Coaches weigh in about keeping MW Tournament at Thomas & Mack Center

Wyoming men’s basketball coach Larry Shyatt spoke for a little more than 20 minutes Monday on behalf of the other 10 Mountain West men’s hoops coaches about the league’s decision to change the format of the MW Tournament to eight teams for both the men’s and women’s events starting in 2017.

Larry Shyatt

Larry Shyatt

In the past, and for the 2016 event, all teams were allowed to participate.

Here’s is Shyatt’s full statement from Monday. Quick hint, he didn’t hold anything back and needless to say, he wasn’t happy.

The MW decision, which was released on Dec. 18, also included keeping the MW Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas — the home court for UNLV — through 2019.

UNLV has won three MW Tournament titles there, with the last one coming in 2008. The MW gets a good deal in terms of “rent” for the facility, which was the driving force to keeping it there.

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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 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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MW men’s basketball power rankings/picks

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings for this week, along with predictions on this week’s games.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback/opinions.

1. Boise State (17-6 overall, 7-3 MW): Winners of seven straight and the hottest team in the league right now. The Broncos had a convincing home win over San Diego State last week. No one is playing better in the conference right now.

2. San Diego State (18-6, 8-3): A poor shooting game at Boise State showed that despite one of the nation’s best defense, you have to make shots. Expect the Aztecs to bounce back, and a rematch with Boise State in San Diego in the coming weeks should be fun.

3. Wyoming (19-4, 8-3): The Cowboys are reeling not only on the 73-50 loss at Air Force last week, but also with the mononucleosis going around the team that sidelined senior forward Larry Nance Jr. against Air Force and redshirt freshman forward Alan Herndon the last two games. The Cowboys need to get healthy, and fast.

4. Colorado State (20-4, 7-4): A humbling loss at Wyoming last week was followed by a furious rally to beat UNLV at home. The Rams are in good shape and could moving up, but a game at San Diego State looms this week.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings/picks

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings for this week, along with predictions on this week’s games.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback/opinions.

1. Wyoming (17-3 overall, 6-1 MW): The Cowboys haven’t always been the most impressive looking team, but they are in first place and enter the week 3-0 in road conference games. The toughness — mentally and physically — of this team is impressive. As former Oakland Raiders coach and owner Al Davis used to say: “Just win, baby.”

2. Colorado State (18-2, 5-2): The Rams were great in a 79-73 home win over San Diego State, and have won four in a row since a 60-54 home loss to Wyoming on Jan. 7. A road game Tuesday at Boise State will be interesting.

3. San Diego State (15-5, 5-2): Nearly completed the comeback at Colorado State, and still by far the best defensive team in the conference. Key will be if this team can shoot the ball. If it is just average, it will win most — if not all — of its remaining games.

4. Boise State (14-6, 4-3): Winners of four straight and figuring out how to win close games. Tough to say this team is better without leading scorer Anthony Drmic — out with a season-ending ankle injury. But the Broncos are playing good basketball, and senior guard Derrick Marks is making a case as the league’s player of the year. He leads the MW in scoring (19.2 ppg).

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UW-UNLV men’s basketball postgame thoughts; with VIDEO

If Wyoming’s Mountain West opener against UNLV was any indication, Cowboys fans are in for a wild ride for the next three months or so.

UW beat UNLV 76-71 in front of a loud and enthusiastic 6,011 (announced crowd) at the Arena-Auditorium Wednesday night. Coach Larry Shyatt began his postgame news conference by thanking the fans who were there.

Here is Shyatt’s postgame news conference with the media:

Individually, it was an impressive battle between UW senior Larry Nance Jr. and UNLV sophomore Christian Wood.

Both scored 29 points. But Wood scored UNLV’s first 19 points of the game in less than a nine-minute span. Wood made his first six shots, including his first three 3-pointers. He entered the game 6 of 26 from 3-point range.

UW did a better job after that on Wood, but he and Nance went back and forth a lot in the game. It was kind of like a watching a heavyweight boxing match and each guy landing blow after blow. It was a lot of fun.

Here’s UNLV coach Dave Rice on Nance, who was 11 of 17 from the field and 6 of 8 from the line: “Nance is one of the hardest guys to guard in our league. He’s just such a physical player. All he needs is a little space.”

In the second half, Nance fell on junior guard Josh Adams after a rebound. Nance came up limping but stayed in the game. He said after the game his surgically repaired right knee is fine, and that he tweaked his ankle a little bit.

Wood on his big shooting night where he ended up 10 of 15 from the field, 4 of 6 from 3 and 5 of 5 from the line: “I actually thought I was going to be cold, especially with the weather we had here. I was hot and I got it going.”

It was around 15-below zero at tipoff outside in Laramie.

Here is Nance, senior guard Riley Grabau (12 points, three assists, 6 of 6 from the line) and senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. (14 points, five rebounds, 2 of 2 from the line) after the game:

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UW-UNLV postgame thoughts

They played hard, the effort was there and so was the guts and determination to make a late-game charge.

But it wasn’t enough for the Wyoming Cowboys as they lost 71-67 to UNLV in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament Thursday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

UW (18-14), the tournament’s fifth seed, lost its 13th straight game to UNLV in Las Vegas. It will find out late Sunday night if it plays in the postseason. It should get an invite to the CBI or CIT tournaments.

Here are some second half highlights:

Thursday’s game was a bit odd.

Sophomore guard Josh Adams carried the Cowboys in the first half. He scored 18 of his game-high 24 points then, including a dunk that had the entire crowd — about an even split of UW and UNLV fans — in awe. Adams also had seven rebounds, three assists and tied a career-high with two blocked shots.

UNLV kept Adams at bay in the second half, then it was Jerron Granberry’s turn. All of his career-high 18 points came in the second half. He scored UW’s first 10 points to start the half, and his three-point play with 23.1 seconds left pulled the Cowboys to within one at 66-65.

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UW-UNLV men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Matt Youmans, who covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, about tonight’s game with the University of Wyoming at 8 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247

UNLV’s play this season has been up and down, so what would you say are the biggest factors for that?

The Rebels’ top six scorers are transfers – from USC, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Fresno State, Mississippi State and Mississippi – and the next two players in their rotation are freshmen. For whatever reasons, the coaching staff has struggled to coax consistent efforts out of this team. Inexperience and instability at the point guard position was a problem early in the season, but the bigger issue now seems to be the absence of strong leadership. UNLV is a weak perimeter shooting team and a poor defensive team when it comes to stopping guards off the dribble. It’s a team with a lot of issues.

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UW-UNLV pregame notes

A little less than an hour before tip-off for Wyoming-UNLV men’s hoops here in Laramie.

Three of UW’s injured and ill players have been out for pregame warm-ups — sophomore forwards Larry Nance Jr. and Derek Cooke Jr., and senior point guard Derrious Gilmore. Still haven’t seen senior forward Leonard Washington (ankle) yet.

I talked to UNLV coach Dave Rice just after he and his team arrived in Laramie Friday night. He said he has prepared his team for all of UW’s hurt/ill players to be available today. Rice also had high praise for both Washington and Nance.

“Leonard is as good a player as we have in this league,” he said. “We regard him as a First Team All-Mountain West player. We think Larry Nance is also a good player and will be come one of the best in this league over the next couple of years.”

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WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Matt Youmans, who covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

UNLV (20-7 overall, 7-5 Mountain West) plays at Wyoming (18-8, 4-8) at 5:30 p.m. today in Laramie.

Question: UNLV has won 14 straight home games but has struggled on the road, especially in league play. What are the main reasons for the Rebels’ road woes?

Answer: When you say “struggled” you’re being too kind. The Rebels are 1-9 in their past 10 Mountain West road games, a pathetic skid that started with a 68-66 loss at Wyoming last Feb. 4. The coaches and players share the blame. The coaches are obviously not motivating the players or making the necessary adjustments on the road, and the players need to be held accountable for a lack of effort and intensity. UNLV’s past three losses at Air Force, Fresno State and Boise State were particularly disturbing because the team’s effort was poor. In addition to those factors, the Rebels have all kinds of problems scoring in their half-court offense, and most of the conference road games are played at a slower pace. Defense travels better than offense, too, and UNLV is weaker defensively under Dave Rice than it was under Lon Kruger. It’s an immature team with a relatively new coaching staff, so some struggles on the road can be expected, but 1-9 is ridiculous.

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UW-UNLV pregame notes

A good story in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal on UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett and how he has found the going a little tougher since Mountain West play started.

Colorado State beat UNLV in Fort Collins last Saturday. This is what CSU coach Larry Eustachy said about Bennett and UNLV this week on the Mountain West coaches teleconference: “(UNLV) was a little bit tired. I think Wyoming is going to get a real fresh UNLV team, along with Bennett. That’s going to be hard for anybody to handle, particularly at their place.”

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