Thursday morning the match-ups for the 2016 Wooden Legacy were announced, an eight-team event that includes programs such as UCLA, Dayton, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Of the eight teams in the field just two made NCAA tournament appearances last season, Dayton and Texas A&M. Both were eliminated by eventual Final Four participants, with Dayton falling to Syracuse in the first round and Texas A&M losing to Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.
The Wooden Legacy will run from November 24-27, with each team being guaranteed three games and the event taking a day off Saturday, November 26. The first two days of games will be played at Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, with the final round scheduled for the Honda Center in Anaheim.
There will also be one unbracketed game in the Wooden Legacy, with UCLA hosting CSUN Sunday, November 13 at Pauley Pavilion.
Thursday, November 24 (all times Eastern)
2:00 p.m.: Texas A&M vs. CSUN
4:30 p.m.: New Mexico vs. Virginia Tech
8:30 p.m.: Dayton vs. Nebraska
11:00 p.m.: Portland vs. UCLA
The Mountain West certainly had an interesting regular season. UNLV, expected to be a factor both within the league and nationally, took a nosedive early in conference play and arrives at the conference tournament (in their building, no less) with an undermanned rotation and an interim head coach. Fresno State and Boise State managed to finish second and third in the league, but a familiar face separated itself as the class of the Mountain West: San Diego State. The Aztecs still have their issues offensively, but Jeremy Hemsley has been one of the Mountain West’s best freshmen and they’ve got a veteran group that remains fully committed on the defensive end of the floor.
Steve Fisher’s team won the conference by three games, and they’ll be expected to handle their business in Las Vegas as well. But given how eventful this season has been for the Mountain West, with everything from blown calls that decided games (New Mexico/San Diego State and Boise State/Colorado State) to the conference presidents not telling the coaches of their decision to trim the field to eight teams beginning next season, this could end up being a basketball version of a Hunter S. Thompson book.
Having played in six of the last seven Mountain West tournament title games (winning in 2010 and 2011), the Aztecs are used to having success in Las Vegas. That being said, the fact that the program hasn’t won the event since 2011 should serve as extra motivation this week.
San Diego State can still have the occasional lull offensively, as they ranked fifth in the Mountain West (conference games only) in field goal percentage (42.9 percent) and seventh in three-point percentage (32.8), but they have players who can make plays on that end of the floor. Jeremy Hemsley runs the show, fellow guard Trey Kell averaged 16.2 points per game in league play and Winston Shepard dished out 3.3 assists per game from the wing. But what makes this team go is their defense, as they led the Mountain West in both field goal and three-point percentage defense.
And if they lose?: Fresno State
Rodney Terry’s Bulldogs finished second in the Mountain West this season, with one of the conference’s best players in senior guard Marvelle Harris leading the way. In total Fresno State has seven players averaging at least 7.9 points per game, and they take better care of the basketball than any other team in the conference. The Bulldogs arrive in Vegas playing their best basketball of the season too, as they won six straight and eight of their last nine to end the regular season. Rebounding is a concern, especially with leading rebounder Torren Jones having missed the last ten games, but with Harris leading the way the Bulldogs have a shot.
Boise State: James Webb III’s health will be key here. If he’s in good physical condition the Broncos can win the whole thing, with Mikey Thompson, Anthony Drmic and Nick Duncan among the veterans capable of putting points on the board.
New Mexico: The Lobos have struggled with turnover issues throughout conference play. But in guard Elijah Brown and forward Tim Williams they have one of the better tandems in the Mountain West.
First-year head coach Eric Musselman’s done a very good job with this group, which includes one of the best freshmen in the Mountain West in forward Cameron Oliver. The Wolf Pack won ten conference games, even with the departure of A.J. West early in the season. What complicates this choice is the health of Marqueze Coleman, and a tough matchup with New Mexico in the quarterfinals.
The Bubble Dwellers
San Diego State: Virtually any scenario involving the Aztecs as an at-large team includes their making Saturday’s title game. They’ll need to win two games in Las Vegas to have a shot given the non-conference schedule, which includes losses to San Diego (bad), Little Rock and Grand Canyon (both good teams, but Little Rock isn’t a bubble team either; GCU’s a provisional Division I member). Their best bet: remove all doubt and win the automatic bid.
Mountain West Player of the Year: Josh Adams, Wyoming
Fresno State’s Marvelle Harris certainly has a good argument here, given his individual excellence and the fact that he led his team to 13 conference wins. But the pick here is Adams because of how productive he was despite playing with a young supporting cast that virtually guaranteed that defenses were geared towards shutting him down. The senior still averaged 23.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in Mountain West play. He also ranked in the top ten in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio.
Mountain West Coach of the Year: Steve Fisher, San Diego State
Fisher’s Aztecs were the class of the Mountain West by a wide margin, winning the conference by three games. When a team wins the conference by a comfortable margin, as was the case here, the head coach deserves to be rewarded. San Diego State’s defense grabbed the headlines, but they were also able to do enough offensively to separate themselves from the pack.
First-Team All-Mountain West:
Josh Adams, Wyoming (POY)
Marvelle Harris, Fresno State: Harris averaged 22.7 points and 4.5 assists per game in Mountain West play, ranking third in scoring and first in assists while also leading the conference in steals (2.6 per game).
Elijah Brown, New Mexico: Brown finished second in the conference behind Adams in scoring (22.9 ppg in conference play), and he was also ranked in the top ten in field goal percentage, assists, free throw percentage and three-point percentage.
Trey Kell, San Diego State: The champs deserve to have someone on the first team, and while Shepard could have an argument because of his versatility the pick here is Kell. He gave SDSU a much-needed offensive spark in league play.
James Webb III, Boise State: The preseason pick for Mountain West POY, Webb averaged 16.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game in conference play.
Second Team All-Mountain West:
Marqueze Coleman, Nevada
Patrick McCaw, UNLV
Antwan Scott, Colorado State
Winston Shepard, San Diego State
Tim Williams, New Mexico
Defining moment of the season: Boise State ends “The Streak”
CBT Prediction: San Diego State takes care of business, winning the automatic bid and earning a seventh straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 3 Oklahoma takes Diamond Head Classic crown
Trailing by two at the half, the third-ranked Sooners went on a 21-0 run to take control of the Diamond Head Classic title game. Buddy Hield scored 34 points and Jordan Woodard added 28 for Lon Kruger’s team, but can they be a national title contender? Read more about those possibilities here.
Hawai’i 79, Auburn 67: Roderick Bobbitt reached the 30-point mark for the second straight game, scoring 30 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field and 8-for-8 from the foul line (he scored 32 on Oklahoma Wednesday night), to lead the Rainbow Warriors to third place at the Diamond Head Classic. The depth advantage for Eran Ganot’s team, which also received 21 and eight boards from Stefan Jankovic, is why they were able to close the game on a 19-4 run.
Horace Spencer and Tyler Harris both fouling out for Auburn, and Kareem Canty had to spend some time on the bench in the second half with four fouls. Canty led the Tigers 22 points, bouncing back from his 1-for-15 outing against Auburn, and Bryce Brown added 20.
BYU 84, Northern Iowa 76: Dave Rose’s Cougars picked up a quality win for their resume in the Diamond Head Classic’s fifth-place game, using a 19-2 first half run to establish the distance needed to hold off the Panthers. Chase Fischer scored 26 points, hitting four more three-pointers, and Kyle Collinsworth tallied 12 points, 17 rebounds and six assists to lead the way for BYU. UNI scored 24 points off of 15 BYU turnovers, but their inability to hit shots (40 percent from the field) when not benefitting from Cougar mistakes proved to be the difference.
Washington State 82, New Mexico 59: The Mountain West took another hit Christmas Day, as the Lobos were blown out by Washington State in the seventh place game at the Diamond Head Classic. Josh Hawkinson, who played just seven minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, scored 12 of his 19 in the second half and as a team Wazzu shot 54.2 percent from the field and 11-for-20 from three.
Hawkinson led five Cougars in double figures. After getting off to a good start to the season the Lobos once again struggled defensively and with turnovers, and they have many kinks to work out ahead of their Mountain West opener Wednesday night.
Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma: Hield and Woodard combined to score 62 points on 20-for-27 shooting from the field in their win over Harvard.
Zena Edosomwan, Harvard: Oklahoma did not have an answer for the Harvard big man, who tallied 25 points and 16 rebounds in a losing effort.
Chase Fischer, BYU: One game after hitting nine three-pointers Fischer hit four more, scoring 26 points in the Cougars’ win over Northern Iowa. Fischer shot 13-for-25 from three in wins over New Mexico and Northern Iowa.
Roderick Bobbitt, Hawai’i: Bobbitt shot extremely well in scoring 30 points in a win over Auburn, shooting 8-for-13 from the field and 8-for-8 from the foul line.
Cullen Neal, New Mexico: Things got so bad for the redshirt sophomore that he was benched for the entire second half in the Lobos’ loss to Washington State. In eight minutes Neal went scoreless and didn’t have an assist, committing five turnovers.
New Mexico’s three-point shooters: Neal wasn’t the only one who struggled, as the Lobos shot 0-for-10 from three on the day.
Patrick Steeves, Harvard: In 28 minutes off the bench Steeves made just one of his eight shots from the field, scoring two points.
Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma: Cousins didn’t have the night teammates Hield and Woodard had, scoring seven points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Mountain West tournaments to remain at Thomas & Mack through 2019
Friday afternoon the Mountain West Conference announced that it would continue to hold its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas through 2019. The Thomas & Mack Center, which is also UNLV’s home building, has hosted the event every year since 2007 and the new deal comes as no surprise.
What is interesting about the announcement is the change to the Mountain West tournament bracket beginning with the 2017 edition. Both the men’s and women’s tournaments will be eight-team affairs, meaning that the bottom three teams in the league standings will remain home.
“The decision by the Board to feature the top eight men’s and women’s teams in the MW Basketball Championships is consistent with a broader Mountain West Conference initiative emphasizing performance-based competitive excellence,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in the release.
“Similar approaches are being implemented in other MW championships based upon the best interests of those particular sports. This most recent action will increase the importance of our regular-season basketball competition and is a vehicle to enhance the overall success of our basketball enterprise.”
In recent years the Mountain West has been joined in Las Vegas by the WCC (played the week prior), Pac-12 and WAC in Las Vegas for conference tournament action. The WCC and WAC use the Orleans Arena for their respective conference tournaments, with the Pac-12 tournament being played at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
With the Las Vegas Arena (expected to seat 20,000 people) due to open this spring, there will be another facility for conferences to look into if they so choose.
New Mexico adds prep school coach to staff, and reportedly a top 150 recruit
New Mexico head coach Craig Neal dipped into the prep school ranks to fill his coaching staff. La Lumiere School (Indiana) head coach Alan Huss was officially named an assistant coach on Tuesday night, the team announced.
Huss replaces Craig Snow, who left the Lobos in July to become the head coach of New Mexico Highlands University, a Division II program. Huss joins associate head coach Lamont Smith and assistant Drew Adams on staff.
He is the second coach from a highly-touted prep school to land an assistant coaching job this summer. Missouri head coach Kim Anderson hired Huntington Prep (West Virginia) head coach Rob Fulford in June. Five weeks later, Fulford’s former player, Montaque Gill-Caesar, a four-star prospect, reclassified and committed to Mizzou for this upcoming season.
It appears Huss’ hire will reportedly come with a bonus. Minutes after it was announced Huss would join the staff, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports reported that former Auburn signee Sam Logwood, a La Lumiere product, would join Huss at New Mexico. Logwood committed to Tony Barbee in September. On July 30, new Auburn coach Bruce Pearl released the 6-foot-6 wing from his National Letter of Intent. Logwood is regarded as the No. 150 overall recruit in the Class of 2014, according to Rivals. After getting his release, Logwood scheduled a visit to New Mexico for this upcoming weekend.
La Lumiere has a talented roster for the 2014-2015 season. Top-40 2015 shooting guard Jalen Coleman, Vanderbilt commit Joseph Toye and incoming wing Davon Dillard, a three-star prospect, will be out on the perimeter, joined by Australian big man Isaac Humphries, a 6-foot-11 2016 prospect. You can read more about Humphries in College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup from Monday.
West Linn High (Oregon) rising senior guard Anthony Mathis wasted little time once he received an offer from New Mexico. After receiving a scholarship offer on Wednesday, the 6-foot-3 Mathis committed to the Lobos on Thursday afternoon, announcing his decision via Twitter.
“I knew about a month ago they were going to offer, so it’s something I’ve had in the back of my head,” Mathis told The Oregonian.
He previously held offers from Portland, UNLV and Oregon State, though, he was recruited by Craig Robinson. Once he was fired, Mathis nixed the Beavers from his list.
Mathis becomes the third member of the Class of 2015 to pledge to the Lobos, joining fellow three-star commits Jordan Hunter, a point guard from Ozen High (Texas) and Corona del Sol High wing Dane Kuiper. When the trio arrive on campus in the fall of 2015, they will add depth to a perimeter that will include Cullen Neal and former Butler guard Elijah Brown, who will sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules.
The back court has been the focus of New Mexico’s 2015 class, as the Lobos needed to revamp its front court for 2014, making up for the departures of Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk. Five out of six incoming commits will be part of a new-look Lobos frontline.
Mathis intends on signing his National Letter of Intent in November.