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March 1, 2007

Will's WAC power poll

(1) Nevada (13-1, 26-2) It's arguably the marquee matchup in the WAC this season as Nevada goes to Utah State Thursday night, a place the home team rarely loses... the 'Pack then comes home Saturday night to face an equally dangerous foe in New Mexico State... they're in the NCAA tournament, only questions are (a) how high of a seed, and (b) will they go in as the WAC champion or an at-large selection.

Player Watch: Soon-to-be 3-time WAC Player of the Year Nick Fazekas went nuts on the court again last week, averaging 24.5 points and 11 rebounds in wins over Boise State and Idaho. As usual, he torched the Broncos to the tune of 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

By the Numbers: One of many numbers that illustrate how good Nevada has been this year-- they're 5-1 when trailing at halftime.

(2) New Mexico State (10-4, 21-7) Hosts Louisiana Tech on Thursday before going to Nevada on Saturday... will host the WAC tournament and already has an excellent chance to earn an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament, a win at Nevada probably seals it... beat Utah State before falling to Fresno State at home last week.

Player Watch: Junior guard Fred Peete suffered a broken foot last week and did not play against Fresno State. It's unclear how long he'll be out of the lineup.

By the Numbers: 1-- the number of home losses for the Aggies this year but it came at a critical time. Their loss to Fresno State last week-- late in the regular season-- shows the rest of the conference that the Aggies can be toppled at home, just in time for NMSU to host the WAC tournament.

(3) Utah State (8-6, 20-9) Host nationally-ranked Nevada Thursday night in Logan, a place where the Aggies are 124-11 under head coach Stew Morrill... also host Fresno State on Saturday... two wins this week and a strong showing at the WAC tournament could get the Aggies a look from the NCAA, but they seem destined for the NIT... lost twice last week on the road, at New Mexico State and at Louisiana Tech.

Player Watch: Jaycee Carroll continues to lead the WAC in scoring (21.6), free throw percentage (88.7 percent) and 3-point percentage (44.9 percent). Simply put: he's one of the top scorers in the country. Anywhere.

By the Numbers: The Aggies had been 14-0 in games where Carroll scored at least 20 points before the loss to New Mexico State. Carroll had 30.

(4) Fresno State (8-6, 20-8) At home against Boise State Thursday before going to Utah State Saturday... Likely NIT-bound but, like Utah State, a strong finish and good showing in the conference tournament could put them on the NCAA's radar... won twice on the road last week, including handing New Mexico State (playing without starting guard Fred Peete) their first home loss of the year.

Player Watch: Dominic McGuire moved past Melvin Ely into 1st place in the school's single-season blocked shot list (97), the most since Keon Clark of UNLV had 114 in 1996-97. If he's not 1st-Team All-WAC, there oughta be an investigation.

By the Numbers: 1-- that's the number of wins (at NMSU this past weekend) that Fresno State has that impresses me right now. They're clearly a pretty good basketball team, but I'm still not sold that-- based on what they've done on the court-- they're a better candidate for postseason play than Boise State or maybe even Hawai'i. Lost at San Jose State (nearly swept), nearly lost to Idaho playing without Keoni Watson, lost by 30 to UC-Santa Barbara, nearly lost to Montana State and UC-San Diego. And-- thusfar-- they're 0-3 against the Broncos and Warriors.

(5) Boise State (8-6, 16-11) Wraps up the season on the road, where they've struggled this year, when they go to Fresno State and Hawai'i... Lacking a "name" win (0-4 vs Nevada/NM State, loss to Washington State, devastating loss at Utah State), the Broncos realistically need at least 19 wins to entertain even a slim hope of postseason play-- which makes a road sweep nearly a must... gave head coach Greg Graham his 100th career win by beating San Jose State last week before falling to Nevada.

Player Watch: Among the WAC's impressive list of transfer newcomers (Dominic McGuire, Justin Hawkins, and teammate Reggie Larry), BSU big man Matt Nelson almost gets lost despite a rock-solid season. He leads the WAC in field goal percentage (59.5), is 3rd in the conference in rebounding (9.0), and 9th in scoring (13.8). One area he needs definite improvement in is free throws (57.2 percent)

By the Numbers: Coby Karl, who has struggled a bit of late with his shot, is 9 points behind Abe Jackson for 3rd place on the school's career scoring list. He's in the WAC's all-time top ten in 3-pointers taken (6th, 656) and made (8th, 257).

(6) Hawai'i (6-8, 16-12) Welcomes Idaho (Thursday) and Boise State (Saturday) to the islands in the final weekend of the regular season... longtime head coach Riley Wallace will step down following the season, ending a 20-year run atop the Warrior program... won their only game last week, a 12-point win at San Jose State.

Player Watch: Ahmet Gueye continues a solid senior campaign, averaging 15.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game in Hawai'i's last four contests.

By the Numbers: If Hawai'i wins out to reach the WAC title game (certainly no easy task), that'd give the Warriors 20 wins. Despite the resulting 8-8 conference record going into the conference tourney, a 20-win season and a WAC title game appearance would have to merit strong NIT consideration, wouldn't it?

(7) Louisiana Tech (7-8, 10-18) Close the regular season Thursday night by hosting New Mexico State... as it stands right now, it looks like Tech would open WAC tournament play against Fresno State which seems to be a favorable draw for the Bulldogs... beat Fresno and Utah State at home last week.

Player Watch: Harry Disy, the North Idaho College transfer, has 41 rebounds in the last 4 games, tops in the WAC in that span.

By the Numbers: Shot a whopping 30-45 (66.7 percent) from the floor in the win over Utah State. Good work for a team that's 7th in the 9-team WAC with a season field goal percentage of 40.9 percent.

(8) San Jose State (3-12, 4-24) Host Idaho on Saturday to wrap up the regular season... will then play Idaho again in the WAC tournament play-in game, the winner of that game apparently getting to play the part of the dutiful sacrificial lamb against top-seed Nevada in the quarterfinals... lost twice last week, by 19 at Boise State and by 12 at home against Hawai'i.

Player Watch: Menelik Barbary posted a strong double-double in the loss to Boise State, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He shot 9-of-11 from the floor, mostly point-blank layups.

By the Numbers: A bit of a dubious streak is in jeopardy for the Spartans-- and not for the better. San Jose State had won 6 games each of the past three seasons. San Jose needs to beat Idaho this week and again in the WAC tournament to reach 6 for the 4th straight year.

(9) Idaho (3-24, 1-13) At Hawai'i on Saturday before beginning the San Jose State doubleheader... the Spartans won at Idaho (68-65) on February 1... lost to Nevada in ancient Memorial Gym (84-68) in their only game last week.

Player Watch: If I had a vote, David Jackson would be my WAC Freshman of the Year. BSU's Anthony Thomas might be a little bit more fashionable as a pick, but production from Thomas is a luxury for Boise State. If Idaho is to beat anyone this side of Clark Fork High School, they need Jackson (7.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg) to contribute.

By the Numbers: Showing what a struggle it's been for Idaho to find the bucket this season, they're last in the WAC in scoring (62 points per game) despite breaking the school's record for 3-point field goals in a season (202).



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