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"The Most Talented Year Ever"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain West

by J.H. Smith

2002-03 Season Preview

The Mountain West Conference is young and most of their nationally televised games are on at Midnight on the East Coast. Because of this fact, the new but talented conference is not getting as much media hype as it may deserve. This season the Mountain West may have its most balanced level of talent since its inception and this could actually wake up some people on the East Coast and give the league the credit that many in the west feel it deserves.

Last season, the regular season title went down to the wire with Wyoming winning the outright title before more than 16,000 rabid fans in Laramie. The Cowboys along with Utah, and tourney champs San Diego State all went to the big dance. This year the league could once again send three teams to the tourney and the league crown could come down to four or maybe five teams.

Below is a late summer preview of the top half of the MWC. Look for the bottom three next month.

MWC Player of the Year:

Marcus Bailey, Sr. Wyoming

For the past two seasons, Bailey has arguably been the best player and most valuable player in the conference. While he numbers dropped from his sophomore to junior season, his importance to his team did not. His leadership and defense meant much more than his 14.6 points per game. Case in point was Wyoming’s only home loss of the season when Bailey who was so sick during the pre-game that he did not suit up for the first half of play, nearly willed his team to a come from behind victory. With an NCAA tournament bid seemingly on the line against Air Force in the first round of the MWC tournament, Bailey hit a clutch three at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. Bailey, a crowd favorite in Laramie, should finally get his due outside of the Cowboy state this season. Honorable Mention-Ruben Douglas - New Mexico. Douglas has been a force since transferring from Arizona. This year the Lobos will have to rely on him even more if they want to do any damage in the league.

ALL MWC TEAM - The Best 10

Marcus Bailey Sr. - WYOMING

Ruben Douglas Sr. - NEW MEXICO

Dalron Johnson Sr, - UNLV

Travis Hansen Sr. - BYU

Marcus Banks Sr. - UNLV

Uche Nsonwu- Amadi- Sr, WYOMING

Nick Jacobson Jr. - UTAH

Britton Johnsen Sr. - UTAH

Tony Bland Sr. - SDSU

Brian Greene - Jr. CSU

HM - Travis Hanour SDSU, Mike Mackell SDSU, Joel Gerlach AFA, Tom Bellairs AFA, Matt Nelson CSU, Andy Birley CSU, Mark Bigelow BYU, Jason Straight WYOMING, Donta Richardson WYOMING, Demetrius Hunter UNLV.

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

WYOMING (A SHOOTER AWAY FROM THE BIGTIME?)

--The University of Wyoming won the conference title for a second straight season, advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament with an upset of fifth ranked Gonzaga, and played preseason number one Arizona down to the wire in 2001-2002. They did all this with a poor outside shooting game and a freshman point guard.

         The good news is that Wyoming returns four starters and three-year starter Chris McMillan, who returns from injury. Along with Bailey, Wyoming’s front court has the strong presence of Uche

Nsonwu-Amadi who averaged 10.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. The only loss in the startinglineup is the four spot where Josh Davis graduated. The trio of Joe Ries, newcomer Omoniyi Makun

and 7-0 Alex Dunn will all fight for the spot. The front court should be loaded once again.  The question for Wyoming will once again be outside shooting. Sophomore Point Jason Straight and McMillan both have play making skills but must be able to shoot the three if the team is going to do any real damage in the NCAA Tournament. Shooting guard Donta Richardson will be pushed hard by Washington State transfer David Adams at the two. Adams may be the answer to their shooting woes.

UNLV - (NUKE and EDWARDS- MAKE A FABULOUS FOUR) --UNLV won 21 games last season and advanced to the second round of the NIT in Coach Charlie Spoonhour’s first season. Somehow that is not good enough for the Rebel faithful. Dalron Johnson and Marcus Banks both showed signs of greatness for the team that seemed to be missing just a couple of players. Enter Demetrius Hunter and J.K. Edwards.

          Hunter is a 6-2 junior transfer from Georgetown who will bring the team a shot of energy and along with Banks should team up to be the best guard tandem in the conference.  The front court should also be bolstered with the help of J.K. Edwards. The 6-6, 240 -pound junior

is expected to play the five spot and should bring added scoring and rebounding underneath the basket. Edwards was recruited by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State an North Carolina among others. These four players should pay dividends and push the team into the NCAA tournament.

UTAH - (LOOKING FOR A RETURN)

-- Since the University of Utah made its run to the NCAA finals under coach Rick Majerus, the program has been good but not even come close to the success they achieved with the likes of Andre Miller and crew.  This season, the team will be in the hunt for

          the title but may not be ready for a return to dominance. A rash of players leaving the program and trouble getting players eligible may leave the team good, but not great.  Returning to lead the squad are 6-9 senior Britton Johnson and 6-4 Junior Nick Jacobson. Jacobson

continued to improved from his freshman campaign and ended the year averaging 13.1 points per game. Johnson played the Jeckyl and Hide role and still has yet to show the promise he showed

before his mission.  The simple fact with Utah is that they are well coached and always have great players along with role players such as Trace Caton. If the team can get any help from newcomers and solid play at the point they could be very dangerous.

BYU-(THERE’S NO PLAC E LIKE HOME)

--Last season BYU did not win a conference road

          game. Had they gone just 2-6 or 3-5 they might have gone dancing. Simply put, if BYU can win on the road this season, they may be at the top of the league.  Back are the talented trio of Travis Hansen, Mark Bigelow and Jared Jensen. The three averaged around 40 points and around 14 rebounds between them. They all seemed to thrive on the floor of the Marriot Center. The team beat nationally ranked Stanford on a neutral floor but just could not do any damage on the road.  The two big questions for this team besides the road will be newcomers Kevin Woodberry and Rafael Arujo. If Woodberry a 6-0 point from Dixie State College can replace Matt Montaghue and Arujo can fill up space in the paint, the team will be better than last season.

SDSU (A STEP BACKWARD?)

-- Steve Fisher can flat out recruit. Last season, only his third at

         at San Diego State, he led the once doormat of the league to the NCAA tournament behind a roster of transfers and J.C. players. Gone from that team are Randy Holcomb and Al Faux. Holcomb, who

went to the NBA and Faux who netted 17.0 a game will be sorely missed.   Entering the mix for the Aztecs will be 6-11 Chris Manker a transfer from Oregon State and 6-6 Guard Travis Hanour who once played at Arizona. The two, who become eligible in December, will

re-load the Aztecs but it may not be enough to replace the departed seniors.   Tony Bland, a Syracuse transfer is the teams leading returning scorer with 15.7 a game and joined by Mike Mackell, a 6-9 Center, the team will have the ability to score. The question will be, is the team another year of two away from a return to the dance?

by J.H. Smith

 

 

 

 
       
 

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