Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
In mid-April it was announced that beginning in November 2017, there would be an in-season tournament played on the Cayman Islands. Wednesday half of the field for the eight-team event was revealed, as Global Sports Management announced that Cincinnati, Iowa, UAB and Wyoming have committed to making the trip.
All four of those teams participated in the NCAA tournament last season, with Cincinnati, Iowa and UAB each picking up a win once there. Entering the 2015-16 season Cincinnati is viewed by many as a contender in the American Athletic Conference and the same goes for UAB in Conference USA. Iowa has some key personnel losses to address but returns seniors Mike Gesell, Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury, and Wyoming lost four starters from last season’s Mountain West tournament champion team.
Of course November 2017 is a long way off, so it remains to be seen what each of these teams will look like from a personnel standpoint when the time comes.
No specific timeframe was given in regards to when the other four teams participating in the inaugural Cayman Islands Classic would be announced.
With four starters from last season’s NCAA tournament team having exhausted their eligibility, there’s a lot of playing time up for grabs for the Wyoming Cowboys as they approach the start of practices. One player looking to earn minutes for Larry Shyatt is redshirt sophomore guard Trey Washington III, who sat out all of last season due to a lingering foot injury.
Unfortunately for Washington his return to the court hit a bump in the road, as it was reported Friday that he’s been sidelined with a knee injury. The good news is that the MRI on Washington’s knee showed that there was no major damage, and he’s been declared to be “day-to-day” by team trainer Lance Schuemann. Washington suffered the injury during individual workouts.
Wyoming returns Josh Adams (12.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.6 apg), who led the team in assists and was second in scoring behind Los Angeles Lakers draft pick Larry Nance Jr. as a junior. But after him, no returning Cowboy averaged more than 3.7 points per game (guard Jason McMenamen).
As a freshman in 2013-14 the 5-foot-11 Washington played in 29 games as Wyoming’s backup point guard, averaging 3.0 points in just under ten minutes per game.
The Dome of Doom is one of the most difficult places to play in all of college sports. Located at 7,220 feet above sea level the elevation of Wyoming’s home arena — and 15,000-plus screaming fans — makes it nearly impossible to win games on the road there. Head coach Larry Shyatt is 60-15 at home the past four years as Wyoming’s head coach and power conference programs seem to want no part of playing a non-conference game there.
In a story from the Associated Press late this week, Shyatt revealed how he’s tried to do everything he can to schedule major conference opponents to come and play in Wyoming. The Cowboys will draw Cal at the Dome of Doom this season, but it was a deal in which Wyoming had to play two road games to make the one home game happen. The school hasn’t had a true home-and-home arrangement with a power conference program since Washington State over a decade ago.
Only four power conference programs have played a road game at Wyoming since 1997 and none since the 2004-05 season. Having been a member of staffs at bigger basketball programs like Clemson and Florida, Shyatt understands the scheduling conundrum, but he’d still like to draw some big-name opponents in his home arena.
“They’re not playing us, and quite honestly, if I was the head coach at Colorado or Florida, I don’t know if I would come to Laramie unless they’d play in October, September, August, July or June,” Shyatt said to the AP. “If I’m thinking selfishly of my university, what am I getting? What are we getting? What’s our league getting? Tough call.”
As the AP story notes, Wyoming has entered some in-season tournaments to try to beef up the schedule the next few seasons, but this is just another example of a program from a non-power league having a tough time getting major teams to play them at home. If Wyoming and other Mountain West programs hope to continue to make at-large NCAA tournament appearances, they need to try to get some kind of scheduling bump at home if they can. Coming off of four consecutive postseason appearances, it’s doubtful any power conference team wants to travel to Wyoming but it will be interesting to see if these sorts of things change in the next couple of years.
The 2014-15 season was a special one for the Wyoming Cowboys, as not only did they reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in 13 years but their Mountain West tournament title was the program’s first conference tournament title since 1988. The Cowboys’ 25 wins were the most in a season for the program since 1988.
Those achievements were the most recent steps forward for the program in Larry Shyatt’s second go-round in Laramie (he was head coach for the 1997-98 season), and Wednesday the school announced that it has rewarded its head coach (and his assistants) for their success.
Wyoming and Shyatt have agreed to a contract extension, resulting in his deal now running through the 2019-20 campaign. Also of note in the contract is the fact that all three of Shyatt’s assistants have been taken care of. Allen Edwards and Jeremy Shyatt will reach receive retention bonuses of $100,000, with associate head coach Scott Duncan (who has a two-year deal) receiving an extension of his contract through the 2016-17 season.
Since returning to Laramie in 2011, the elder Shyatt has led Wyoming to four postseason appearances with three being to the CBI (2012, 2013 and 2014) before last year’s NCAA tournament berth.
Getting back to the NCAA tournament in 2016 will require the Cowboys to account for the loss of some key players from last season’s team. Larry Nance Jr., a first round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, Derek Cooke Jr., Charles Hankerson Jr. and Riley Grabau are all out of eligibility, leaving senior guard Josh Adams as the team’s lone returning starter.
Adams is the team’s lone senior, with there being six freshmen and six sophomores that he’ll be asked to lead on the court this upcoming season.
Slowly but surely college basketball programs are releasing their full non-conference schedules. And in the case of the 11 members of the Mountain West, they now know their possible path to a regular season conference title.
Wednesday the conference released its full league schedule, with four games on December 30 marking the start of conference play. Each team will play eight opponents both home and away, with single games (one home, one away) against the other two teams to reach a total of 18 conference games.
Of the four conference games to be played December 30, Fresno State’s trip to UNLV could be the most intriguing matchup. While the Runnin’ Rebels add one of the nation’s top recruiting classes to help account for the loss of four starters, most notably Christian Wood and Rashad Vaughn, Fresno State returns its top five scorers from a season ago led by senior guard Marvelle Harris.
Also on the schedule December 30 are Wyoming visiting preseason favorite San Diego State in a rematch of last year’s Mountain West tournament title game, Nevada visiting New Mexico and Utah State visiting San Jose State. The Mountain West will look to increase the number of NCAA tournament bids from last season’s total of three, which could have been even lower had the Cowboys not earned the conference’s automatic bid.
Below are the single-game matchups for each of the teams in the Mountain West. In larger conferences with unbalanced schedules, those single games can have a significant impact on the title race if head-to-head tiebreakers are needed to determine a champion.
Air Force: vs. Boise State, at San Diego State
Boise State: vs. Fresno State, at Air Force
Colorado State: vs. New Mexico, at Fresno State
Fresno State: vs. Colorado State, at Boise State
Nevada: vs. San Diego State, at San Jose State
New Mexico: vs. Wyoming, at Colorado State
San Diego State: vs. Air Force, at Nevada
San Jose State: vs. Nevada, at UNLV
UNLV: vs. San Jose State, at Utah State
Utah State: vs. UNLV, at Wyoming
Wyoming: vs. Utah State, at New Mexico