Posted on: July 5, 2011 10:16 am
Edited on: July 5, 2011 10:42 pm
By Jeff Goodman
Josh Pastner is keeping tabs on Joe Jackson. Jim Calhoun is following Jeremy Lamb, and Greg McDermott has made the trek to Lithuania to watch his guy, who also happens to be his son, Doug McDermott.
Boise State coach Leon Rice’s deal is a little different.
The Broncs' head man has two players playing in the U-19 World Championships in Lithuania – including one, Anthony Drmic -- who leads the entire event in scoring.
However, Rice has yet to see either of his signees play in person – and he can’t even watch them play on the Internet because Australia’s games haven’t been live streamed.
"We watch the Gamecasts,” Rice said. "It’s still a lot of fun.”
Rice signed two Aussie guards out of the Australian Institute of Sport program who will arrive in Boise soon: Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic.
Drmic was averaging 23.3 points entering Tuesday and had made 17 of 26 shots from beyond the arc. Hadziomerovic was second on his team in scoring at 15.8 points per contest and had made 6 of 13 shots from long range.
Rice said there were a couple of factors that led him to focus on Aussies – and send assistant Jeff Linder overseas shortly after he got the head job at Boise.
"Over the years, while I was at Gonzaga, we watched Saint Mary’s and all their Aussies,” Rice said. "And Ray Giacoletti, who coached Andrew Bogut, told me how the kids coming out of the Institute were a lot better than people thought and seemed to pan out.”
"These guys have a little more experience than your average freshman,” Rice added. "They’ll be 20 years old as freshmen.”
So Linder went out, identified Drmic and Iggy (Rice is still working on pronouncing his last name) and then brought them both to Boise for visits.
"I think they both realized they could come in right away and play,” Rice said.
That’s because Boise is losing just about everyone from last year’s 22-13 squad.
Rice will bring in eight scholarship players, one transfer and a pair of walk-ons.
"I have no clue what I have yet,” Rice said. "I had more of a clue when I was a junior college coach.”
But Rice is starting to realize that he may have a couple of quality Aussies in the mix.
"I’ve never seen them, but the first thing you notice when you watch them on tape is their feel for the game,” Rice said. "It’s something we really value. We want to play up-tempo, put guys in a lot of ball-screens and get four shooters around one big – and these guys can really shoot the ball.”
Drmic finished with 22 points in a big win Monday against Russia.
But Rice still doesn’t know exactly what he has. He’s hoping that Australia makes it to the next round – and then he’ll be able to watch more than just the Gamecast.
Posted on: May 25, 2011 3:12 pm
It may still feel like the Final Four just ended, but for most schools, the offseason is now more than two months old. With that in mind, all of us at the blog are going to take this week to give you what we’re calling “Conference Catch-Ups.” The motive is to recap the biggest storylines in college basketball’s offseason so far, plus keep your appetite whetted in what is the longest offseason in major American sports. In case you missed any of what's happened in the Mountain West, here it is.
The Big Stories
Headline No. 1: Realignment. Brigham Young, fresh off one of the best seasons in school history, is heading off to battle Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the burgeoning West Coast Conference. Utah is now in the Pac-12, and TCU is bringing Horned Frog madness to the Big East a year down the road. On the way in are Boise State (2011) and Fresno State and Nevada (2012). Our own Tony Barnhart questions the worth of the reconstituted league, but he’s talking mostly about football. Basketball-wise, the early returns are not likely to be as strong, either.
Headline No. 2: Lon Kruger is back in the Big 12. UNLV head coach Lon Kruger seemed like a guy who had been around and might actually be happy to finish out his career in Vegas. Not so. The former K-State, Florida, Illinois and NBA head man went back to the Big 12 to take over the Oklahoma squad that was left floundering by a legacy of talent without discipline built by Jeff Capel. Kruger is a relatively youthful 58, and may be just what the Sooners need to get back on track. In the meantime, it falls to Steve Fisher at SDSU and Steve Alford at New Mexico to provide a little continuity atop the league.
Headline No. 3: Rams bet on Miles. Colorado State didn’t make it to the Big Dance last season, but they could still hear the music well into March, which is something the school hasn’t experienced for some time. That was enough for AD Paul Kowalczyk, who gave head coach Tim Miles (right) a three-year extension with a reported $330,000 raise. Things are looking up in Fort Collins.
The Great Unknown
Can the momentum be maintained? Last season was a real thriller for Mountain West fans, as they watched San Diego State and BYU become top-ten programs behind dynamic players like Jimmer Fredette and Kawhi Leonard. UNLV was in and out of the national polls as well. Now both superstar players are headed for the NBA, Lon Kruger has departed, and the Cougars are no longer in the league. Will this evolving version of the conference retain any of the magic wrought in 2010-11? If there isn’t at least a slight dip in the league’s profile, it will come as a surprise.
NBA Draft report
Kawhi Leonard is rather wisely leaving SDSU while his stock is red-hot. He’s a bit undersized for a pro-level inside banger, but that’s never stopped him from yanking balls out of the sky or jamming them in the opposite hoop yet. Other than that, the biggest loss was The Jimmer, but that senior moment was unavoidable.
Team commentary in 20 words or Less
Air Force: Leading scorers Fow and Lyons come back to a middle-of the pack team that may still struggle to match up to the big boys.
Boise State: Former Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice oversaw a 20-win season for the Broncos in his first season. MWC will be a new challenge.
Colorado State: Tim Miles has the Rams on the right course. With BYU gone, there might be room at the top.
New Mexico: Dairese Gary is gone from a team that went 8-8 in the league last season. UCLA transfer Drew Gordon must make hay in his senior year.
San Diego State: The tourney-ready roster from last season has been dismantled by graduation and early entry. Expect a rebuilding season.
TCU: Annually one of the worst basketball teams in the MWC. Thanks to football prowess, will soon be Big East’s burden.
UNLV: By all accounts, the Rebs made a good move in hiring BYU assistant Dave Rice. Could be a contender next season.
Wyoming: Larry Shyatt comes back to a team that floundered badly in league play last season. Maybe he learned something new at Florida.
Photos: US Presswire
Posted on: March 13, 2011 1:35 am
The No. 1 Utah State Aggies had little trouble securing their NCAA tournament bid in Las Vegas, beating the No. 2 seed Boise State Broncos 77-69 in Orleans Arena. Tai Wesley and Brockeith Pane each scored 19 to lead the Aggies to the WAC title over the MWC-bound Broncs. Senior forward Nate Bendall, who averages just over six points per game, had a fine evening with 16 points, and sharpshooter Brian Green threw in another 12.
The Aggies have been the team to beat in the WAC all season long, and the final game of the league in its current state empatically confirmed that early prediction.
Player to watch: Wild Bill, the portly gentleman who directs the fan response to action on the court. He is by far the most recognizable face in the gym when the Aggies play.
Record: 30-3 (15-1)
Colors: Blue and white
We're thinking: 10 seed
Kenpom ranking: 17
Best win: at St. Mary's
Worst Loss: at Idaho
Interesting stat: Utah State is a reasonably effective offensive team, but it's a great defensive team. The Aggies rank in the top 15 in defending opponents both inside and outside, and kenpom.com tags them as the 2nd best defensive rebounding squad in the nation. All of that combines to make them the sixth-best team by defensive efficiency rating, which should make them a very dangerous team to face in the Big Dance.
Most recent tourney appearance: 2010, lost to Texas A&M in the first round.
Posted on: March 12, 2011 1:07 pm
It's a classic No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup for the WAC final, which will be played at 10:00 p.m. on ESPN2
No. 1 Utah State (29-3, 15-1) vs. No. 2 Boise State (20-11, 10-6)
There's a pretty huge gulf between the Aggies and everyone else in the WAC this season. Stew Morrill's Utah State team has just two non-conference losses, to Georgetown and BYU, and just one aberration of a conference loss, a 64-56 loss at Idaho. The team has enough seniors to start a roaring game of shuffleboard at Del Boca Vista retirement home, and a veteran coach in Stew Morrill. So, even though this is a one-two matchup, the Aggies -- No. 17 in the national polls -- have to be the heavy favorites. Boise State is on its way to the MWC after this final shot at a WAC title, and they've had a really strong year under rookie head coach Leon Rice, so it's a certainty that they'll be gunning for the positive vibes a title shot will carry as they prepare to move up a notch.
For the Aggies, the primary player of note is Tai Wesley. At 6-foot-7, 240 lbs, Wesley is the primary inside threat. While he's not an elite shot blocker, he can do the job when necessary, helping seal off the interior and force opponents into difficult jump shots. To that end, he has the help of 6-7 junior Brady Jardine, who is a bit inconsistent as a scorer, but has thrilled the rowdy students at the spectrum with the occasional putback dunk off of an offensive rebound. As a team, the Aggies play great defense, and currently rank No. 8 in the nation in defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com.
Former Houston signee Brockeith Pane is the distributor who keeps the pistons turning for this club, dishing out 3.4 assists per game to go with his 11.4 points. Senior Brian Green is the designated jump shooter, and he excels behind the line. His knack for hitting the open jumper has helped keep defenders off of Wesley and Jardine all season long. Senior guards Pooh Williams and Tyler Newbold help round out a dangerous rotation.
For Boise State, the core unit is led by La'Shard Anderson. The senior captain is the Broncos' leading scorer and passer, and he's coming off of a 9-dish performance in the semifinal against No. 3 New Mexico State. He scores so much because he can, not because he has to. His passes find the able hands of fellow seniors Robert Arnold (12.6 ppg), Paul Noonan (10.5) and Daequon Montreal (10.3). For these guys, the move to the Mountain West is meaningless, and they'll want to go out with a bang. An NCAA tournament bang.
As mentioned above, Stew Morrill is a veteran coach with several NCAA appearances on his resume, so this will be really interesting in terms of figuring out how good Leon Rice is. The BSU head man moved over from his top assistant's gig at Gonzaga this summer, and has shown really well in his initial campaign. If he pulls off the upset here, he may be one to watch in the future.
WAC bracket page
Photo: US Presswire
Posted by Eric Angevine
Posted on: March 8, 2011 1:27 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 6:56 pm
It’s sad to see the WAC in this condition. A league that once garnered four bids in 1998 has been lucky to get two on a consistent basis in the new millennium. Even the teams that will soldier through this year’s tourney will be greatly diminished by next season, as Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada prepare to go to the MWC, and Hawaii decamps for the much smaller Big West. This year, that leaves Utah State (28-3, 15-1) as the far and away best team in the conference, yet still a bubble team or worse if they fail to take the league auto bid.
The challengers are Boise State (19-11, 10-6), which forged a respectable season under new head coach and former Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice, and possibly Idaho (18-12, 9-7) or New Mexico State (15-16, 9-7), though neither of those last two seems particularly likely.
As the top seeds, Utah State and Boise State get double byes, skipping the first two rounds of play. Idaho and NMSU get a one-day reprieve and the four lower seeds battle in Las Vegas on March 9 for the right to face their more rested counterparts later down the road. The league's ninth member, Louisiana Tech, did not receive a berth in the postseason tournament.
As the WAC attempts to stave off complete collapse by inviting new low-RPI members, this tournament will look very different next season. Enjoy the current configuration while you can, if you can.
WAC bracket page
Title game: 7:00 p.m. ET, Saturday, March 12 (ESPN2)
Conference RPI: 13
KenPom.com rating: 10
Sagarin rating: 13
NCAA Tournament Locks: None
NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Utah State
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:
Utah State: 2010 (lost to Texas A&M)
Boise State: 2008 (lost to Louisville)
Idaho: 1990* (lost to Louisville)
New Mexico State: 2010 (lost to Michigan State)
Hawaii: 2002 (lost to Xavier)
Nevada: 2007 (beat Creighton, lost to Memphis)
Fresno State: 2001 (beat Cal, lost to Michigan State)
San Jose State: 1996** (lost to Kentucky)
*member of Big Sky
**member of Big West