After serving as a reserve in each of his first two seasons at New Mexico State, guard Travon Landry underwent microfracture surgery on his knee in the offseason. Landry has yet to return to the floor for Marvin Menzies’ team, most recently missing their Crimson and White scrimmage Saturday night.
“We’re going to have to play it by ear and we’re going to have to make a decision relatively soon,” Menzies said about Landry. “But, right now it’s not looking like he’s going to be able to play this year. That’s kind of where it’s at.”
Landry averaged just 2.1 points per game as a sophomore, with the majority of the minutes on the perimeter going to players such as Daniel Mullings, Ian Baker and DK Eldridge. With Mullings and Eldridge out of eligibility minutes opened up, with Landry being one possible competitor for more playing time. But with his still recovering from offseason surgery, it’s tough for the San Antonio native to make any kind of statement for the upcoming campaign.
Baker is expected to be one of the top guards in the WAC, but he’s going to need help if the Aggies are to make a fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Among those who will compete for minutes are sophomores Braxton Huggins (8.0 mpg), Jalyn Pennie (9.1 mpg) and Matt Taylor (8.5 mpg), redshirt freshman Sidy Ndir and freshman Jermaine Haley.
Gonzaga opened its season with its annual Kraziness in the Kennel as fans gathered to celebrate the start of the basketball season. While not much can be learned of a half-paced scrimmage in an exhibition setting, the Bulldogs did play without center Przemek Karnowski, who is battling pneumonia.
When the Mountain West and Pac-12 announced last year that they would enter into an officiating alliance, one of the goals was to improve uniformity between the leagues when it came to how games were called. Tuesday the leagues announced that they’ve taken another step in this direction when it comes to basketball in the western United States, with the Big West, WAC and WCC joining the alliance.
As a result of this move, five of the six conferences in which most of (if not all) of their members are located in the western United States are part of this alliance with the Big Sky being the lone exception. According to the release, Bobby Dibler will preside over the alliance as the officiating coordinator.
A major focus of the expanded alliance will be training. Prior to the season, Dibler and staff will host a training clinic for all roster officials to review mechanics, game situations, rules knowledge and other key factors to ensure they are among the best trained in the country. Officials from all five of the conferences will participate, furthering the impact of the collaboration on officiating in the western United States.
With the changes occurring within college basketball, including the move to a 30-second shot clock and increased calls to do a better job of allowing freedom of movement, expanding the alliance isn’t a bad idea at all. Of course this hinges on officials not only being consistent with calls but sticking to it the new initiatives throughout the year.
A couple years ago when there was a move to improve freedom of movement, complaints about the length of games eventually led to a return to things being let go by the time conference play rolled around. There will be complaints, especially in games deemed to be “whistle-fests,” but that’s something people will have to deal with as officials and the rules committee look to do things that will improve offensive production.
Utah Valley head coach Dick Hunsaker to step down at season’s end
Following Utah Valley’s win over Bakersfield Saturday night, head coach Dick Hunsaker announced that he has decided to step down at the end of the season. Hunsaker, who’s also been a Division I head coach at Utah and Ball State, has been the head coach Utah Valley since 2003. During his time at the WAC program, Hunsaker’s won 205 games and last season led the Wolverines to a WAC regular season title.
Hunsaker stated that this was the right time to make the move, with his youngest son returning from his LDS mission and there also being the desire to spend more time with his grandchildren.
“My wife likes the timing, as this opens the window to allow us to pick up our youngest son Zachary from his LDS mission in Africa,” Hunsaker said in the statement. “Also, I am looking forward to getting to know my seven grandchildren.”
Utah Valley currently has a record of 11-15, 5-9 in WAC play, and the Wolverines will be the six seed in next week’s WAC tournament.
2014-2015 Season Preview: Can Grand Canyon, Seattle catch New Mexico State in the WAC?
The past three seasons have seen the same outcome for New Mexico State: lose out on the WAC regular season title, string together a few wins in March to win the tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, and proceed to get bounced from the Big Dance after just 40 minutes. And while Marvin Menzies will be moving on without massive Sim Bhullar this season, the Aggies appear to be the favorites to snap at least one part of that three-year streak and win the WAC title.
It starts with Daniel Mullings, a talented, 6-foot-3 guard that will enter this season as the WAC’s reigning Player of the Year. KC Ross-Miller left the program after last season — he was suspended for the NCAA tournament after fighting with Utah Valley fans on the court after a loss — meaning that Mullings will be asked to play as more of a point guard this season. With DK Eldridge (11.2 ppg, 40.5% 3PT) and Tshilidzi Nephawe (11.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg) both returning as well, there will be plenty of firepower for the Aggies. Their x-factor? Former top 100 recruit Anthony January, a 6-foot-8 forward who will join the program this season.
It won’t be a cakewalk for the Aggies, however, as Grand Canyon will give NMSU all they can handle despite losing double-double machine Killian Larson to graduation. Jerome Garrison, a 5-foot-11 scoring guard that averaged 16.9 points last season, is back, as is 6-foot-9 Texas A&M transfer Daniel Alexander (11.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.9 apg). Alexander, in particular, is expected to make a marked improvement this season, one that will be aided by the additions of Tobe Okafor — a 6-foot-11, highly-regard JuCo transfer — as well as Washington State castoff Royce Woolridge.
The Antelopes have size, depth and talent and they play in a rowdy home environment, but the good news for the Aggies is Grand Canyon won’t be eligible for the NCAA tournament until the 2017-2018 season.
The rest of the WAC is a crapshoot. Seattle loses Clarence Trent, but they bring back three of their top four scorers, including the league’s leading returning scorer in Isaiah Umipig. They struggled with injuries a season ago, however, and will be dependent on Deshaun Sunderhaus, a potential all-league front court player, to return to 100% after tearing his ACL last season. Utah Valley is the WAC’s reigning regular season champ, but they lost three of their top four scorers from last season — including leading scorer Hulton Hunsaker — and will likely slide back into the middle of the pack this season.
UMKC sophomore Martez Harrison will end up being a WAC Player of the Year before he graduates — maybe even this season, as he averaged 17.2 points and 3.8 assists as a freshman — but the Kangaroos lost quite a bit to graduation from last year.
PRESEASON BIG WEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Daniel Mullings, New Mexico State
Mullings, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, is the reigning WAC Player of the Year after averaging 16.8 points, 4.9 boards, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals as a junior. He’ll be asked to take on even more of a leadership role this season, sliding over to spend more time running the point for the Aggies.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-WAC TEAM:
Martez Harrison, UMKC: Harrison was the best freshman in the conference a season ago, averaging 17.2 points and 3.8 assists in his first season in Division I.
Isiah Umipig, Seattle: The 6-foot-1 senior is the WAC’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.5 points. He also took for than 15 shots per game and shot 38.8% from the field.
Daniel Alexander, Grand Canyon: A sharp-shooting, 6-foot-9 senior that began his career at Texas A&M was GCU’s third-leading scorer last season.
Tshilidzi Nephawe, New Mexico State: Losing Sim Bhullar will make Nephawe be the centerpiece of NMSU’s front court. He’s the best returning offensive rebounder in the league.