Monday, March 10, 2008

WAC CHAMPIONS!...Word on the Tournament

Jaycee Carroll is WAC Player of the Year; Gary Wilkinson makes All-WAC second team

What an amazing week for Utah State last week, going 3-0 with two road wins to make a late surge all the way to the top of the WAC standings and a #1 seed. These wins including a fantastic 79-66 win over Fresno State on Senior Night, followed by a shocking 88-69 win at previous sole WAC leader Boise State and a 78-58 victory over Idaho on Saturday to clinch the #1 seed.
Carroll played great in all three games. This included a 33-point showing with six three-pointers on Monday in his last home game, followed by back-to-back 23-point games. This last-week surge by his team helped him earn the WAC Player of the Year honor. This is indeed deserving for a player who is now just 69 points away from passing Keith Van Horn as the state's all-time leading scorer.
I must also commend Gary Wilkinson for his deserved second-team honor. Wilkinson improved, especially on the road, as the season continued, and the Ags wouldn't have been able to surge to the top of the league last week if his play hadn't improved on the road as it did.
Too bad that the WAC Newcomer of the Year award didn't go to redshirt freshman Tai Wesley; rather, it went to Nevada freshman point guard Armon Johnson.
Carroll's point guard running mates Kris Clark and Desmond Stephens also played fantastic games. I was especially proud of Stephens for picking up the load at Boise when Clark got in foul trouble early. Stephens indicated that he may actually be ready to be USU's starting point guard once next season rolls around.
Wings Tyler Newbold and Pooh Williams continued to play solid. For the week, Newbold went 3-6 from the three-point line, but more importantly was primarily responsible for stopping lights-out BSU outside shooters Tyler Tiedeman and Matt Bausche. Together, they average 24 points a game, and Newbold and Pooh held them to nine on just 3-15 shooting.
The posts struggled through foul trouble, particularly Wilkinson and Wesley, but DuCharme stepped up his play off the bench, particularly against Boise, when he scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 31 minutes of play. Matt Formisano also saw significant time in both games in the state of Idaho, and was solid. His steady play was needed when Wilkinson and Wesley both got in foul trouble in Boise.
The Aggies really are playing as well as they have all season heading into the WAC Tournament beginning on Tuesday. They shouldn't have a problem with either San Jose State or Louisiana Tech in the first round- but then again, SJSU has already beaten the Aggies this season. If USU wins that game, it will definitely be tough to beat the Broncos for a third time in the semifinals, as that matchup will happen if BSU defeats the slumping Hawaii Warriors.
At least they avoided matching up with home team New Mexico State until the championship game, assuming (hoping) both teams can get that far. With the WAC only getting one bid this year, the fact that the tourney is hosted by a co-champion of the league has huge implications. If the NewMags get the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the tourney at home, then they will probably get a low seed in the form of even a #15 seed, since their 13 losses and RPI down at 121 is not impressive. Same goes for Boise State if the Broncos win, since their RPI is 101.
On the other hand, if the Aggies or Nevada win the tourney, they can probably manage to get a better seed due to RPIs of 72 and 74, respectively. Perhaps a 12-14 seed could be in the works for USU or the Wolfpack if they can win the three-day title.

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