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The reality of the Mountain West’s status as a mid-major, hardcourt edition

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant

KTVB.COM

Posted on February 9, 2010 at 8:32 AM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 9 at 7:55 PM

 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010.
 
Not to pile on after Boise State’s monster loss to Idaho Saturday night, because this is not about the Broncos—it’s about the WAC. But…it’s not a good thing to be last place in the WAC right now. Have you checked out the latest college basketball rankings? The Mountain West has three teams in the Top 25. And Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson is basking in the glow. "BYU, New Mexico and UNLV are reaping the benefits of unprecedented national television exposure and enhanced non-conference scheduling," Thompson said. 
 
Not sure what he means by “unprecedented national television exposure,” what with that wacky contract the league has. I haven’t seen any of them play yet. But the fact remains: this development has side effects in football. It doesn’t hurt the perception that the Mountain West is a BCS-worthy conference when you have the Lobos at No. 15, the Cougars at No. 17, and the Rebels at No. 23 in the AP Poll in hoops. There isn’t a WAC team that’s so much as receiving a vote on the AP list—Louisiana Tech has exactly one vote in the Coaches Poll.
 
If you’re thinking about making a run at a trip to the nation’s Capitol for Labor Day weekend, know that—at least at the outset—you should have a fair shot at tickets to the Boise State-Virginia Tech game at 91,704-seat FedEx Field. Seats for that game are not going to be included in the Hokies’ 2010 season ticket package that will become available later this month. Season ticket holders will have to order the Boise State game separately, with a deadline of May 1. Might be a date to file away; some good seats will probably open up. Hey, did you know that this will be the first time Virginia Tech has played a regular season game on a Monday since 1912? I didn’t think so. 
 
Matt Hayes of the Sporting News is kind of thinking college football fans should be there. “The Broncos—deep breath, BCS snobs—should be favored in that game on Labor Day night,” writes Hayes.  “Boise State is done ‘proving itself’ against BCS schools, is done impressing pollsters by ‘scheduling up’ or winning nonconference road games. This program is a one-point loss to TCU in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl—a TCU team that everyone (rightfully) fawned over after a breakout game against Utah last season—from a 27-game winning streak.  This isn't just a team with a point-a-minute offense; this is a program with backbone.  Or as Oregon coach Chip Kelly told me last month at the AFCA convention, Boise ‘plays with a purpose.’” 
 
One team the WAC is wary of is Utah State, expected to take another step upward in football this year. The Aggies, however, may have to go without tailback Robert Turbin, who underwent surgery last Thursday to repair a torn ACL. It happened during winter conditioning drills, and it may keep the centerpiece of the USU running game out of the 2010 season, which includes a trip to the blue turf this fall. Each ACL injury is different, but you do the math. The best-case scenario is probably nine months, and if—as Utah State expects—Turbin is granted a medical redshirt, he’ll probably just take a pass on next season. Turbin rushed for 1,296 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore last season and added five more touchdowns receiving. He ran for 61 yards and one TD in the Aggies’s 52-21 loss to Boise State last November.
 
Boise’s Jeret “Speedy” Peterson appears to have fully rebuilt his reputation after his mishaps at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. Peterson is kind of a go-to guy for NBC as we head toward the Vancouver Games Friday. Tonight the freestyle aerialist will be featured on NBC’s “Biggest Loser” as one of the Olympic trainers (the other is Alpine Olympian Julia Mancuso) for the weight loss-seekers. Peterson will then appear on the Today Show Friday morning, the day of the Opening Ceremonies. Speedy doesn’t compete until Friday, February 25.
 
When the Idaho Steelheads get taken to a shootout, they like seeing Rejean Beauchemin between the pipes. In three shootouts this season, Beauchemin has only allowed one goal on 13 shots, the second-best save percentage among ECHL goaltenders that have played in more than one shootout. He’s also second in the league in wins with 18. Beauchemin and the Steelheads return to Qwest Arena tomorrow night to face the Utah Grizzlies.
 
From the “where are they now” department, former major leaguer and College of Idaho star Jason Simontacchi is still pitching. It’s where he’s been pitching that is interesting. Simontacchi just finished winter ball in Venezuela and played for the Venezuelan national team in the Caribbean Series last week. The one-time Italian Olympian threw 5 2/3 innings during two appearances in the Caribbean event, getting touched for nine hits but only one earned run. Simontacchi, now 36, last pitched in the majors for the Washington Nationals in 2007. His best season came in 2002 when he was a 28-year-old rookie—he went 11-5 with a 4.02 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals.
 
And back to hoops: Lance Allred may not be in the groove he was in previous seasons with the Idaho Stampede, but he’s become a key contributor to the club again. In a loss at Dakota Saturday night, Allred had his best shooting night since returning to the Stamps in mid-January, going 9-for-12 from the field. The former Weber State star was rusty when he came back from Europe and was just 7-of-21 in his first two games with the Stamps last month. But he hasn’t been below 50 percent since. The Stampede try to snap out of a slump that has seen them lose nine of their last 11 games when they resume action tonight in Reno against the Bighorns.
 
This Day In Sports…February 9, 1960, 50 years ago today:
 
In a loss to Detroit, Philadelphia Warriors rookie center Wilt Chamberlain scores 41 points to break the NBA single-season scoring record set by St.Louis Hawks forward Bob Pettit the previous season. The next season Chamberlain would improve on that mark, and two years later he would score 4,029 points and average 50.4 points per game, two records that may never be broken.
 
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)

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