An interesting side note on Tuesday is that I talked to Karl Benson on Monday, asking about the WAC Tournament format now that there are eight teams. Remember how the Top 2 teams got a bye into the semis last year. Dont know how much sense that makes for an 8 team league, plus I think it hurt the overall attendance for the tournament. Benson wouldn't tell me but there will be some news on the 8 team format on Tuesday.
My predicted Order of finish
2. New Mexico State
3. Utah State
6. San Jose State
7. Fresno State
8. Louisiana Tech
WAC Player of the Year — Wendell McKines, NMSU
Newcomer of the Year — Kevin Foster, Fresno State
Dario Hunt, Nevada
Deonte Burton, Nevada
Malik Story, Nevada
Zane Johnson, Hawaii
I've written all about the top two teams. Utah State has the best coach and the best home court in the conference, although if they push for their fifth straight title, would it be Stew's best coaching job? I think so. Hawaii seems like the popular up and comer team. I like Hawaii. I like Gib Arnold. I love Vander Joaquim. But it's Hawaii. I remember San Jose State was the team two years ago. And Idaho had all of their players coming back after Don Verlin's first year only to fall flat. I think there is a reason bottom half teams finish in the bottom half. Nevada, NMSU and Utah State have done it over time. Until the other schools show me something in the tournament, I'm not buying the preseason hype.
Now for some Aggie notes. First here is a story I wrote on Tony Delk.
Here are some quotes from Delk:
On Marvin Menzies "It's been great being around him. He has a feel for this team and a passion for basketball overall. He is like a father figure to most of these guys. He wants to see this team be successful."
I asked him about the NBA potential of players. He said he encourages players to stay in the present and if the league is there, it will come. Delk said he has to be honest with players and that you have to outwork other players and separate yourself from other players in one thing. Here is what he said about Wendell McKines, whose rebounding prowess could provide his ticket.
"You want to see a guy like that succeed. He believes in himself. You have to have confidence in your ability. I think he will have a shot or an opportunity to maybe try out for a team. You can't teach his work ethic. It's remarkable for a kid to get hurt like that last year. He knows this is his last go-around in college basketball and he wants to make the most out of it."
NMSU players have soaked up everything Delk says because of his pro career. But he also won a national championship at Kentucky.
"Even at Kentucky, we told guys to unpack your bags and enjoy the college experience because once it's over, it's over. If it's there in the future, prepare for it in the present and then when you get to that point, you will be ready for it but you have to enjoy each practice and each game."
I also talked to junior wing Tyrone Watson. Watson has been working on his release, which has a noticeable hesitation at the top of his jump shot. Watson still hit a decent percentage, shooting 32 percent on 37 attempts.
"I'm just trying to get the shot off quicker and get the hitch out of it and not pause up in the air so long. The adjustment of my feet and just getting strength into the shot from the ground up."
Watson entered his sophomore season battling Bandja Sy for playing time. The injury to Wendell McKines and Watson's toughness made him an easy decision for minutes and he wound up starting all 33 games.
"I didn't expect to start at all. It was a blessing to start and I took the opportunity. I don't expect to start just because I did last year. Everyone is battling for each other's position. At the end of the day, it's still a family."
On McKines' return
"My workload is not going to be so heavy because he's back. He's expecting big things for himself and we really want it for him because he had to sit and watch last year."
The Aggies' slow starts in recent years have killed attendance. But they also take a while to recover from a chemistry and continuity standpoint, hence their hovering around .500 all year last year. NMSU has an experienced group this year and some winnable games early with some tough ones as well.
"I think we are going to have a better start to the season than we have had in the past compared to where we have lost a bunch of games at the start and then try to build it back up. I think we are going to be more steady."