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WAC hoops on a slippery slope over the past 10-plus years

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on March 9, 2010 at 8:28 AM


Tuesday, March 9, 2010.
The WAC is going to be a one-bid conference again this season in the NCAA Tournament, even if Utah State gets upset in the WAC Tournament this week—by Boise State or anybody else. USU would be a long-shot as an at-large selection. The Aggies have an RPI of 34 at Real Time That’s not close enough to be on the bubble if they don’t win the WAC. Even if they do, the Sporting News projects USU as only a No. 12 seed in the NCAA tourney. From there in the RPI, you go all the way down to No. 64, where Nevada sits. New Mexico State is 67th. Idaho is No. 169, and Boise State is (are you ready?) No. 210. There are 347 teams in Division I men’s basketball.
This will be the third straight season the WAC will have only one representative in the NCAA Tournament. The conference regularly landed three in the Dance before the split with the Mountain West mutineers in 1999—and, with one exception, two teams per year after that through 2007. But the only WAC teams to land bids since were Boise State in 2008 and Utah State last year. The Mountain West? ESPN “bracketologist” Joe Lunardi projects four NCAA Tournament teams from that conference this Sunday. Truth be told, the WAC’s strength really slipped not just when the Mountain West schools broke away, but again when UTEP and Tulsa left the league in 2005.
The only conference team not at the WAC Tournament this week is plenty busy anyway. Hawaii has fired coach Bob Nash after finishing last in the league. Nash had spent a cumulative 31 years with the Rainbow Warriors as a player, assistant, and head coach, but he went 34-56 in three seasons in the latter role. "I could not foresee a 10-win season with the schedule (21 home games) that we went into this year," UH athletic director Jim Donovan said at yesterday’s press conference, "and that's why we're making a change." Nash played for Hawaii from 1970-72 and once had 30 rebounds in a game, still a school record.
Boise State football is not immune to the other side of the headlines. By all accounts, Jason Robinson has been a model teammate and student of the game for the Broncos, to the point of taking himself out of “Riddler”—and a potential spot in college football lore—by suggesting a tweak to the fake punt that was key to the Fiesta Bowl victory over TCU. Nevertheless, Robinson has been suspended indefinitely by coach Chris Petersen for an unspecified violation of team rules. The announcement regarding Robinson, a fifth-year senior who’s backed up the “nickelbacker” position on the Boise State defense the past two seasons, came on the first day of spring football. That does create a chance for Hunter White, newly-moved to nickelbacker, to showcase his potential at that spot during the spring.
Just so you know the Broncos aren’t catching up with their friends at Oregon in the negativity department, another Ducks player has been arrested. According to Eugene police reports, linebacker Josh Kaddu appeared to be intoxicated Saturday and was trying to open the door of an SUV that didn’t belong to him. When the owner of the vehicle declined to press charges, Kaddu was given a citation for minor in possession.
Robinson’s transgression, whatever it is, would seem to hurt his chances of being a captain next season. That’s obvious. But there are so many other candidates on this year’s Boise State roster, Petersen is downplaying the whole concept. With this group of 20 seniors for 2010, 13 of them fifth-year guys, Pete would just as soon have as many captains as possible. He sees that much leadership potential in this group, from the seniors on down. Refresher: Ryan Winterswyk, Jeron Johnson and Kellen Moore joined season-long captains Kyle Wilson and Richie Brockel as Fiesta Bowl captains.
Yesterday was the day Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch hoped would be shared by Boise State. But it was all Alabama at the White House, as the Crimson Tide was saluted by President Obama for winning the national championship. Hatch had asked that the Broncos, as the only other undefeated team in the country, be invited as well. But the White House politely declined. Obama, who had called coach Nick Saban the morning after ‘Bama’s victory over Texas, was ready with a “Roll Tide” for his guests. Alabama players also saw the sights of the nation’s capitol and spent time with area youth as part of a public service project.
The Idaho Steelheads will be without forward Mark McCutcheon when they open a three-game series tomorrow night in Victoria that could be the final turning point in the ECHL West Division race. McCutcheon has been suspended two games and fined by the league for a check-from-behind that earned him a game misconduct against Bakersfield last Friday night. He already missed the game against the Condors Saturday. Despite two Kelly Cup championships, the Steelheads have yet to win a division title in their ECHL era. They now enter a week that could be a major step toward that first one. Idaho has a 15-point lead over the Salmon Kings with 12 games left to play. A sweep of Victoria would end it.
Former Boise Hawk Angel Guzman was widely expected to be the Cubs’ setup man this season. But man have those plans been derailed. Over the weekend, Guzman was diagnosed with a ligament tear near his armpit and instability in his shoulder.  Now, the 28-year-old righthander says he’s looking at surgery that has spelled the end for many pitchers who have undergone the procedure. Guzman feels like the gamble is the only way to alleviate the pain he has in his shoulder. He won’t make a final decision until he consults with orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who has operated on Guzman twice before. Guzman is coming off his best season in the majors, compiling a 2.95 ERA in 55 appearances.
The Idaho Stampede were in another world when Rafer Alston played for them 11 years ago. Those were the old CBA days, when the roster was a lot more fluid—and transient. Alston’s kind of been in a world of his own ever since his Fresno State days. And so it is today. The veteran point guard has been suspended indefinitely without pay by Miami after he didn’t show up for a game against Atlanta Saturday. Alston had been in a shooting slump, and he had been replaced in the Heat starting lineup last Thursday. Alston averaged 6½ points and six assists in 17 games for the Stampede when he came through in 1998-99—he got his first NBA shot the following season and has now played for seven different NBA teams.
This Day In Sports…March 9, 1980, 30 years ago today:
UCLA upsets Ray Meyer’s top-ranked, unbeaten DePaul squad, 77-71, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament West Regional—despite 23 points from the Blue Demons’ Terry Cummings and 19 from Mark Aguirre. Led by freshman guard Rod Foster and high-scoring forward Kiki Vandeweghe, coach Larry Brown’s Bruins would make it all the way to the NCAA finals before falling to Louisville, 59-54.
(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.)