UW-Colorado State men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a Q&A session with Matt Stephens, who covers Colorado State men’s basketball for the Fort Collins Coloradoan about Wednesday night’s Border War game with the University of Wyoming.

UW (13-2 overall, 2-0 Mountain West) and Colorado State (14-1, 1-1) tip off at 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Follow on Twitter: @MattStephens

With nine transfers on the roster from other Division I schools or junior colleges, what has coach Larry Eustachy done to be able to take that mixture of talent and blend it into a team that is 14-1 and was nationally ranked as of last week?

I think it’s less about what he’s done since they got here and more a focus on the recruiting process, especially the help Eustachy receives from assistant coach Ross Hodge. Under Eustachy, and Tim Miles before him, Colorado State has done a good job – for the most part – finding talented basketball players who are high-character individuals.

There have been the run-ins with the law every few years, but they’ve always been isolated incidents. Eustachy has done a great job finding guys who have personalities that don’t clash with their teammates. This is a team that gets along pretty well.

Look at Daniel Bejarano. He’s a guy who two years ago told me he didn’t really have friends at CSU – not even his teammates he lived with – and cared more about his family in Phoenix than making new relationships in Fort Collins. Now he’s a leader on the court and off it, often hanging out with his teammates as just one of the guys.

It’s also helped that John Gillon, Tiel Daniels and Stanton Kidd sat out last season and were able to get to know their team pretty well during that year.

 

Who, in your mind, really makes this team click when things are going well or even lifts them up when things aren’t going well?

It has to be Gillon. Quite the unexpected star off the bench.

CSU doesn’t use a traditional point guard in its starting rotation and instead uses Bejarano in that role for the first few minutes, but when Gillon comes in, he’s explosive.

He’s generously listed at 6-foot (even Eustachy admits that’s quite a stretch), looks out of control at times, but always has a plan. He does one of two things when the ball is in his hand, shoot a deep 3-pointer (he’s 20 of 40 from the perimeter) or drive hard to the basket, only to draw a foul or dish it off late.

He didn’t want Jon Octeus to transfer, hoping to learn from him before taking over the point, but has blossomed nicely.

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UW-North Dakota State pregame notes

Here are a couple of tidbits leading up to tonight’s CBI first-round game between Wyoming and North Dakota State.

–North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips knows first hand how good UW junior forward Leonard Washington is. When Washington was a freshman at USC in the 2008-09 season, he and the Trojans beat North Dakota State 61-57 in Los Angeles, and Washington scored 17 points. That was a season-high for him. Washington has posted double-doubles in three of the last four games for the Cowboys.

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UW-CSU Q&A

Kelly Lyell of the Fort Collins Coloradoan answered five questions I gave him on Saturday’s Wyoming-Colorado State men’s basketball game.

Let me know what you think.

What’s been Colorado State’s biggest hang-up on the road this season? Maintaining the kind of defensive focus and intensity that the Rams play with at home, particularly as fatigue sets in as games wind down. CSU has a short bench this year, because coach Tim Miles committed scholarships to two transfers who have to sit out under NCAA rules – Colton Iverson (Minnesota) and Daniel Bejarano (Arizona). The Rams are basically playing an eight-man rotation when everyone’s healthy and have had as few as six of those players available in some conference road games.

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Video: Tim Miles

Colorado State men’s basketball coach Tim Miles is one of the best interviews and overall nicest guys among all the Mountain West coaches. Here’s what he had to say during MW Men’s Basketball Media Day Wednesday in Littleton, Colo. Would like to hear your thoughts on what he said about the rivalry with Wyoming.

Luster, Hudson questionable for UW

Wyoming interim men’s basketball coach Fred Langley said Monday morning that junior point guard JayDee Luster (hip) and true freshman guard Joe Hudson (concussion) are questionable for Wednesday’s home game against Air Force.

UW practiced Sunday night, the first time since early Friday morning, and Langley said Luster started out looking good but was later pulled after the injury flared up. Langley said Hudson experienced a headache running up and down the court, which ended his practice early. If Hudson experiences a headache later today he likely won’t play Wednesday.

Langley added junior center Adam Waddell’s Achilles is swollen, but expects him to play.

Monday was the Mountain West Conference’s weekly coaches’ teleconference and here’s a few notes and quotes:

–San Diego State moved up to No. 4 in the  coaches’ poll and BYU is No. 7. The two teams play at noon Saturday in San Diego in a game televised nationally by CBS.

–San Diego State coach Steve Fisher on if he thinks his team should have been ranked No. 1 or closer to No. 1: “That I don’t know.”

–Fisher on if his team should be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament: “That I have no clue on. I think we would have a case and hope we would be in the talk for a one or two seed.”

–New Mexico was 13-1 in games decided by six points or less last season en route to a 30-5 record and 14-2 conference mark. This season the Lobos are 2-7 in those games, including three straight losses.

–Colorado State coach Tim Miles on his teams’ RPI of 47 according to Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com: “I wish it was 27.”

For more on UW and MWC men’s basketball, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

MWC coaches back Fisher for national award

One of the more interesting questions and answers on Monday’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball coaches teleconference was if fellow MWC coaches thought San Diego State coach Steve Fisher deserves to be considered for national coach of the year. Fisher’s Aztecs are 22-1 overall, 8-1 in the MWC and sixth this week in The Associated Press top 25.

All of the coaches asked supported Fisher, which is what you would expect. Here’s what Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer said:

“No. 1 he’s a special human being. He’s a great guy. The thing that coach Fisher did and was given was a lot of time. His first three or four years they really struggled. The last five years they’ve been really good. He’s got them rolling and they’re going to be rolling for a while.”

“He’s got my coach of the year vote, for sure.”

Interesting comment about given a lot of time.

Fisher is in his 12th season at SDSU, which is the entire life of the MWC. In his first six seasons, the Aztecs went to one NCAA Tournament, one NIT and finished .500 or below four times. In Fisher’s last six years (and his sixth has yet to be completed) he’s won no fewer than 22 games. The Aztecs have been to two NCAA Tournaments and three NITsin the last five years, and will make it to their third NCAA Tournament in six years.

Schroyer is in his fourthyear, has finished above.500 once, has never finished above .500 in leauge play and has been to one post-season tournament — the CBI. Was this an indirect way of saying he needs more time at UW to get things going in the right direction?

Another interesting item about Fisher: He’s never won a conference coach of the year award. Even when he was at Michigan in the 1990s when he led the Wolverines to back-to-back NCAA Tournament championship game appearances.

‘That has to be the biggest travesty I’ve ever heard in my life,” Colorado State coach Tim Miles said.

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more from Monday’s teleconference, and for a preview of Tuesday’s Wyoming-New Mexico women’s basketball game in Laramie.

Corner concerns

The topic of my Sunday column last week was the continued struggles in conference play the Wyoming men’s basketball team has had defending the 3-point shot.

Here’s a link to the column: http://www.wyomingnews.com/articles/2011/01/16/sports/20sports_01-16-11.txt

In four conference games UW is last in the MWC in 3-point shooting defense at 48.9 percent, and teams have averaged 11.5 3s per game.

And many of them have come from the corners against the Cowboys’ 2-3 zone.

Six of New Mexico’s 10 3-pointers came from at or near the corners. Same thing with TCU. But the Cowboys really struggled rotating to the corners last Saturday against Utah as 10 of the Utes’ treys were at or near the corner.

Utah coach Jim Boylen said his team made the extra pass to find the open player. Here’s what a couple of other MWC coaches told me when I asked them about their good 3-point shooting against UW.

“We were coming off a game where we played awful (an 83-49 loss at UNLV), and we were playing at home,” said TCU coach Jim Christian, whose team beat UW 78-60. “We shoot the ball much better at home, for whatever reason. I thought we played unselfishly. I thought our key players made shots early (guard Ronnie Moss and forward Garlon Green combined to go 9 of 17 from the field and 5 of 8 from 3-point range in the first half) so we played with a lot more confidence. I don’t think it was anything from their defense that we saw and was able to figure out. I think it was how we played and led us to get some good looks and build some confidence.”

There wasn’t a shot chart available from UW’s 73-60 loss at Colorado State to open MWC play on Jan. 4. But the Cowboys allowed a season-high 14 3s, and there were a fair share made from the corners. Senior guard Adam Nigon made 7 treys, including five in the first half.

“Wyoming is in a zone defense so you kind of know where your 3s are going to come from,” CSU coach Tim Miles said. “I think that helps a little bit. We had a senior (Nigon) that kind of willed us for that first half. Free-throw shooting and 3-point shooting I think are kind of catchy. They’re like a virus. One guy starts getting it and it gets to everybody.”

Needless to say, if UW is going to stay with a zone defense, and it likely will, it better work on better rotations and movement.

MWC men’s basketball news and notes

Here are some tidbits from Monday’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball coaches teleconference:

–Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer said junior center Adam Waddell is sore after he played 23 minutes on a bad Achilles in last Saturday’s 67-66 win over New Mexico. Waddell, however, is scheduled to make the trip for Wednesday’s game with TCU — as is junior Afam Muojeke (knee).

–Schroyer was asked how much altitude and travel difficulties to Laramie helps his team. He said those are advantages, but not as much as a when the the MWC or the old WAC had travel partners and teams were forced to spend a weekend along the Front Range playing UW and Colorado State.

–TCU has lost four straight games, but opened league play against two of the MWC’s top teams — No. 6 San Diego State at home and at UNLV, which was No. 25 last week. This is what coach Jim Christian said when asked what he expects from his team moving forward: “I better see them respond by playing harder. I better see them respond by coming to practice today excited to get better and play Wednesday with a sense of urgency. That’s what I better get.”

–Christian said for the first time in his 22-year coaching career, he witnessed one of his players suffer an injury in pregame warm-ups when junior J.R. Cadot, a junior-college transfer from Sheridan College, sprained an ankle at UNLV. Cadot played but was ineffective. He is fifth in the MWC in rebounding (6.6 rpg) and has the most offensive boards with 51.

–For the first time in the MWC’s 12-year history, there are two league teams in the top 10 of the Coaches’ Poll. SDSU is sixth and BYU 10th. BYU is 11th in the AP Poll.

–Colorado State coach Tim Miles had the best quoteon the call. His team didn’t play last Saturday and Miles said he watched the second half of San Diego State’s win at Utah and had this to say about SDSU’s front court: “They make college teams look like intramural teams.”

–Utah coach Jim Boylen got a little defensive when a writer from the Seattle Times asked him about his recruiting and if there might be a void of talent there with the signing of four junior-college players. The writer asked if Boylen’s recruiting has or will change as the Utes move to the Pac-12 next year. Boylend defended his recruiting philosophies and said he and his staff are actively recruiting 25 of the top 100 recruits in the nation right now.

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on Monday’s teleconference.

I will host a live chat at 3 p.m. Wednesday to talk anything and everything UW sports. See this blog for more details on the link.