Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mountain West College Basketball 2010 Preview

1.  San Diego State Aztecs.  I don't want to oversell a Mountain West team, because then I'd end up looking like some kind of jackass who pimps Dayton as a dynasty, but this Aztec team is loaded, and if you're looking for a final four sleeper from a non-BCS conference, look no further.  Kawhi Leonard is a complete stud, a potential NBA draft pick, and is top five amongst returnees in the conference in points, rebounds and steals and top 20 in blocks, assists, and field goal percentage.  Mean amongst boys, you might say, and he has his whole posse coming back with him.  You got his buddies down low in Malcolm Thomas, a double-digit scorer who was top 5 in rebounding, blocks, and FG% last year, and Billy White, another double-digit scorer who led the league in FG percentage at 59%.  And you get your starting back court back in double-figure scorer D.J. Gay (ha ha) and Chase Tapley.  Really the only thing they need is a true point guard (Gay is more of a combo) and a shooter.  Well, they signed a top point guard prospect in LaBradford Franklin, so really all they need is a shooter - if they need anything at all.  In case you can't tell, I'm high on SDSU this year.  Got 'em at 100-1, baby.  We goin' sizzla'.
2.  BYU Cougars.  Jimmer is back, and Jimmer is Jimmer, but he unfortunately loses his boy Tyler Haws to his weird mormon mission, what with the strange underwear and the weird supplementary bible works.  That's not to say Jimmer is on his own, because his third little buddy in the back court, Jackson Emery, is back, as is Noah Hartsock to man the lane.  The losses will hurt (along with Haws the Cougars also lose do-everything forward Jonathan Tavernari and starting center Chris Miles), but there is enough talent surrounding Jimmer that BYU should be dancing again this year, if dancing was allowed by the Mormon religion.  And by the way, Jimmer is totally a Utah/Mormon name.  My wife was raised mormon, and her family is bonkers.  She has cousins who named their kids Londyn, Brooklyn, Okland, Dagon, Presley, Daxton, Lindy, Maximus, and Braden.  I swear to god I'm not kidding.
3.  UNLV Runnin' Rebels.  The Rebels looked like the were going to be in great shape, getting all five starters back from last year's NCAA Tournament team, but then Tre'Von Willis choked some chick (that's frowned upon), Matt Shaw was booted after failing a drug test, and Kendall Wallace tore his ACL and is out for the year.  Ouch.  Luckily (for the team and Willis, not so much for the girl) Willis is only going to miss three games, and he'll be joined by Chace Stanback and Oscar Bellfield, as well as Derrick Jasper assuming he's back from his own knee injury.  That's enough to be near the top in the MWC but bad luck and dumb choices knock them down from loaded to merely good.

4.  New Mexico Lobos.  Usually when a program like New Mexico loses a couple of guys like Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez from a team that went 30-5 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament you can count on a down period to follow.  Luckily for Lobo fans, Steve Alford has them looking like the kind of team where a letdown still means an NCAA bid.  Stepping in for those two are Drew Gordon, the transfer from UCLA who played well in Westwood before heading to the desert, and Alex Kirk (who the Gophers were looking at at one point) who is the one of only two Rivals Top 150 recruit coming to the MWC (he's #116, the other is BYU's Kyle Collinsworth at #134).   It's not an even trade, of course, because Martinez and Hobson were do-it-all wings while Gordon and Kirk are post players, but it's the kind of influx of talent that will help, along with returning point guard Dairese Gary - particularly if Gordon has his head on straight.  Don't forget, he was a top 50 player as a freshman, and was averaging double-figures in points and 2 blocks per game last year.  He's still got the talent to be a star.
5.  Colorado State Rams.  Tim Miles has done a hell of a job, Travis Busch signing notwithstanding (and by the way, I heard he likes to hang out by himself in bars near the campus on Saturday mornings - true story), and he has the Rams solidly turned around from "shitbox" to "mediocre."  I don't know that they can turn the corner just yet, but there is some talent here.  Andy Ogide returns to man the paint for the Rams and he was top five in the league in both rebounding and field goal percentage, and Dorian Green had a very nice freshman season at point for CSU last year, averaging 12 points and 3 assists per game.  And don't forget this is where one-time Gopher PF target Chad Calcaterra landed.  He'll have a chance to contribute right away, but this team isn't quite ready to compete for an NCAA berth yet.  If only they had Travis Busch for one more year, that kind of hustle cures all ills.    

6.  Wyoming Cowboys.  The success (it's a relative term) of the Cowboys' season this year pretty much rests on the health of Afam Mujoeke's knee.  Two seasons ago Mujoeke won the MWC Freshman of the Year award, and then last year he was having a fine season averaging 17 points per game before he blew out his patella tendon, which sounds pretty terrible.  If he's back at full strength he'll join sophomore Desmar Jackson to give the Cowboys a nice one-two scoring punch, and make them viable enough that they will at least threaten to upset a team or two.  If he's not all the way back, it's going to be a long year in Laramie.  Or longer, at least.  I mean, I assume it's always a long year in Wyoming, what with all the long hours baling hay and milking cows before class and what not.
7.  Utah Utes.  This will be the last season for the Utes in the Mountain West, and it's probably about time to leave before they tarnish their legacy, because after being the dominant force in the conference since it's inception in 1999, winning five of the first seven league titles, they've fallen off, finishing better than 5th just once in the last five seasons and gaining just one NCAA berth.  That probably won't get much better this year.  Both of last year's two leading scorers are transferring (Carlon Brown to Colorado, Marshall Henderson to Texas Tech), and a host of bench fodder is leaving as well (missions and what have you) and the Utes will have a whole slew of new faces.  If some of those new guys turn out to be good guards Utah could finish higher than this because they do have a lot of size in 7-3 David Foster and 7-0 Jason Washburn, both of whom finished in the top five in blocked shots in the MWC with Foster finishing fourth nationally.  So they're big.  And probably slow since I assume the whole team is white.
8.  TCU Horned Frogs.  Well if we want to start with something nice, let's talk about TCU's back court because it's actually quite solid.  Ronnie Moss is an excellent all-around player who led the team in scoring (14.9 per game) and assists (5.9 per game, good for 1st in the conference and 9th nationally) and also chipped in with more than 3 rebounds and almost a steal per game.  He's not exactly a wizard with the jump shot (just 40% shooting last year) and he turns it over way too much (3.8 per game) but still - he's a heck of a player.  Joining him in the back court this year will be Hank Thorns, a transfer from Virginia Tech who had some limited success in his two years as a Hokie, hampered only by the fact that he can't shoot (30% from the field as a sophomore).  And speaking of can't shoot the third guard and second leading returning scorer, Greg Hill, shot just 41% last year, which actually makes him the marksman of the group.  So the guards are good but they can't shoot.  Now let me tell you all the good things about their front court players:  at least they aren't Air Force. 
9.  Air Force Falcons.  Remember when Air Force was kind of good for a minute there, using that slower-than-a-Vickers-Gunbus-offense?  They actually made the tournament in 2004 and 2006, but things have fallen off faster than Maverick after Goose died, and the Falcons have won just won conference game combined the last two seasons - lost that lovin' feeling indeed.  I'd love to sit here and make Top Gun/Fighter Jet jokes for another few sentences, but researching the Falcons makes me feel like Cougar after getting missile locked, and there's no Viper to be my wingman.  Great Balls of Fire!!


Scott Ficklin said...

nothin' like some good ol' fashion religious bigotry to start off the basketball season. really brings out the credibility in all of us.

Go aggies.

Farid Rushdi said...

One of the great things about being LDS & a BYU fan is how people who mock our beliefs turn blue when we beat them by 30 points.

UNLV's Tre'von Willis said last night that he "heard" the BYU had some All American and that until he scores over him, he wasn't anything.

Jimmer scored 39 on Willis last night as BYU beat UNLV in Vegas.

Trust me, our silly underwear and extra bible-stuff don't slow us down on the court one bit.

WWWWWW said...

Hey, I'm a big BYU fan.

Anonymous said...

Uhh, yeah, well, Top Gun was a movie about Naval Aviators, as in the Navy, not the Air Force. Just sayin'. Navy's got nothing on Air Force.

Oh, and them Mormons, they not only dance, but they're consistently the U.S. Ballroom (white tie and tails) and Latin (sexy sexy sexy costumes and moves) champions. Must be how they dance around the court so well.

These minor errata don't stop me from liking your reviews on the game though. Keep up the hoop news!

Andrew Garrett said...

Not to mention the BYU Cougarettes are the reigning college hip-hop dance national champions.