously, finish drives with points. Boise State has one of the most powerful offenses in the Mountain West, and the best way to slow them down is to keep it on the sideline.

Now for some other notes and quotes:

Jeremy McNichols

Jeremy McNichols

— Junior running back Brian Hill needs one rushing touchdown to tie for sixth place on UW’s career list, and two to tie for fourth. Hill currently has 24 rushing touchdowns. Hill, the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week, is second in the nation with 144.3 yards per game. Hill’s count part today, Boise State junior Jeremy McNichols, averages 130.7 yards per game. He has 16 touchdowns this season (12 rushing, four receiving), which is tied for the national lead with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. McNichols has 42 touchdowns since the start of the 2015 season, which is the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

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How I voted in MW men’s basketball preseason poll

Ready or not, basketball season is nearly upon us. Wednesday was Mountain West Men’s Basketball Media Day in Las Vegas. The league released its all-conference team and predicted order of finish.

Selected media members voted on both, and I was asked to vote. Here’s how I voted in the predicted order of finish

    My poll                                           Official poll

  1. San Diego State                   1. San Diego State

    2. Nevada                                  2. Nevada

   3. New Mexico                            3. New Mexico

  4. Utah State                                4. Fresno State

   5. Boise State                              5. Boise State

   6. Fresno State                            6. Utah State

   7. Colorado State                        7. Colorado State

   8. UNLV                                       8. UNLV

   9. San Jose State                        9. Air Force

  10. Wyoming                               10. Wyoming

  11. Air Force                                  11. San Jose State

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Wyoming vs. UC Davis live chat replay

Here’s the replay of my live chat from the University of Wyoming’s 45-22 victory over UC Davis on Saturday in from top 18,781 fans at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium

UW improved to 2-1 overall, and got a season-high 207 rushing yards and two touchdowns from junior running back Brian Hill. Sophomore quarterback Josh Allen was 11 of 15 for 198 yards and three touchdowns.

For more UW sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang. Check back to wyosports.net and go to WyoSports’ UW sports blog at wyomingcowboysblog.com.

Live Blog Wyoming vs. UC Davis football live game chat

Wyoming at Nebraska football live chat replay

Here’s the replay of my live chat from the University of Wyoming’s 52-17 loss at Nebraska Saturday in front of 88,895 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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

Live Blog Wyoming at Nebraska football live chat