Wyoming vs. #12 San Diego State: Tuesday's Preview

    
January 24th, 2012
It's been a while since there's been the ability to say "Wyoming" and "NCAA Tournament" in the same sentence, but in the first season of Larry Shyatt's second run in Laramie the Cowboys (16-3, 2-1) have turned some heads. With first-place #12 San Diego State (17-2, 3-0) visiting, not only can the Pokes pull into a tie atop the Mountain West with a win but they can also lend the NCAA talk a little credibility with a win. Despite their gaudy record Wyoming has that albatross of a strength of schedule (268 overall, 328 non-conference per the most recent NCAA "nitty gritty" sheet) to deal with, a number that could prove costly without some marquee wins within league play.

Wyoming has four players averaging at least 9.7 points per game but their most important player could very well be Jaydee Luster, a point guard averaging just 5.8 points but leading the team with 3.6 assists per contest. Luster's improved as a floor general for the Cowboys, which has led to good things for his teammates, one of which being forward Leonard Washington (12.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg). The USC transfer was too much for Colorado State on Saturday as we punished the Rams with 32 points and 14 rebounds. Joining him in the front court is senior Adam Waddell (9.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg) and reserve Larry Nance Jr. (3.8 rpg, 3.5 ppg), but the Cowboys essentially break even on the glass.

That's not going to get it done against San Diego State, who still causes problems on the offensive glass despite losing their three best rebounders from a season ago. As a team the Aztecs corral 32.9% of their missed shots and out-rebound opponents by five rebounds per game, and big men Deshawn Stephens, Garrett Green and Tum Shelton lead the way on the offensive glass. The SDSU guards are also good rebounders, with Jamaal Franklin (15.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg) leading the team in rebounding while Xavier Thames (11.3 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.3 rpg) and Chase Tapley (16.6. ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.5 apg) do their part as well. 

The challenge for the Wyoming guards, which in addition to Luster features Paco Cruz (12.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg) and Luke Martinez (13.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg), will be to keep the SDSU guards out of the lane. Percentage-wise the Aztecs are a better three-point shooting team than Wyoming but they're also less reliant on the shot for points, scoring 56% of their points on two-point shots. If this one is close late free throw shooting could come into play and the Cowboys are one of the best in the country there, making 76.7% of their foul shots, so keep an eye on that area in addition to the rebounding numbers. Wyoming's schedule may lead some to underestimate the program's growth, but they've got a great opportunity to show just how far they've come tonight.

Tuesday's action also features a few teams looking to bounce back from disappointing weekend results, most notably Baylor (who visits Oklahoma) and both teams in the Michigan/Purdue matchup. The Bears were outworked on the glass by both Kansas and Missouri last week, and while the Sooners may not be as strong as either of those teams they've got some guys who can hurt you (Steven Pledger being one). Baylor simply has to rebound, and that doesn't mean just jump for the ball. Proper fundamentals, zone defense or not, such as boxing out need to be utilized if the Bears are to take full advantage of their height. 

Michigan and Purdue fell on the road on Saturday, with the Wolverines losing at Arkansas while the Boilermakers were whipped by Michigan State. Michigan's issue was that they were cold early while the Razorbacks were red-hot, while Purdue's travel issues weren't as big a deal as the Spartans shooting 62% in the second half. USF, off to a surprising 5-2 start in the Big East, will see the schedule get tougher beginning with a trip to Milwaukee to take on #18 Marquette.

Freshman point guard Anthony Collins has been solid for the Bulls, who have had multiple guys step up and make plays, but they'll have their hands full with Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. Also keep an eye on Tennessee's trip to Nashville to play Vanderbilt and Iowa State taking on Texas in Austin, as those both are games that will have an impact on the midsection of the SEC and Big 12 standings respectively.  

Top 25 Games
9:00 PM (1) Kentucky at Georgia (ESPN)
8:00 PM (7) Baylor at Oklahoma (ESPN3)
8:30 PM (12) San Diego State at Wyoming (The Mtn.)
8:00 PM South Florida at (18) Marquette (ESPN3)
7:00 PM (22) Michigan at Purdue (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM UMBC at Boston University
7:00 PM Tennessee at Vanderbilt (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Akron at Ball State (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Eastern Michigan at Buffalo
7:00 PM South Carolina State at Hampton
7:00 PM Morehead State at Norfolk State
7:05 PM Longwood at Florida Gulf Coast
8:00 PM Western Illinois at Nebraska Omaha
8:05 PM Bradley at Southern Illinois
8:05 PM Texas-Arlington at Houston Baptist
9:00 PM Miami (FL) at Georgia Tech (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Iowa State at Texas (LHN)
10:00 PM Seattle at UC Irvine