Category: WAC


For the University of Nevada, the time has come. Good bye WAC, hello MWC. Nevada accepted an invitation August 19, 2010. Now, this school year, the Wolf Pack will join Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV and Wyoming. Hawai’i is also a football-only member of the Mountain West, while San Jose State and Utah State will be joining next year.

Is this a good move? Undeniably, yes. The WAC was going nowhere and fast. The WAC is nothing without Boise State, Nevada, Fresno state and Hawaii. Once it lost San Jose State and Utah State, well, that put the nail in the coffin. Athletics Director Cary Groth will see the volleyball team and Chris Ault, Cody Fajardo and the football team take the field first. First, the positives. Nevada will get to play Nevada Southern and have it mean something more than bragging rights.

Look at all the great rivalries. Why are they great? Because there’s something on the line. Now, there will be conference implications in addition to just bragging rights. The better both programs get, the more is at stake, the better the rivalry becomes. For one year, at least, Nevada will get a chance to play both UNLV and Boise State in football, a glimpse of what might have been for the Wolf Pack football program.

The negatives? Will the competition really be much better than the WAC? Sure, in basketball there’s no question. SDSU, for this season at least, will provide a stiff test. New Mexico is generally strong, so is UNLV. Once Utah State joins the conference next year, the basketball portion will be fine. It’s football that will be lacking, a shame because that’s pretty much the whole reason Nevada moved. Who is going to be the powerhouse after Boise leaves? Nevada? Fresno? Hawaii? Air Force? Exactly.

All the same, this might not be the home run we all dreamt about when it looked as if Utah, BYU, TCU, Boise State and Nevada could all be in the same conference. But, it’s still better than the alternative. Hello MWC. Time to show the conference that the Strength of the Pack is the Wolf and the Strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

 

Yes, news that the BCS is close to adding a four-team playoff beginning in 2014 is great news. Here’s a link to Pat Forde’s article. For the record Western Athletic Conference Commissioner Karl Benson said there was unanimous support for the playoff (not that the WAC’s going to have a team in that playoff anytime soon).

But everyone from SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, who has been a driving force behind this to BCS executive director Bill Hancock has called this a “seismic” change. One of the best regular season’s in sports will remain tension filled. There will still be big games. Rivalries may take on more importance. And the worst postseason in sports? That just took a huge step in the right direction. There’s still a lot to sort out, mainly, how the four teams will be chosen. And there’s always going to be controversy about it. The fifth team is always going to complain, but we can deal with that. What matters is for the first time, the college football championship will be decided on the field and not limited because of a broken system.

The question is how does this affect head coach Chris Ault and the Wolf Pack? Probably not much. Even in the team’s 13-1 dream season with Virgil Green, Colin Kaepernick and Dontay Moch, it likely wouldn’t have been chosen for the playoff. But, the potential effects for the MWC-CUSA merger could be big. Mainly, there’s a chance this means San Diego State and Boise State stays. For Wolf Pack fans, the Broncos staying would be huge. I understand everyone has basically said screw em. But, like I’ve been saying, Boise is the key football rivalry for the Wolf Pack. Kaep and Kellen Moore? The 69-67 four-overtime thriller? The Miracle at Mackay? Face it. The Wolf Pack-Broncos is the exciting rivalry that Nevada-UNLV isn’t.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

What a day for the men’s bracket. Exciting, close games. Potential big upsets. And a showdown in the semifinals that people won’t want to miss.

No. 6 Hawaii upset No. 3 Idaho 72-70 in the first game. Give the Warriors credit. They played hard and kept the pressure on. I thought the Vandals would pull out the close win, but Hawaii is more than deserving to move on. They won wihtout leading scorer Zane Johnson and were blown up by Idaho earlier this season. You have to wonder, though. Vandals coach Don Verlin has yet to lead them to a WAC Tournament win.

New Mexico State cruised against Fresno State. No surprise there.

Then there was the Wolf Pack. Coach of the Year David Carter. Player of the Year Deonte Burton. Along with Malik Story and Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt in the middle, it wouldn’t have trouble with the eighth-seeded Spartans right? Wrong. San Jose State led 14-13 at the half before Nevada gained control late in the second half to win 54-44. It was ugly. But, Burton scored 15 of his 16 points in the second half and the Wolf Pack finally looked like a team worthy of a top seed.

Louisiana Tech beats Utah State 72-70. Another great game that went right down the the wire. My only regret? part of me kind of wanted to see Nevada take down the Aggies in the semifinals.

Semifinals predictions 

No. 6 Hawaii vs. No. 2 New Mexico State

Hawaii’s upset of Idaho was great. But, the run will stop here. The Aggies are on a mission to win the WAC Tournament. And, out of all the teams in the first round, they  look like the only team ready to do the job.

Aggies win 72-61.

No. 5 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 1 Nevada

Let’s hope Nevada’s second half resurgence woke the team up for good. Jerry Evans Jr. played well, scoring 10 points on four-of-five shooting. Look, either the Wolf Pack’s game against San Jose State woke them up and they’re going to play well against Louisiana Tech, or Nevada will start slowly again. And against the Bulldogs, that will mean a loss. I’m going to side with the former.

Nevada wins 77-70.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

It’s time. The road to the NCAA Tournament begins today for the Wolf Pack. Nevada likely needs to win the WAC Tournament to get a spot in the big dance. Up first is No. 8 San Jose State. The Wolf Pack crushed the Spartans in the first meeting, but had trouble shaking them off in the second. Is San Jose State prime for a major upset?

The last time these teams met is probably a good indicator of what the Spartans will have to do to have a chance. That game, Olek Czyz and Malik Story were on fire, but Deonte Burton went just two-of-seven from the field. San Jose State had three players score in double figures, James Kinney, Keith Shamburger and Wil Carter. They need all three to do that again. Kinney had 11 points in the first five minutes of the second half alone, keeping the game close. But, the big advantage came on the boards where Nevada had 15 offensive rebounds. Dario Hunt needs to dominate in the middle.

The Wolf Pack hasn’t looked dominant as of late. Since a 13-point win against Fresno State on Jan. 21, Nevada’s conference wins have come by eight, two, one, one, six, three, four and 10 points. In short, the WAC is wide open.

If San Jose State wants to win this game it needs to hold Nevada to fewer than 70 points. The Spartans simply do not have enough scoring options to get into a shootout and win. It also needs to keep the rebounding battle close, especially on the offensive boards.

For Nevada, it will be key to get a big lead early. The longer the Spartans stick around, the more pressure the Wolf Pack will feel. With Nevada being the top seed, the pressure’s all on them. If this game stays close, the Wolf Pack could get tense and then San Jose State has its chance for the upset.

Prediction: Nevada should take care of business today. The Wolf Pack wins 77-67.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

The WAC Tournament begins tomorrow. And it should be a fun one. The Wolf Pack will be looking to lock in its spot to the NCAA Tournament while the others will be looking to spoil the party and go dancing themselves.

On paper, Nevada should be the odds on favorite. Coach of the year David Carter and player of the year Deonte Burton lead a talented starting five. But, it’ll be Malik Story and Olek Czyz who will be the difference makers. If they’re on, the Wolf Pack will cruise. If they’re off…well they’ll be in some trouble.

Don’t overlook New Mexico State. The Aggies showed it can hang with the Pack and a showdown could be set for the championship game. Also don’t overlook Idaho. The Vandals could play Nevada in the title game. The Vandals were the only team to beat Nevada during conference play.

Nevada hasn’t looked too impressive in the last few WAC tourneys. And, as San Jose State showed last season, come tournament time, anything can happen. Who do you think will win?

Prediction: Nevada takes down New Mexico State in the championship game.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

A special edition of Blue Friday as its WAC Tournament week. The Wolf Pack men’s basketball team is the No. 1 seed and the odds on favorite to take it and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Does any team stand a real shot at knocking off WAC Coach of the Year David Carter, Player of the Year Deonte Burton and the rest of the team?

First round

No. 1 Nevada vs. No. 8 San Jose State

Nevada shouldn’t have much trouble against the Spartans. The Wolf Pack won both meetings, 81-57 and 76-70. The Wolf Pack can’t fall asleep as San Jose State proved last year that it could make a surprising run in the WAC tournament. Don’t overlook The Spartans’ trio of players (Wil Carter, Keith Shamburger and James Kinney) as all three can score in double digits. But, I don’t think San Jose State can stop Nevada’s offense and it doesn’t have the firepower to win a shootout.

Nevada wins 77-67.

No. 2 New Mexico State vs. No. 7 Fresno State

These two teams met in their regular season finale. The Bulldogs looked good for most of the game, leading by 19 in the second half. The Aggies rallied, however, and won in overtime 83-78 in overtime. As I stated in my Nevada-NMSU game preview last week, these Aggies appear to be peaking offensively at the right time. They can score with the best of them and nearly beat Nevada at Lawlor. The Bulldogs would need similar offensive production from starters Kevin Olekaibe and Tyler Johnson and rotation player Kevin Foster. The three combined for 59 of the team’s 78 points. But, it’s unlikely Foster can put up those types of numbers again. And, even if they do, there’s no guarantee it can outscore New Mexico State.

Aggies win 84-72.

No. 3 Idaho vs. No. 6 Hawaii

Hawaii lost a one-point heartbreaker to Utah State in its regular season finale. The Vandals trashed the Warriors by 19 in the team’s last meeting. And Hawaii ended its regular season on a five-game losing streak. The Warriors will make it close, but Idaho moves on.

Idaho wins 74-67.

No. 4 Utah State vs. No. 5 Louisiana Tech

Mainly because I hate Utah State, I’m going to pick the Bulldogs here.

Louisiana Tech wins 74-69.

Second round predictions will come after the first round and I can adjust to how wrong I probably will be.

Coming Tuesday: First round predictions for the women’s bracket.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Yes, one week from today we will be in the middle of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament. The Wolf Pack clinched sole possession of the regular season title with its 65-61 victory against New Mexico State last night. And, while Nevada still needs to win the WAC Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament, last night’s win was big for several reasons.

One, it was nice to see Malik Story get hot again, especially in the first half when he was four-of-five from beyond the arc. Two, it’s nice for the team to close out the regular season championship. It makes a team a lot more confident knowing its the number one seed and facing what should be a pretty easy path to the championship game than if it stumbled in and just shared the WAC regular season title. Three, the team looks like it is on a mission. It knows it has to win the tournament to get to the Big Dance. And, Olek Czyz, Dario Hunt and company look ready for the challenge.

Biggest worry? How healthy Deonte Burton will be. He said via Facebook he fractured his middle finger on his shooting hand. And it affected him, as he scored just nine points on three-of-nine shooting from the field. If this injury nags him through next week, the potential is there that Nevada could find itself in some trouble. It’s hard for opponents to take both Story and Burton out of the game if both of them are playing well. But, if Burton’s injury does it for them, Nevada’s scoring attack gets a whole lot less scary. A less than 100 percent Burton puts Nevada in treacherous waters.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

The Nevada men’s basketball team is a couple weeks away from possibly earning a berth to the NCAA Tournament. Just one obstacle stands in its way. It has to win the Western Athletic Conference Tournament first.

Look, I know it’s in Las Vegas. And, I know the dates might not be the most convenience. But, Nevada fans, especially students, I hope you guys make the trip down there.

For those who know me, they know how big of a sports fan I am. I would have given almost anything to be there, to have the chance to witness my team winning a conference tournament and celebrating its berth to the NCAA Tournament. This is what college basketball is all about. You have no idea what a privilege it is for fans to experience that. I experienced a classic football game. The biggest regret I have from college? Not getting to see the Wolf Pack winning the conference tournament or making it to the NCAA Tournament.

Sure, the trip wouldn’t be free. But, how many of you would pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket plus travel costs to go see your favorite band?

The Wolf Pack is having a special season. Don’t take it for granted. Without Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt next season and who knows how long Deonte Burton will stay in school, there’s no guarantees the Wolf Pack will be as good next year, or for years to come. I know most fans won’t make the trip. That’s a shame. Because this is an opportunity that rarely comes along. And, the fact that so many “sports fans” disregard that fact is a little depressing to me.

This is a rare chance. Don’t let it pass you by. How many people do you know years after  college say, “Man, I wish I didn’t go see my team make it to the NCAA Tournament?” I think more people say “Man, I missed out on something special.”

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

 

Don’t look now, but the Nevada baseball team’s season is already under way. The Wolf Pack was picked to finish fourth in the WAC. Does it stand a chance?

Pitching

Tom Jameson will lead the staff. Jameson, who was named to the Preseason All-WAC team, is 1-1 on the season this year. However, look for Timothy Culligan, Troy Marks and Danile Levine to have to play strongly as well. If they can, the Wolf Pack’s rotation will be deep, but the Wolf Pack does need a second and third starter to establish itself.

Batting

Second baseman/shortstop Joe Kohan is one of the few veterans in the lineup this season. So far, he’s stepping up to the challenge in the first four games, batting .571 with four Runs Batted In. Obviously, it’s still too early to tell, but if Kewby Meyer, Brett Jones and Jay Anderson can continue to be solid bats, Nevada could have a very dangerous lineup. One thing to keep an eye on, who can emerge as the deep hitter. I know the new bats cut down on home runs, but, the Wolf Pack needs a batter or two capable of going deep.

Infield/outfield

New faces are the theme this year for Nevada. The question will be how quickly can the new faces step into the roles left from last season’s departing players. Head coach Gary Powers will have his work cut out for him if the team’s going to make a serious run. But, with young players at key positions, like shortstop, I have my doubts that the team can raise its level of play fast enough.

Prediction

Overall, the Wolf Pack has the talent to be a middle of the conference team. However, I don’t see this team capable of making a run at the WAC title.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

Ah, spring is just around the corner. For Wolf Pack fans, that means the spring sports are about to hit full swing (pardon the pun). Today, I start with the Nevada softball team. Check back later this week for my baseball team preview.

Head coach Matt Meuchel is in an extremely important year. When he took over, the Wolf Pack won the regular season Western Athletic Conference championship, was nationally ranked and made it to a super regional. Since then? Nevada’s become bottom dwellers. Meuchel’s had a chance to bring in the players he’s wanted to. Now, it’s time for the team to perform. The Wolf Pack was picked to finish fifth in the conference. Are they prime to prove people wrong?

Pitching

Senior Mallary Darby is likely to be called upon to be the team’s ace once again this year. She had tough 2011 campaign, going 12-26 with a 5.30 Earned-Run Average. Ariel Craig and Bailey Brewer will likely see a lot more innings this season and they will have to improve from their 7.52 and 10.78 ERAs from a season ago. The trio gave up a combined batting average of .328 while the Wolf Pack hit just .271.

Hitting

The Wolf Pack’s pitching may have struggled last season. But, the team’s bats didn’t exactly help the situation either. Nevada’s batting average (.271) paled in comparison to what its opponents hit (.328). Nevada scored just 200 runs in 47 games while giving up 338 runs. The team recorded 280 strikeouts.

The good news is three of the teams top four batters, in terms of batting average, are returning this year in Erin Jones, Karley Hopkins and Caylin Campbell. But, the team will have to replace former Wolf Pack players Britton Murdock and Danielle Patrick, who led the team in Runs Batted In last season. The question will be can any of Nevada’s players step up enough and find enough consistency to fill these holes.

Infield/outfield

The team’s 68 errors must come down this season. Look for Jones and Hopkins to become the leaders of the team this season. And they need it. Catcher Chelsea Venable also needs to improve all around. The communication between pitcher and catcher needs to be spot on this season.

Prediction

The WAC is stacked once again this season, with four teams receiving first place votes. I just don’t see how Nevada can compete this year.