Friday, October 2, 2009

NCAA Basketball Preview: MOUNTAIN WEST

A very balanced conference over the last few years, albeit one that can't seem to do anything other than get eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament, will change this year with one dominant team and a whole bunch of question marks.  Also you can watch how I peter out at the end here, and if you hate these long-winded, stat and name filled previews you're in luck - I'm burned out.  The previews are going to be much less fact-intensive going forward.

1.  BYU.  The Cougars lose their best player in do everything swingman Lee Cummard, but return two other do everything types in swingman Jonathan Tavernari (16 pts/7rebs/2assist per game) and point guard Jimmer Fredette (16/3/4) along with two other starters, including guard Jackson Emery, who made the MWC's All-Defensive Team last year.  The Cougars have been a very efficient team, both offensively and defensively the last few years, and there is no reason to expect that to change.  BYU should be able to cruise to it's fourth straight Mountain West crown.  Also seriously yes, that guy's name is Jimmer.  Mormons make up some of the weirdest names. 

2.  SAN DIEGO STATE.  Nearly every contender in the MWC is hit hard by graduation, and the Aztecs are no different.  They drop over 50% of their scoring and lose four starters, but are my pick for #2 because they are bringing in some nice talent.  Malcolm Thomas and Tyrone Shelley, two former high school teammates as well as teammates of THE MAN Rico Tucker at Pepperdine give them two immediate scoring options -they were the Waves top two scorers two seasons ago and combined to average 28 points and 15 rebounds per game.  The Aztecs also welcome in a very solid recruiting class, highlighted by small forward Kawhi Leonard, a major get for the program as the #48th ranked prospect on Rivals150, and former Illinois big man Brian Carlwell. 

3.  UTAH.  The Utes lose their top four scorers from last year, including MWC player of the year Luke Nevill, but still return three starters including point guard Carlon Brown, who is an excellent all-around player and nearly notched a triple-double against Wyoming last season (15-9-9).  There are a bunch of intriguing newcomers as well, including two junior college players who ranked on JucoJunctions Top150 List (Rivals), and a freshman shooting guard in Marshall Henderson who can fill it up, going for over 40 three times this past season who turned down Gonzaga and Marquette to become a Ute.  Most intriguing are a pair of seven-footers; the 7-3 David Foster who returns from a Mormon mission, and 7-0 Jason Washburn, Rivals #90 before last season, which he ended up redshirting.

4.  UNLV.  Like SDSU, the Rebels lose over 50% of their scoring and will be relying quite a bit on newcomers, but ultimately their fate may rest in the hands of holdover Tre'Von Willis, a former transfer from Memphis and the team's leading returning scorer (11.4) and rebounder (4.3).  He can score, but can also be wildly inconsistent and shot better than 50% in only one of the team's final seven games and finished the year at just 38%.  The newcomers are highlighted by a couple of transfers - PG Derrick Jasper from Kentucky and combo forward Chace Stanback from UCLA.  Both were top 75 type recruits who, for one reason or another, didn't pan out at their original schools but still bring top tier talent.  They will be expected to start and be big contributors immediately.  Also incoming is Rivals #66 prospect for this year, shooting guard Anthony Marshall who could also see big minutes.

5.  NEW MEXICO.  Yet another team hit hard by graduation, the Lobos are losing their top three scorers, including All-MWC First Teamer Tony Dandridge, who was awesome.  The good news is that they have a lot of options at guard, including former Gopher commit for like a minute Nate Garth, as well as one-time Iowa commit Dairese Gary who followed Alford into the desert.  Add in a couple talented freshmen guards, their best returning player in small forward Roman Martinez, their second leading returning scorer and former top 100 recruit Phillip McDonald, and Junior College All-American wing Darrington Hobson, and the Lobos should end up being a pretty up-tempo team this year - a change from last year's 172nd tempo ranking.  The challenge will be finding someone to take over the frontcourt.

6.  WYOMING.  Maybe the team hit worst by graduation, the Cowboys lose three double-digit scorers including Brandon Ewing, one of the best player's in the school's history.  Wyoming will look to Afam Muojeke, the only returning scorer over 5.2 ppg, and a whole host of newcomers this year.  The two most interesting newcomers are a pair of opposites; a giant and a midget.  The giant comes from Auburn in the form of 7-2 (with a 7-5 wingspan) Boubacar Sylla, who suffered from foot problems and only played in four games for the Tigers.  Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer claims he's not a project or a stiff, but we shall see.  The little midget is 5-9 point guard JayDee Luster, a transfer from New Mexico State, who was ranked the #19 player in the state of California his senior year of high school and was being recruited by schools like Florida and Wake Forest before hurting his ankle and ending up at NMSU.  

7.  TCU.  Jesus, two and 2/3rds conferences done and I'm already getting burned out.  Time to make these shorter.  Whatever happened to Brandon Smith?  Does anybody know?  After he transferred to TCU, he just never showed up.  I even checked out a TCU message board at some point last year, and they had no idea over there either.  Maybe he's actually Devron Bostick in the witness protection program or some such, or like a Verbal Kint/Kaiser Soyze kind of thing.  Makes a lot of sense.

8.  COLORADO STATE.  Last season I predicted the Gophers would lose when they traveled into Colorado to play CSU.  I was wrong, but not by much.  I also thought the Rams would be a decent team.  I was wrong again.  They won just 9 games all year, mainly because their stud Marcus Walker shot just 41%.  He's gone now, but your boyfriend and former NDSU coach Tim Miles has the team moving in the right direction, bringing in a nice recruiting class including big man Trevor Williams, who the Gophers showed interest in at one time.  He also has already grabbed Chad Calcaterra for 2010, no if only he could find another weiner guard like Ben Woodside his master plan would be complete. 

9.  AIR FORCE.  Triple-option in hoops?  Only if the options are slow, slower, and slowest.  The Falcons are perennially one of the slowest (read:  boringest) teams in all of NCAA basketball.  The past five years they have been 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 4th, and 6th in slowest tempo.  That shtick was working well a few years ago when they were good, but that coach is gone and now the players are terrible and the team is terrible.  They ranked last in, well, almost everything last season and grabbed not a single conference win.  Oh, and four of their "best" players from last year are long gone.  They're like the Fordham of the Rockies.  

I think those got a lot better towards the end there.  Plus, as the kind folks from the Xavier board pointed out, I don't really know what I'm talking about anyway.  Expect future conference previews, and oh yes, I don't plan to quit, to contain less facts, less research, and more nonsense.  I can only believe this is an improvement.

Other Previews:
Conference USA
Atlantic 10


From the Barn said...

No mention of blown knee Busch at CSU...disappointing.

WWWWWW said...

Holy crap, dude, I totally forgot! Apparently out of sight out of mind. I'm going to have to try to give weekly updates on how his season goes.

WWWWWW said...

Welcome New Mexico fans!

latest sports news said...

Thanks for providing the link WWWWWW.