The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Examining this season of WAC men’s basketball

The Red Zone
 Examining this season of WAC mens basketball
Examining this season of WAC men’s basketball

Examining this season of WAC men’s basketball

Welcome Back! Like Mason Betha, the Red Zone returns after a two-week sabbatical known as new classes are really hard and I got really sick. Before we tackle this week’s subject of the Wild Wild West-ern Athletic Conference, I would just like to say the time off has allowed me to read some of my reader e-mails either sent directly to me or posted on The Daily Campus Web site. Just wanted to say thanks and I will answer some of your questions in column form in a couple of weeks.

Now to basketball and what has become the craziest conference in America — and SMU happens to play in it. This season, the WAC has given us a four-point play at the buzzer to win a game, a consistent lackadaisical effort by the conference favorite, and the normal enigmatic play of the conference puzzles Fresno State and Louisiana Tech.

What it all means is that there is a very good possibility, as we sit exactly halfway through the WAC season, that this perennial multiple bid (and when I say multiple I’m really only talking two) conference will send only the conference tourney champ to the NCAA tournament. Seeding becomes all the more important as playing as few tough games as possible could be the difference in winning or losing this old west shootout with an automatic bid on the line.

As always, SMU is being left out of the discussion because I evidently have a conflict of interest because formerly playing for the team apparently makes me a biased source.

Tombstones: their season is over

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (4-14 overall, 1-8 in conference)

Tulsa fired (excuse me, he stepped down but I’m sure he wasn’t forced out) Head Coach John Phillips about a year too late as he led a once-proud program into the ground after nearly two decades of success. Tulsa was Gonzaga before Gonzaga as they reached three Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight in just over a decade and now they will finish dead last in the WAC.

This year, they are downright atrocious, although Anthony Price forgot he was Anthony Price for a week, as he scored a then-career high of 19 points against Oklahoma, only to top it three nights later by scoring 39 against the Mustangs; alas, Tulsa lost them both.

Tumbleweeds: Usually barely noticeable, but infrequently dangerous

San Jose State Spartans (6-12, 3-6)

This team has just enough talent that if the opponent doesn’t come ready to play they’ll get beat. Just ask preseason conference co-favorite Rice, which was just dispatched by the Spartans 90-85 on Saturday behind the current WAC Player of the Week Marquin Chandler. Chandler average 26.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in the wins over Tulsa and Rice this weekend. The Spartans also have the added advantage of playing teams after they get back from Hawaii. Believe me, I’ve been too San Jose, and it’s no Honolulu.

Boise State Broncos (9-11, 3-6)

For the first three quarters of a game I watched the Broncos play recently, I wondered how this team could have such a horrible record. Coby Karl can shoot the hell out of the ball, Franco Harris, Eric Lane, Jason Ellis were good role players, and Jermaine Blackburn appeared to be able to score at will. Then the last 10 minutes happened, when Boise couldn’t guard my intramural team, Blackburn didn’t get a touch for the last eight minutes despite the fact he had 25, and defensive pressure made them wilt. Other then that there pretty good.

Wanted: Teams still in search of their game

Hawaii Warriors (12-5, 4-5)

Somebody needs to tell Hawaii that a couple wins on the road could ease the disappointment of leaving paradise. The team that entered conference play undefeated has struggled in road tests because they have failed to close out games, losing their five games by a total of 11 points.

They win just as many games close though, as Bobby Nash has hit two threes in the waning seconds to win games, including last weeks four-point play with under 10 seconds to take Hawaii from a three-point deficit to a one-point lead. This is a very talented team with a great flex system meaning that if the Warriors can get their road problems solved, no one will want to see them in the conference tourney.

Rice Owls (10-7,5-4)

Four senior starters off a team that won 20 games usually means you’re contending for the league title, but three straight losses leave the Owls two full games back and scratching their heads of what might have been. Michael Harris might be the conference player of the year, as he goes for 20 points and 11 rebounds a night and Jason McKrieth does everything for this team, as he is in Rice’s top two in every major statistic. Their teammates haven’t filled in the gaps, but if/when they do, this team is scary.

Gamblers: Surprising in winning and losing

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (10-8, 5-4)

Someone explain to me how a team can win at Hawaii but lose at San Jose. What, the Bulldogs do it every year? Yes, it seems that way as no one can win on the islands except for the Bulldogs who have done it three out of the last four years. This year they threw in a win against WAC co-leaders UTEP to offset a loss to the powerhouse known as UTSA. Paul Milsap is the best offensive rebounder in the nation, and when Corey Dean and Donell Allick decide to attack rather then settle for threes, this team is pretty good. Although they seem to lack a little thing called consistency, which leads us to…

Fresno State Bulldogs (12-6, 6-3)

It seems like the Bulldogs have the market corralled on up and down play. Guess who is the only team to beat both the conference co-leaders in UTEP and Nevada? Guess who is the only WAC team to lose to Tulsa? The answer to both is Fresno…but why?

Well, when your leading scorer with 18 points a night shoots 38 percent from the field, a bystander has got to figure young JaVance Coleman shoots Fresno out of games as often as he shoots his team in them. Note to Coach Lopes: Feel free to let Donovan Morris shoot more; 40 percent from three-point arc is pretty good.

The Sheriffs: Don’t mess with the Long-Arms of the Law

Nevada Wolf Pack (14-5) UTEP Miners (17-4, 7-2)

The WAC’s only hope of getting two bids this season is if these two teams meet for the conference championship in Reno, Nev. with each having at the most two more losses apiece on their résumés.

UTEP took the first meeting of the season in overtime after blowing a 24-point lead in Reno. The conference player of the year will be UTEP’s premier point guard Filiberto Rivera or Nevada’s big man Nick Fazekas. They both own RPI’s in the 50s, which if the tourney started today, would get them in, and they both have head-scratching losses to Fresno St. UTEP has better depth with experienced seniors Omar Thomas (leading scorer in junior college history), John Tofi, and Jason Williams. Nevada has the advantage of playing the conference tournament on its own floor. The Red Zone says the Miners wake up from their midseason swoon, and stroll off into the sunset of Reno with the conference tournament title attached to their backs as they get the win on the Wolf Pack’s home floor.

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