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WAC Notebook

December 4, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

WAC Notebook

by Phil Dailey

The Western Athletic Conference is off and running with its front-runners Hawai’i and Tulsa, as well as Fresno State, winning tournaments. Also the four new WAC head coaches avoided early season criticism with wins.

It looks as though the WAC is ready to take on its non-conference opponents with every team in action getting at least one win in the in the early going. The schedules don’t exactly matter this early in the season, but it’s always nice to play some teams that could help RPI, or simply beat up on the smaller D-1 programs across the country.

Not only did the Fresno State Bulldogs win their first two games under head coach Ray Lopes, they have also been in the news with reports of former players accepting cash payments up to $30,000 back in 1999 and 2000, according to the Fresno Bee. The NCAA would like to clear up this problem as soon as possible, which could be around the beginning of the New Year.

Though there have been many predictions so far, they can now be thrown out the window. The season has started and its now time to prove how underrated or overrated, not only the WAC is, but the rest of college basketball alike.

Boise State Broncos (2-1)

The Broncos, under the new leadership of head coach Greg Graham, got their first win in their new era against Idaho State. After getting worked over by Eastern Illinois in the first round of the Preseason NIT, Boise State took in-state rival Idaho State to overtime to get its first victory under Graham. The lone Bronco senior C.J. Williams single-handedly beat the Bengals knocking down 8-of-14 shots from 3-point range. Williams set a new career high with 32 points. The Broncos also beat the hated Idaho Vandals last weekend. In addition, Williams was named WAC Player of the Week for his standout performances this week.

Fresno State Bulldogs (2-0)

The Bulldogs are off to a good start after beating Idaho State and St. Mary’s in the McCaffery Classic. Damon Jackson led the way averaging 13.5 ppg. The Bulldogs host the tournament and have won it seven years in a row, thanks to their nearly 10,000 fans a game – the most in the WAC. The Bulldogs are picked to finish near the top of the WAC by the local media and coaches.

Hawai’i Warriors (2-0)

The Warriors, one of the preseason pick to contend for the WAC title, got off to a good start as they hosted this year’s Hawaiian Airlines Tip-Off Classic. Led by Haim Shimonvich and WAC Player of the Year candidate Carl English, the Warriors rolled through Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi en route to the tournament championship. Hawai’i gears up for a exhibition game against Hawai’i-Hilo and then take on Steve Fisher’s San Diego State Aztecs on Dec. 14.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (1-1)

The Bulldogs are not afraid to take on the “big boys” of the south as they already played national title contender Florida earlier this year in the Preseason NIT tournament. LA Tech played tough for a while, but gave in to the pressure of the Gator offense. However, they did notch their first win over Milsaps College 77-49. The Bulldogs take some time off as they prepare for another top team Mississippi State on Dec. 7 and Arkansas on Dec. 10, both games are on the road.

Nevada Wolf Pack (1-2)

The Wolf Pack started the season with a loss on the road at the hands of San Diego last week, but will get a shot to avenging the loss on Dec. 28 as they welcome San Diego to Reno. Nevada did manage to knock off San Francisco for their first win on the road. The Wolf Pack took on Weber State only to fall 73-70. The Pack’s leading scorer, Kirk Snyder is averaging over 15 ppg. Nevada hosts UNLV on Dec. 4 for its home opener.

Rice Owls (2-2)

The Owls were off to a positive start knocking off Tulane and losing on the road at Stanford in the first two games of the year. Rice played decent in Palo Alto considering the toughness of winning a game in Maples Pavilion against an extremely underrated Stanford team. The Owls also knocked off cross-town rival Houston, last Wednesday night. Rice then turned around and got smoked by BYU by 39 points. In their first four games this season, Michael Harris has been the man for the Owls throwing up 13 points a game. Last season Harris was the WAC Freshman of the Year.

San Jose State Spartans (2-1)

Oudie Baker has proven to be the go-to-guy for the Spartans this season. Baker is averaging over 19 ppg, including 24 against Washington State. Though the season has just begun, it may be too early to make predictions for SJSU. Beating Menlo College and losing to Washington State doesn’t say very much about this year’s team – good or bad. The Spartans hit the road and beat Santa Clara on Saturday and now face St. Mary’s on Thursday.

Southern Methodist Mustangs (2-1)

SMU started its season trailing by nine points at the half against cross-town rivals Texas Christian, the Mustangs managed to beat the Horned Frogs in overtime. Super-senior shooting guard Quintin Ross led the way with 28 points. Bryan Hopkins made his freshman debut for the Mustangs with a double-double. Hopkins is the preseason favorite for WAC Freshman of the Year honors. SMU lost its first tough battle of the year against Bobby Knight’s underrated Texas Tech team. The Mustangs beat North Texas last week and will have another shot at playing in a hostile environment as they travel and play Wake Forest on Dec. 15. Ross is averaging over 29 ppg.

Texas-El Paso Miners (1-2)

The good news for the Miners is that they got a coach. After the coaching scandal that was in El Paso, Billy Gillispie takes over at UTEP. Gillispie and the Miners won their first game of the year, but turned around and lost to Alcorn State, which is not a good sign. The Miners welcomed Texas Tech on Saturday and were blown out 83-60. This could be the start of a long season in El Paso.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (3-0)

Ranked 18th in the latest Hoopville poll, Tulsa is getting national respect it deserves, These guys are good and should make some serious noise not only in the WAC, but come March as well. The Golden Hurricane is loaded and it showed as they won the South Padre Island Roundball Invitational Tournament rolling over New Mexico State and Texas-Pan American. Tulsa also beat Arkansas on the road by one. This is the kind of victory the Golden Hurricane can build their season around. On Dec. 11, Tulsa will have a tough test in its showdown against Kansas.


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