In this week’s news conference, Idaho women’s basketball coach Jon Newlee talks about the team’s eight game losing streak, the success of Alyssa Charlston, and the talented youth core of his team.
With the defections of Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference effective in 2012, the future of the Western Athletic Conference is now in doubt — no matter how much WAC commish Karl Benson might try to deny it.
In an 80-minute marathon teleconference this morning, Benson spun like a top, talking about the “selfish” betrayal of the Bulldogs and the Wolf Pack on the eve of what could have been the conference’s grandest coup: recapturing BYU.
Yes, the WAC will get $10 million in buyout money and no, the latest defectors can’t leave for two years.
But the words WAC fans most needed to hear — solid commitments from new members — were conspicuously missing. Lots of what-ifs, possibilities and conversations, with Benson mentioning teams from Texas to California as being potentially interested in joining.
Unfortunately, the WAC can’t afford what-ifs, possibilities and conversations right now. The conference, and its six remaining members, need fresh blood to remain a viable league. If new members aren’t found by 2012, and the WAC drops to six teams for even a single season, we’re essentially talking about a dead league walking.
Already Benson admitted that Louisiana Tech is looking to bolt for Conference USA. Who else is thinking about finding an escape hatch? More to the point, who isn’t looking for an escape hatch at this point?
Imagine one of those ticking 24 clocks. Benson and the six WAC presidents realistically have only a few months to find a savior or two. Otherwise, it’s going to be every man for himself and the Western Athletic Conference will join the Pacific Coast Conference, the Metro Conference and the Southwest Conference, among others, in the annals of NCAA history.
For the Vandals’ part, we’ll have more thoughts after athletic director Rob Spear talks at 2 p.m. Pacific. The upshot? Idaho is in a horrible situation, yet there’s really no better alternative. It’s either ride out the WAC storm, go down with the ship or limp back to the Big Sky and FCS. If anyone has a better idea, let me know.
RENO, Nev. — We’re back in the Lawlor Events Center for the second day of quarterfinal action in the 2010 Western Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament.
The bracket for the men’s quarterfinals looks like this:
(1) Utah State vs. (8) Boise State — noon
(4) Louisiana Tech vs. (5) Fresno State — 2:30 p.m.
(3) New Mexico State vs. (6) San Jose State — 8:30 p.m.
We’ll have complete liveblog coverage of the Vandals/Wolf Pack showdown, with pregame analysis starting at 5:30 p.m., tip at 6.
The winners will play Friday in the semifinals, with the 1/8 and 4/5 winners squaring off in one matchup, the 2/7 and 3/6 winners in the other.
Yesterday, Idaho’s women made history, becoming the first Vandal team to reach the semifinals in any WAC basketball tournament since Idaho joined the conference in 2005. They defeated New Mexico State, 75-63, and will play the No. 1 seeded Fresno State Bulldogs on Friday at noon.
- For a complete rundown on the day’s conference tournament action across the mid-major leagues, check out The Mid-Majority’s Tourney Central.
- Follow us on Twitter — @VandalNation — for live courtside scoring updates throughout the WAC Tournament.
- The Spokesman-Review’s Josh Wright has a game preview of this evening’s Idaho/Nevada showdown.
- Nick Jezierny of the Idaho Statesman looks at Boise State’s final chance to make something of a disappointing season. Nick also checks in with a quicky on Idaho’s win over NMSU and storylines to watch this week.
- The Nevada Sagebrush is all over the WAC Tournament.
- Idaho’s “sneaky” squad could pose a threat to the Wolf Pack’s NCAA Tournament hopes — at least, so says the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Chris Murray.
- Kraig Williams, a very good friend of the Vandal Nation, is liveblogging everything for Rush the Court. (h/t to Parsing the WAC.)
- Also check out the Las Cruces Bulletin’s courtside coverage.
At the end of every shootaround, the Vandals huddle up and get a little hustle on. Everyone grabs a ball and jacks up half-court buzzer-beaters until someone cans one.
Apparently, practice does make perfect.
As the first half of Idaho’s game against San Jose State tonight came to an end, Vandal guard Kashif Watson caught a defensive rebound on the Spartans’ right wing. He hesitated, turned and, with 00.1 showing on the clock, launched a prayer from about 70 feet out.
The buzzer sounded. Watson stopped, stood and watched the ball arc across the court, bank off the backboard and drop through the net. Then he turned and walked away — as the Cowan Spectrum exploded.
“I kind of heaved it, so I was surprised it went in,” Watson said. “It was just luck, but I figured let’s ride with it.”
The Vandals did, carrying an 18-point edge into halftime and surviving a late Spartan run to knock off San Jose State, 86-76. The win marks Idaho’s first home conference victory since January, and assures the Vandals of a berth in next week’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament. Idaho improved to 14-15, 5-10 in the WAC, while San Jose State dropped to 14-15, 6-9 WAC.
Watson’s shot was highlighted on SportsCenter as one of the day’s Top Ten Plays, but it shouldn’t overshadow a strong team effort from an Idaho squad that has struggled to come up with a cohesive game lately. Watson and Mac Hopson shared scoring honors with 17 points apiece, while Marvin Jefferson was a dominant force in the paint — particularly in the first half. As a team, Idaho shot 56 percent from the field and 55 percent from beyond the arc, one of the season’s best shooting performances.
There’s just two games remaining for the Idaho Vandals’ regular season — one week from today, their quest for a Western Athletic Conference title begins in Reno. Tonight and Saturday, it’s a two-game homestand to close out the fight for seeding.
Their first hurdle: the Spartans of San Jose State, led by red-hot shooting from young guard Adrian Oliver.
Can Don Verlin’s squad shake off the losing funk and go out at home on a high note? We’ll find out. Pregame coverage starts at 6:30 p.m., tip at 7.
Women’s hoops are on tap tonight, as Idaho takes on Western Athletic Conference rival San Jose State in Memorial Gym. It’s an old-school throwdown as the 7-18 Vandals face off with the 6-20 Spartans. We go live with pregame coverage at 6:45 p.m., tip at 7.