BX WAC Conference Preview

BX WAC Conference Preview
Oct 27, 2007, 11:48 am

-Over the last four years, Nevada has finished in at least a tie for first place each season and won two conference tournament championships. They are 56-12 in league play, and 106-27 overall in that time span.

-Since the 2000-2001 season when the Mountain West split off to form its own league, the WAC has sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament in all but one of those years. They’ve also put a team in the second round or beyond in all but one of those years. It’s not considered by many to be a major conference, but it is a conference that has had its share of NCAA Tournament success and who's regular season champion is almost always in a position to receive an at-large.

-New Mexico State is once again hosting the conference tournament.


-In the 2004-2005 season NEW MEXICO STATE won just five games. Last year they won 25, along with a conference championship. The rapid improvement caught the attention of the Sacramento Kings and they lured head coach Reggie Theus away. NMSU looks like one of the more talented teams this year and should once again finish high in the standings, compete for the league title, and be in the mix for the NCAA Tournament. Guard Justin Hawkins was an all conference player last year who averaged close to 16ppg and grabbed quite a few rebounds as well. He’s joined by Fred Peete out on the perimeter. Martin Iti, Hatila Passos and freshman Herb Pope give the Aggies quite a bit of talent in the frontcourt. The coaching transition should be a pretty smooth one for now and the Aggies shouldn’t miss too much of a beat, but Theus’s key to turning the program around so quickly was his recruiting. It will be interesting in future years to see the types of players new boss Marvin Menzies can sign.

-UTAH STATE had a strong finish to the season last year where they advanced to the conference championship game and nearly defeated New Mexico State. They should be in the mix for the league title this year. Guard Jaycee Carroll is one of the best players in the league. He averaged over 21ppg last season, is a very good shooter, and can also rebound the ball really well. They didn’t have much in the way of size last year, but juco transfer Gary Wilkinson and Ohio State transfer Brayden Bell should give them a much stronger post presence this year. The out of conference portion of the schedule is a little thin. They are in the Bracket Buster and in the South Padre Island Classic, but other than that they aren’t giving themselves too many chances at quality wins, and that could turn out to be a problem.

-FRESNO STATE won 22 games last season and showed quite a bit of promise at times. They ended up finishing 3rd in the league, but with three starters coming back this year the team should continue to improve. Guard Kevin Bell does a fantastic job distributing the basketball, and he will be a big time contributor this season. The team struggled on the boards last year, but Kentucky Transfer Rekalin Sims should be able to improve that this year. Bryan Harvey, a transfer from Louisville, is also eligible to play this year and should start out on the perimeter. As good as the Bulldogs were last year, they should be even better this year if they can stay healthy.

-NEVADA has owned the conference for the past four years, and although they lost a lot of talent their reign may not be over. After the run to the 2004 Sweet Sixteen, most weren’t expecting them to maintain that level of success, but that’s just what they were able to do. Guard Marcus Kemp is the only returning starter, but he’s a good one to have. He averaged just under 19ppg last season. Other than him they don’t appear to have all that much experience. We may not see them at the top of the standings this year, but they are still a good team and the longevity of the program is in great shape.

-After 20 years as HAWAII’S head coach, Riley Wallace has retired and long time assistant BOB NASH takes over. Generally speaking, Hawaii is very tough at home, but struggles on the road. That’s understandable when one considers where Hawaii is. Bobby Nash (coach’s son) and Matt Gibson both averaged in double figures last season and give the Warriors an experienced backcourt this year. If they have a weakness, it’s in the frontcourt. Someone will have to step up if Hawaii wants to be in the mix this year.

-BOISE STATE has three seniors returning to the roster who started last year. They haven’t been in the NCAA Tournament mix in quite some time, but they do appear to be moving in the right direction, and are actually very tough to beat at home. Forwards Matt Nelson and Reggie Larry both averaged over 8 boards a game last year, as well as 13ppg. They give the Broncos a strong frontcourt. Guard Anthony Thomas was last year’s Freshman of the Year in the league, so he should be able to contribute this season as well. This is a team that can score quite a few points, but will have to improve defensively if they want to get themselves into the postseason mix.

-LOUISIANA TECH fired coach Keith Richard after last year’s 10-20 season, and a lot of the players either graduated or left school right along with him. Only four players and one starter return. The good news is that they appear to have a decent recruiting class, so several newcomers should see action right away.

-SAN JOSE STATE won just five games last season and it looks as though they’ll struggle again this year. There are two starters who are back, but the lineup and list of contributors should be much different this year. Two of their better players are gone and it will be difficult for them to show any dramatic improvement.

-IDAHO is perhaps the only team in the league that appears to be going nowhere. They won just four games last year, and lost their best player, so things are really looking bleak. Five juco transfers join the squad this year and will attempt to breathe some life into a program that hasn’t shown much for quite some time.

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