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2013-14 Mountain West Post-Mortem

by - Published May 19, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
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With conference realignment being a headline the last few years, few conferences have escaped unharmed outside of the BCS conferences. The Mountain West is one of them, although they almost lost out big. The end result, as pertains to 2013-14, was another excellent season, led by the program that has become the standard bearer of late.

San Diego State had another big year, winning 31 games, including a 16-2 mark in Mountain West play to pace the conference. The 16 conference wins set a new record. They also reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated by Arizona.

… Continue Reading

Baylor is clearly third in the Big 12

by - Published February 12, 2012 in Columns
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At this time of the year, we find out who teams are. The importance of each game in the standings is clearer, teams have injuries, seniors are playing their final games and freshmen have about 20 games under their belt.

Every season, there are some teams that look very good for a while, even good enough in our minds to be Final Four and/or national championship contenders. They have the talent, experience and early on a few good wins. They might not lose a game for a while, even beating some good teams. Then sooner or later, they get tested, and we find that they’re not quite at that level.

Enter this year’s Baylor Bears, 72-57 losers at Missouri on Saturday. … Continue Reading

Notre Dame reminds us that we don’t play the games on paper

by - Published February 5, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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We always talk about how the games aren’t played on paper when looking at teams that don’t do what we expect. It’s a cliché, and it sticks around because everyone loves to predict how things will turn out in sports, no matter how wrong we could wind up being. All the while, the teams that end up better than we project can just laugh at us all they want.

Enter the 2011-12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame lost a great deal from last season’s team that entered the month of March playing about as well as any team in the country. Gone from that team are Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough and important role players Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott, the latter a big defensive leader for that team and a surprise early defection. Already, projections for this team were going to be that they were unlikely to contend for the top of the Big East. When they went 0-2 in Kansas City, including an 87-58 thrashing at the hands of Missouri, it looked like they would be who many thought they would be.

That wasn’t all. The Fighting Irish were not certain to have Tim Abromaitis back, as he played in two exhibition games in the 2008-09 season where he redshirted. But the NCAA granted him this year, so that helped as he was an experienced player and was second on the team in scoring last season. Then in late November, he tore the ACL in his right knee in practice, putting him out for the season.

At that point, the outlook was decidedly not good. But no one told head coach Mike Brey and his team that, and after Saturday’s convincing 76-59 win over Marquette, the Fighting Irish are alone in fourth place in the Big East.

“From the start of the season, no one thought we would be here,” said sophomore point guard Eric Atkins.

Notre Dame hasn’t compiled its record by beating up on the bottom feeders of the conference. Along the way, they have knocked off Louisville, Seton Hall and Connecticut on the road, and now Syracuse and Marquette at home.

“I am very proud of my group,” said Brey, who at this point looks like the runaway Coach of the Year in the Big East, if not nationally. “I told them in one of the final media timeouts that I felt like I was coaching men today. Last year’s team was men. That had a look of more than one fifth year senior on the court. I am thrilled where we are.”

Notre Dame can only get better given that this is a young team with a lot of players who are just finding themselves. Scott Martin is the only other senior besides Abromaitis on the team, while the emerging perimeter unit of Atkins, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton are sophomore, sophomore and freshman respectively. Connaughton wasn’t expected to play much, but he scored 21 points on Saturday and now starts on the hardwood as well as the mound (the San Diego Padres drafted him last year).

“Right now, we’re really confident that we can beat any team – we can play with any team,” said Grant. “Our team confidence is really high right now, and I’d like to keep it that way because we are playing really well.”

That’s one thing no one can doubt at this point. The Irish have proven that to this point, and as a more confident team they will be even tougher to beat.

 

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Arizona had a big weekend, sweeping their trip to northern California after a 56-43 win at Stanford on Saturday. The Wildcats may be starting to come alive at a good time.

Syracuse got Fab Melo back for Saturday’s game, and they rolled to a 95-70 blowout win at St. John’s. The win was the 879th in Jim Boeheim’s career, tying him with Dean Smith for third on the all-time list.

Seton Hall’s struggles continued as Connecticut annihilated them 69-46 in Hartford.

Kentucky had an easy time at South Carolina, committing just three turnovers in their blowout win.

The Big 12 gets a little more interesting at Missouri rallied to knock off Kansas in a big rivalry showdown. Both teams are now 8-2 in conference play.

Who’s on top of the ACC? No, not Duke, although the Blue Devils will be tied if they beat Miami on Sunday. North Carolina is in a tie after a big 83-74 win at Maryland to move into a tie for that spot. The team they are tied with is Florida State, as the Seminoles are 7-1 after a 58-55 win over Virginia.

Temple is now alone in first place in the Atlantic 10 after a 73-56 win at Rhode Island, combined with Saint Joseph’s knocking off La Salle earlier in the day. Temple’s perimeter trio continues to be the driving force for this team.

Wyoming knocked off road-weary UNLV in a close one after the Runnin’ Rebels ran into snow-related travel delays en route to Laramie.

Northern Iowa beat Creighton on a buzzer-beater, right after Creighton had tied it on a big shot.

Iona won a big showdown against Manhattan for the lead in the MAAC.

George Mason grabbed a share of the lead in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 54-50 win over Old Dominion in a first-place showdown. The Patriots are joined by VCU, 59-56 winners over Northeastern, and Drexel, 65-57 winners at Towson, at 11-2 in the conference.

Mississippi Valley State is now 10-0 in the SWAC and two games ahead in the standings, after knocking off Alabama State.

 

Sunday’s key matchups:

  • Michigan at Michigan State
  • Miami at Duke
  • Northwestern at Illinois
  • Stephen F. Austin at McNeese State
  • The biggest one of all: New York Giants vs. New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI

Three coaching legends lose on the same day

by - Published January 22, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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It’s not every day that three of the greatest coaches ever lose a game on the same day. Yet that’s what happened on another Saturday full of noteworthy games, as Syracuse suffered its first loss on the season, Duke lost at home to put an end to a long home winning streak and Connecticut lost as well.

And it all happened, ironically, on the day that a football coaching legend appeared close to losing his life. On Saturday night, there were conflicting reports about former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, but we did not learn for sure that he had passed until about 10:30 this morning. We send our condolences to Joe’s family and friends at this time.

The last time Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Mike Krzyzewski lost a game on the same day was January 18, 2003. The three coaches have combined for over 2,600 wins, so they have won a little more than they have lost, and one might even be surprised that this wasn’t the first day all three lost.

It started in the middle of the afternoon, with two of the games. Connecticut took on Tennessee in Knoxville, a return of a game played last year. The Volunteers got a double-double from freshman Jarnell Stokes and fended off a late Husky rally for a 60-57 win. Turning the ball over one time in the second half certainly helped, especially as taking care of the ball had been a problem for Tennessee of late. Connecticut shot just 36.4 percent from the field.

Around that same time, Florida State looked like they had a shot to end Duke’s 45-game home winning streak, as they were right there with the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. They had leads late in the game as well. And finally, with the game tied at 73 in the final seconds, the Seminoles got the ball up the floor to Michael Snaer in front of his own bench, where he hit a three-pointer just as time expired to give Florida State their second big win in as many Saturdays, a 76-73 decision over Duke.

Not only had Duke not lost at home since North Carolina knocked them off in February 2009, but they also had a longer (64 games) home winning streak against unranked opponents. They had a chance to tie their own ACC record of 46 straight home wins, set between January 13, 1997 and February 9, 2000.

Florida State is now looking more and more like the team some thought they would be this season. In the preseason, a good number of prognosticators thought they might be the third-best team behind Duke and North Carolina. Virginia had emerged as that team, and probably still is, but now the Seminoles look like another formidable team in an ACC that is not looking much better than last year. They are in a three-way tie atop the ACC at 4-1, along with the two teams they have knocked off the past two Saturdays.

By the time the evening came around, one already had a sense that Syracuse could suffer its first loss of the season. The team announced earlier in the day that sophomore center Fab Melo would not make the trip to Notre Dame and Cincinnati and that junior forward Mookie Jones had left the school for personal reasons. The Orange are so deep, it would not have been a shocker if they came away with two wins, but if they dropped one it would not have been a surprise. Sure enough, a Notre Dame team that knocked off Louisville a couple of weeks ago beat Syracuse 67-58 in South Bend.

Notre Dame led throughout the game and beat a No. 1 team for the eighth time, which ties for the fourth-highest total. They did it led by junior big man Jack Cooley, who went for 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Fighting Irish out-rebounded Syracuse 38-25. While Melo’s absence hurt there, it wasn’t a big factor in the Orange’s offensive struggles on the night.

 

We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation

With Syracuse losing, that left just one team undefeated: Murray State. The Racers were 82-65 winners at SIU-Edwardsville to improve to 20-0 on the season.

Missouri got perhaps its most impressive win yesterday, going on the road to beat Baylor. That’s two in a row now for Baylor, and it seems that at the moment, Baylor is close, but not there when it comes to the top of the Big 12.

Georgetown got all they could handle from Rutgers, and needed to score the game’s last seven points to eke out a 52-50 win in the nation’s capital.

Louisville continued Pittsburgh’s misery as they went into the Peterson Events Center and left with a 73-62 win over the Panthers, who are now 0-7 in the Big East and have lost eight straight.

UNLV convincingly won a key matchup with New Mexico, the second straight loss for the Lobos as they took on the two favorites in the conference this past week.

Mississippi State won an overtime thriller at Vanderbilt in a key matchup among teams chasing Kentucky in the SEC.

Todd Bozeman returned to the bench at Morgan State, but his team’s struggles continued as they lost for the fifth time in seven games by dropping a 62-61 decision against visiting North Carolina A&T.

Late Saturday night, Long Beach State picked up a key road win at UC Santa Barbara. That makes the 49ers 7-0 in conference play, a full two games ahead of three teams in the loss column.

UNLV drafted a blueprint for taking down the Tar Heels

by - Published November 27, 2011 in Columns
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Don’t be surprised that North Carolina lost to UNLV.

The Tar Heels had looked phenomenal in five blowout victories against mostly overmatched teams. But those wins masked an Achilles heel. And the Runnin’ Rebels fired a perfect shot to strike North Carolina in that vulnerable spot, sending the No. 1 team tumbling back to earth.

In short, North Carolina doesn’t do a great job of guarding the perimeter, doesn’t dominate the boards, and doesn’t have well-developed depth behind the front line.

All three of those weaknesses are related to UNC’s vaunted frontcourt, especially Tyler Zeller and John Henson. Those two make a perfect tandem, as Zeller’s offensive game is far more developed than Henson’s, while Henson is a defensive beast with his shot-blocking ability. On defense, they tend to rely on their height and length to stop driving opponents. Not surprisingly, North Carolina ranks among the Division I leaders in blocks, swatting more than 6 percent of opponents’ shots, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistics.

But that affinity for blocks makes the team susceptible to penetrating guards who only intend to kick the ball out to good perimeter shooters. It makes perfect sense. A guard at the top of the key could sprint off a high screen into the lane, with his man in tow. Henson or Zeller would slide off his defender to get in position to reject a shot attempt into the third row. Someone else would rotate to cut off a pass to anyone else near the post. As the guard enters the lane, he should have at least one perimeter player open.

One pass to the outside might be enough to get an open look. If a Tar Heel defender could get out to the perimeter in time, the odds are that another rotating perimeter player would be wide open, and an extra pass should get a clean look. And that’s pretty much how UNLV attacked North Carolina.

In addition, the Runnin’ Rebels fought for rebounds. When the Tar Heels help out on defense, they occasionally move out of position for rebounds. Coach Roy Williams will probably preach on proper technique in practice during the next couple of days, which is necessary for a team with only middling stats for rebounds despite holding a height advantage over most opponents. Somewhat interestingly, North Carolina actually did better against UNLV at the defensive end despite allowing 13 offensive rebounds. The Tar Heels collected 68 percent of all missed shots at that end, which is slightly better than the 65 percent that they usually get. On offense, though, the Tar Heels grabbed only 24 percent of their missed shots, down from their season average of 32 percent.

Part of the reason that the rebounding was down is that Zeller and Henson’s minutes were down because of foul trouble. Zeller was on the court for 24 minutes in the loss. Henson also had to deal with foul trouble. Although freshman James Michael McAdoo is off to a strong start, there’s not much quality depth behind the starters right now.

UNLV outlined a strategy for taking down North Carolina that is clear and repeatable – for the teams that are actually equipped to execute that game plan. Five Runnin’ Rebels attempted at least 3-pointers, with Chase Stanback and Oscar Bellfield hitting four apiece. It will be tough to beat the Tar Heels without that kind of firepower.

… Continue Reading

Back in Action, With Championship-Level Appreciation

by - Published April 11, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

Editor’s Note: We’ve trimmed down the Full Court Sprints because Hoopville’s new design has made some elements redundant. In particular, our new design highlights some of Hoopville’s great coverage in the middle column. In addition, we’ve got recent tweets from Phil Kasiecki and Michael Protos in the right column. There’s no games on tap anytime soon — sadly — so the upcoming games and recent results are irrelevant until November. We do have plenty of news to round up and some quick commentary on recent trends and news.

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a round up of the nation’s top stories.

If it’s April, three of the top stories in basketball relate to which coaches are changing jobs, which players are going pro, and which players are transferring. Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman has a list for the latter category. In case you’ve missed some of the player movement of the past few weeks, Goodman lists all the players who have announced that they will play elsewhere.

At ESPN.com, you can track all the coaching movement in Division I in a chart that lists schools, former coach and new coach. As of today, 13 teams are still in the hunt for a new coach.

And if you want to find out whether your team’s best underclassmen will be playing in the NBA or NCAA next season, check out CBS Sports.com’s set of charts.

The most recent team to fill its open coaching position is UNLV, according to the Associated Press. BYU associate coach Dave Rice is moving on from the Mormons’ home base of Utah to Sin City. Rice’s now former boss, BYU coach Dave Rose, said Rice is an excellent teacher and has a history of success, which he’ll be taking to the desert and a Rebels team that has emerged as a perennial Mountain West contender.

St. John’s coach Steve Lavin will begin treatment for prostate cancer after announcing that he was diagnosed with the disease in fall 2010, according to SI.com’s “Fan Nation” blog.

BYU is extending coach Dave Rose’s contract, a rare reward for excellence at the university, according to Fan Nation. Just don’t ask about the financial details.

We already have some drama heading into next season’s North Carolina State vs. Maryland rivalry in the ACC. Granted, in recent years, there’s not much of a rivalry to speak of between those teams. However, Wolfpack Athletic Director Debbie Yow, former boss of Maryland coach Gary Williams, accused Williams of trying to sabotage her search for a new coach. She eventually hired former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried to replace Sidney Lowe, drawing the ire of State fans who wanted Shaka Smart or another hot name. There’s plenty of bad blood between Yow and Williams, according to the “Lost Lettermen” blog.

UCLA finally knows where the Bruins will be playing home games next season while Pauley Pavilion gets a facelift. Eamonn Brennan, of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog, reports that the Los Angeles Sports Arena will host 14 Bruins home games, with the team playing four others at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Fresh off his third national championship, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun said he will take some to decide whether he wants to retire, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report. But don’t think that means he’s taking any time off from the recruiting trail.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

I watched every second of Connecticut’s championship game victory against Butler. And that might officially make me a basketball geek — as if there were any doubt about that.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Huskies’ 53-41 win wasn’t the prettiest game I’ve ever watched. But there’s been far too much talk about how terrible the game was, and some commentators have even hinted that the NCAA Tournament has a flawed format in which the best team doesn’t win the title.

To that, I say: horse manure.

The NCAA Tournament has one of the most difficult post-season formats of any sport at any level because a champion must win six — at least — games in a row against opponents that play a variety of styles. A championship run is a testament of a coach’s ability to strategize a game plan and adjust it during the heat of the action. It’s a testament of great players performing at a consistently high level for three weeks.

Even the most talented teams in the country will likely face at least one opponent that plays a style that makes the favorite somewhat uncomfortable. For underdogs, the ability to get a team outside its comfort zone, force mistakes and capitalize on opportunities forms the recipe for an upset. VCU took that recipe and repeated it from the First Four to the Final Four.

The Rams got past USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas with a pressure defense that preyed on inconsistent backcourt play. On offense, VCU rode hot three-point shooting to cover up for a size disadvantage in the post. If the Rams met the Jayhawks in an NBA-style seven-game series, there’s no way I could see VCU winning the series. I’d pick VCU to win one, maybe two games in seven against Kansas. But the more talented team — as NBA analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley frequently pointed out during their stint as NCAA Tournament analysts — would likely advance, barring injuries or a major internal meltdown.

And that’s what makes the NCAA Tournament wonderful. To be champion, you must come to play every game for three weeks. Anything short of your best effort could send you home. And even your effort might not be enough if you’re running the wrong game plan.

So don’t tell me Butler’s 18 percent shooting in the championship ruined the tournament or somehow devalues Connecticut’s achievement. In the game I watched, I saw an outstanding defensive effort in which the Huskies limited the Bulldogs to a tiny number of clean looks at the hoop. However, Butler also failed to make in-game adjustments. The team took 51.6 percent of its shots from three-point range, making only 9-of-33 attempts. After Chase Stigall hit a three to open the second half and give Butler a six-point lead, the team didn’t make another shot from the field for seven minutes and only one shot in 13 minutes. During that stretch, the Bulldogs missed 11 three-pointers.

Brad Stevens realized his teams was overmatched in the post, but the Bulldogs just weren’t getting it done from the perimeter. The team’s stubborn insistence on jacking up bombs — and bricks — led to the dismal shooting percentage and put Connecticut on track to the championship.

More simply put, the Huskies executed their game plan more efficiently and effectively than Butler could, and the Bulldogs couldn’t adjust to do anything about that. In a championship game performance, that’s all you can ask from the winning team, regardless of the score.

Bracket Breakdown: How the Mountain West Will Fare

by - Published March 17, 2010 in Columns

The Mountain West Conference demonstrated that it’s a league on the rise as it doubled its number of NCAA Tournament participants from two in 2009 to four this year. But are they ready to dance with the likes of the Big East and SEC?

New Mexico Lobos (29-4, 14-2 MWC)

No. 3 seed, East Region

Regardless of what goes on in the tournament, this will be regarded as the best season in New Mexico’s history. The Lobos won a school-record 29 games — and counting — and claimed the MWC regular-season championship. The only sour note of the year so far was struck by San Diego State, which handed the Lobos half of their losses this season, including one in the tournament semifinals Friday.

The recompense to the Lobos’ exceptional season is a No. 3 seed in the East Region and a game against a I-still-can-not-believe-I-am-here Montana, a team that booked its NCAA Tournament ticket by rallying from 22 points down to win the Big Sky Tournament championship. New Mexico will handle those cats easily and advance to the second round, where Marquette will be waiting.

And although Marquette is a No. 6 seed, this will be where the dream season will come to an end for the Lobos. The Golden Eagles, a Big East team, have been tried repeatedly this season, while New Mexico, part of a far-more-modest conference, has not. It will be close, but Marquette will prevail. Still, the Lobos will go home having won 30 games, an incredible feat.

Brigham Young Cougars (29-5, 13-3)

No. 7 seed, West Region

The Cougars would be considered the best team in this conference hands down if it wasn’t for the simple fact that New Mexico, the actual best team in the MWC, swept them this season. Otherwise, BYU was almost flawless in a season that saw them win a school-record 29 times.

Getting it done both offensively and defensively is what drove the Cougars to this season of distinction. BYU is the second-highest scoring team in the nation at 83.0 points per game. But in the midst of their high-octane offense, they still find time to play defense. The Cougars hold their opposition to 65.2 points per game. That’s a point differential of 17.8 points.

That dangerous combo — along with the brilliance of guard Jimmer Fredette — will make BYU, a No. 7 seed in the West Region, a threat to any team regardless of record or pedigree. The Cougars will make quick work of undeserving No. 10 Florida in the first round and then give Kansas State fits in the second. But the Wildcats and their guard duo of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente will put an end to the dream season. BYU will also have to say bye-bye in the second round, having won 30 games.

San Diego State Aztecs (25-8, 11-5)

No. 11 seed, Midwest Region

After a 2008-09 season in which they felt snubbed out of the NCAA Tournament, the Aztecs made sure there wouldn’t be a chance for a repeat this season by winning the MWC Tournament title.

San Diego State barely escaped Colorado State in the tournament’s quarterfinals but was more convincing in the semifinals, defeating New Mexico, and the championship game, downing UNLV. That tournament title awarded them a No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region and a first-round meeting with No. 6 Tennessee.

But will the confidence of a tournament championship and a chip on their shoulder from the 2009 snub be enough to push the Aztecs past a team that’s beaten both No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Kentucky this season? Likely not. The Volunteers happened to have lost their last game in shameful fashion, 74-45 to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday, and they will not overlook the Aztecs in the first round. San Diego State will not be able to surprise Tennessee and will be one-and-out after a great season.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (25-8, 11-5)

No. 9 seed, Midwest Region

On paper, the Rebels have an almost identical NCAA Tournament résumé to that of San Diego State. The only difference for UNLV lies in its 55-45 loss to the Aztecs in the MWC Tournament championship game Saturday. They’re even in the same region, the Midwest.

Despite the tourney loss, UNLV was granted a higher seed over the Aztecs, a No. 8. That’s not necessarily going to help the Rebels stick around any longer than the champs, though. They’ll have to play a No. 9 Northern Iowa that has only lost four games all season long and has an edge on experience. The Panthers bring pretty much their whole team back from last year’s NCAA Tournament run, and, unfortunately for the Rebels, that will doom them and give them yet another likeness to San Diego State: a season-ending first-round loss.

Bracket Breakdown: Atlantic 10 and Mountain West Get Little Respect

by - Published March 14, 2010 in Columns

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:15 a.m., March 16, 2010, to indicate that UNLV beat New Mexico once during the regular season.

In the final Mock Tournament this afternoon, four teams from the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West conferences received a No. 5 seed or better: New Mexico, Temple, Richmond and Xavier.

The selection committee only agreed with New Mexico’s position. Even though the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 conferences ranked No. 6 and 7, respectively, in the RPI, they failed to receive much respect in seeding from the committee. Projected to be a No. 5 seed, Richmond fell to No. 7. UNLV also slipped two lines, from No. 6 to No. 8.

Although BYU was only seeded No. 7 by the selection committee, the Cougars might have received the biggest break of any team from the Mountain West or Atlantic 10. They would get to play Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Salt Lake City if they can find a way past No. 10 Florida and probably No. 2 Kansas State. Of course, BYU would have its hands full against the Wildcats in Oklahoma City.

No. 5-seed Temple might feel slighted that power conference teams like Vanderbilt and Maryland received No. 4 seeds even though the Owls have more wins against the RPI top 50 than those teams do. The Owls also won their conference championship, but Vanderbilt and Maryland didn’t make it to their conference championship games.

UNLV’s reward for winning four games against the RPI top 25, including games against No. 3-seed New Mexico and BYU, is a No. 8 seed and has a potential second-round match up against top-seeded Kansas in Oklahoma City. The Mock Tournament projected UNLV to be a No. 6 seed because the Rebels have several quality wins.

Although the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West teams received more difficult draws than the Mock Tournament projected, they can prove their value by knocking off some higher-seeded opponents. Temple matches up well with Wisconsin, and BYU has a real chance to make a deep run in the West region. If the Cougars find a way past Kansas State, they will feed off the home crowd in Salt Lake City against No. 1 Syracuse, No. 3 Pittsburgh or any other highly seeded team that they crosses paths with.

Mountain West Notebook – A So-So Lobo Return

by - Published December 7, 2008 in Conference Notes

The view from the Mountain is about what you would expect at this point in the season. Collectively the Mountain West Conference is 52-20 as of December 7.

BYU has the only untarnished record at 8-0. One could argue that they really haven’t played anyone yet as their RPI is 81 and their strength of schedule is 287. The Cougars won’t get their first true test until Dec. 20 when they take on Arizona State in Tempe.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Colorado State is the only team with a losing record, as they sit at 3-5. But even they look to be an improved team this year. In their toughest contest to date, they lost by just one point to Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers.

San Diego State (7-1) was crowned champions of the Great Alaska Shootout last week and got a big boost with the reinstatement of MWC First Team Player Lorrenzo Wade. A San Diego judge dismissed felony burglary charges against Wade, and he is now practicing with the team. He did not play in SDSU’s victory over cross-town rival USD on Saturday night, but he should see the court against Arizona on Wednesday night.

Wyoming is off to a 6-1 start and may have a more balanced and complete team this year. Last year the focus was all on their two standout guards, Brandon Ewing and Brad Jones. Now that Jones has graduated, Ewing has moved to the point guard position and wants to distribute the ball more and not just be the designated scorer from the two guard spot. It shows as the Cowboys have four players averaging double figures in scoring. With a stronger supporting cast, Ewing may get the opportunity he desires to refine his point guard skills and have a career in the professional ranks once his senior season is over.

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels aren’t looking quite as dominant as many expected, and their 7-2 record shows it. They narrowly escaped with a win in their home opener versus the University of San Diego, even though San Diego had three key players on either suspension or out with an injury. After a couple of easy wins, the Rebels thought they were ready for a bigger test, but when the Bears came to town, the Rebels didn’t have an answer. First it was the Cal Bears, who defeated UNLV by 18 points. The next day, the Cincinnati Bearcats completed the sweep with a two-point victory.

The Air Force Falcons have one of the weakest out of conference schedules to date as indicated by their RP1 of 158 and Strength of Schedule at 226. They lost by 19 points to Stanford, the only team of significance on their pre-conference schedule. But at 6-2 and riding a three-game winning streak, they should rack up a few more wins this month and have some confidence going into conference play.

Utah (5-2) is an early season enigma. They have quality wins over Oregon, Missouri State and Mississippi but bad losses against Southwest Baptist on their home court and against Idaho State on the road.

The 6-3 TCU Horned Frogs are on a five-game winning streak and trying to prove that they are more than just a football school. They had a convincing 16-point road victory over Colorado on Saturday but will be further tested this week at home versus Wichita State before traveling to Indiana.

New Mexico (4-4) is still trying to find its rhythm in the absence of J.R. Giddens, who was last year’s MWC co-player of the year and then selected in the first round of the NBA draft. Tony Danridge, who missed all of last season with a broken leg, was expected to re-emerge as the team’s leading scorer and go-to guy. He led the team two years ago but has been inconsistent so far.

All indicators point to this being a better than average year for the Mountain West Conference, and there figures to be a considerable amount of parity. As teams take on a few more tough out of conference opponents in the next couple of weeks, we will start to see who rises to the top and whether they can hold onto that position by winning on the road.

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Hoopville Archives

2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
Sept. 12: Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 16: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy
Sept. 30: New Hampton
Oct. 5: Worcester Academy
Oct. 7: Brimmer and May
Oct. 8: Cushing Academy
Oct. 9: Tilton
Oct. 12: Tabor Academy and Rivers School
Oct. 14: The Master's School
Oct. 16: Vermont Academy

You can also find them all right here.

Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

Mass Elite and Boston Warriors hold college showcase

Mass Elite and Boston Warriors, two of the largest programs in Massachusetts, teamed up for a college showcase on Wednesday night. Here are some evaluations from that event.

Massachusetts 11th grade AAU Tournament recap

Teams gathered at Mass Premier Courts to chase the state title in the oldest age group, and one champion was a familiar one.

Travel team profile: All For One

All For One has been one of the better travel programs in Massachusetts for players before they reach high school

Travel team profile: Blackstone Valley Chaos

Size and options on the wing are not lacking for this year’s junior team

Travel team profile: Expressions Elite

Expressions Elite has quickly become one of the deeper programs in New England

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

October 20, 2014 by

marianapolis

Marianapolis Prep is far from loaded with talent, but they have enough perimeter talent to be dangerous. As is usually the case, they will battle and be a tough out in Class AA.

New Vermont Academy coach has put together a contender

October 17, 2014 by

vermontacademy

Vermont Academy has a new coach for the second year in a row, but they shouldn’t skip a beat. They have enough talent to win a lot of games and make a deep run in NEPSAC Class AA.

The Master’s School has good students and talent

October 15, 2014 by

mastersschool

The Master’s School has a number of good students, and they will continue to head to college later. This time around, they also have some talent on the hardwood and should win a few more games.

Rivers will try to build on a breakthrough season

October 13, 2014 by

riversschool

The Rivers School had a breakthrough season last year, winning the Independent School League. They will try to build on that with a team that loses a lot but also returns a lot from last season’s team.

Tabor Academy looks to have more depth this time around

October 13, 2014 by

taboracademy

Tabor Academy will once again be headlined by a frontcourt player. This time around, though, the Seawolves appear to have a deeper support cast than in recent years.