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Mountain West Notebook

February 25, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Mountain West Notebook

by Bob Thurman

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bracket Buster

While the mid-major conferences were glowing in their made-for-ESPN special called the Bracket Buster, the Mountain West continued with some exciting conference play. Some of you may wonder why the conference didn’t participate in the inaugural event. Simple, the MWC is not a mid-major conference. Though many in the media would dispute that, the facts prove this point. The Mountain West is currently battling the Pac-Ten for the sixth best conference in the latest RPI. It’s ahead of both Conference USA and the Atlantic Ten. Half the teams in the conference are in the RPI’s top 50, while only two of its teams have a losing record. Unfortunately, the MWC doesn’t have a good marketing department and is usually ignored by the mass media. In fact, the last ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll didn’t even have Utah in its Top 25! How clueless are these coaches? Well, I guess the Mountain West will have to prove themselves once again in the NCAA Tournament!

MWC is Representin’

Besides performing well in the latest RPI, the Mountain West is also well represented in the national statistics. Not surprisingly, Air Force leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 56 points per game. Utah is also in the top ten in this category. What is surprising is that the Falcons also lead the country in field goal shooting, making almost 59 percent of their shots. I guess they need to start shooting more, because it’s not showing up on the scoreboard! Colorado State is also high in this list with a 55 percent shooting clip. Lastly, BYU’s sharp shooters put them in the top five for three point shooting percentage, at over 40 percent.

Looking at the individual statistics, New Mexico’s Ruben Douglas has taken over the top spot in scoring average with 28 points per game. He’s done it by dominating conference play with a 32.5 scoring average against some quality teams. Colorado State’s Matt Nelson is one reason the Rams are a good shooting team. His 65 percent shooting percentage puts him into the top five nationally. At UNLV, senior Marcus Banks is one of the quickest defenders in the country, and his 2.8 steals per game puts him sixth on that list. Lastly, the MWC has always had its share of good three point shooters. However, it may surprise some that Utah’s Marc Jackson is second in the country, connecting on 52 percent of his attempts. He’s been quite a surprise for the Utes this season.

A First at BYU

BYU broke with tradition this week and announced that former player Danny Ainge will have his jersey retired. Ainge, who played for BYU from 1978-81 and helped take the Cougars to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals his senior season, will have his number 22 hung from the Marriott Center rafters at the March 8th game against Colorado State. However, the honor is merely symbolic because number 22 will still be available to all BYU basketball players.

After a brief and uneventful baseball career, Ainge went on to play with the Boston Celtics and helped them win two titles. However, it was his coast-to-coast driving layup against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament that sticks in my mind whenever I hear the name Danny Ainge. He was a tremendous basketball player who put the Cougars on the map and this honor is well deserved. However, the question remains, what about Shawn Bradley?

This Week’s MWC Heat-Miser Award

Tony Bland, San Diego State

28 points, 11-13 shooting, 4 assists versus Air Force

The Aztecs senior guard has been inconsistent at times, but was dead on in their win against Air Force. It’s a good thing too, because the rest of the team’s effort was lackluster, at best.

This Week’s MWC Snow-Miser Award

Shelton Johnson, Colorado State

2 points, 1-3 shooting, 6 turnovers versus Wyoming

The freshman swingman has been given an opportunity to show his stuff the past few games. However, if he keeps playing like he did Saturday night in Laramie, he will be riding the bench the rest of the season!


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