Here are my 10 points for the week:
1. Out of conference scheduling this season
The Mountain West has made a real push this season to get teams to schedule a tougher out-of-conference schedule, which helps with television time, recruiting, NCAA tournament bids, and overall quality. This year, apart from the dreadful MVC-MW challenge, everyone in the conference has generally scheduled well beyond tournaments. Despite not winning many of them, the schedule is tough. Take a look at some of the opponents: BYU, Oregon State, South Dakota State, USC, Arizona State, Utah, Saint Mary’s. No one has taken a crazy cupcake schedule, which an encouraging sign.
2. Wyoming’s slow starts
Wyoming is 2-5 right now, after a nail-biting overtime loss to Evansville on Wednesday night in the MW-MVC Challenge. The biggest issue for them has been starting slow. They were scoreless for the first four plus minutes against Evansville and have been outscored by nearly 50 points in the first half this season, across seven games. They don’t shoot the ball well, but their defense is making it even harder to stay in games. I don’t know what needs to change, but something has to. They can come back from slow starts against Richmond or Evansville; not so much with Nevada, San Diego State, or New Mexico.
3. Increased international recruiting
Over the past two to three years, the Mountain West has seen an increase in trying to recruit players from the international pool. Many teams have seen the success of perennial WCC powers Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s recruiting internationally. This season, the MW has a total of 24 players from international backgrounds. Every time has at least one international player, with the exception of the Air Force Academy. It’s a good trend for a mid-major league to keep finding diamonds in the rough.
4. The Martin twins and Jalen McDaniels
All of these players thought about going pro and taking on the NBA last summer. Aztec forward Jalen McDaniels waited until the last day to announce that he was coming back to school. It was a great thing for all three of these players and the conference to come back for their senior, sophomore, and senior seasons, respectively. They’ve all shown improved games since coming back and are focal points for their respective teams.
5. Adidas uniform designs
Adidas uniforms have one problem that plagues every design they will ever come up with: the shoulder harness. Both Nevada and Wyoming ended up with new Adidas threads this season, and they both have the ugly shoulder harness ruining a solid color scheme. Wyo’s gold-and-brown look is instantly recognizable and the shoulder harness takes away from that. In general, your uniforms should be solid white and a solid road color with some awesome accent. The shoulder harness isn’t it.
Nevada now with Adidas. Old version on left, new on right. pic.twitter.com/2JadzR6gCP— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) October 17, 2018
6. The MW App losing at life
The MW faces the same struggle that many mid-major conferences does, television exposure. The answer for that over the past half decade has been for these conferences to create their own app to stream games. With cable use slowly declining, especially among younger viewers, it’s a good way to try and expand viewership and be creative. For example, PUTTING THE MW APP ON THE ROKU AND MAKING IT SMART TV ACCESSIBLE. For a conference that wants exposure, this seems like a no-brainer to me.
7. UNLV Men’s Basketball Ticket Prices
Look, I get it, college basketball is good business. Especially fun, winning college basketball. That being said, UNLV has an average ticket price of $63. There is no ticket cheaper than $50 in the lower bowl of the 18,000 seat Thomas & Mack Center. For something comparable, lower bowl tickets for the University of Texas aren’t even $30. It’s hard to attract a consistent fan base without winning and affordability. It’s Las Vegas and the Rebels are the only basketball in town, so they operate from a monopoly standpoint, I suppose. Even with attendance over 10,000 per game, it could be more, if they didn’t price a chunk of their fan base out.
8. Men’s & women’s basketball packaged together
Over the winter holidays, schools have a ton of extra seats to sell because the majority of their students have gone home for the holidays. Teams take advantage of the students being gone and a generally soft home schedule during December to offer different ticket packages for the holidays. Both San Diego State and Colorado State are offering ticket packages that combined men’s/women’s games to drive up attendance for their women’s hoops program. For instance, SDSU is offering a deal of two men’s games and one women’s game for $20. I love this. The conference as a whole should really do more to drive fans to women’s basketball, and this is a good start. Bravo to the Aztecs and Rams athletic departments.
9. The #Drink craze on Twitter
This has got to be one of my favorite Twitter trends involving Mountain West hoops. Last season, Geoff Grammer, the Lobos beat writer and excellent Twitter follow, started a running gag joke on Twitter. Anytime there is a video review by the officials in a Mountain West game (which happens A LOT), fans take a photo of it, tag Geoff on Twitter, and close it out with the #Drink. It started off as something that popped up only on Geoff’s timeline, but this season it has gone viral in the MW. It’s a fun way to keep fans engaged and generate a little national buzz. It’s our version of #pac12afterdark.
Apparently my referee video review #Drink game has crossed over to the airwaves of national TV. Cheers! pic.twitter.com/YQnBowUgJ4— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) March 17, 2018
10. The “foul-out timeout”
By rule, teams have up to one minute to figure out which player they want to substitute in once a player picks up their fifth foul. In reality, coaches already have a solid idea of the next man in the rotation when that situation arises. I hate it; along with the video review, it’s another situation where coaches get an extra timeout. They already get the extra television breaks at the end of games. All the foul out does is provide teams with an extra timeout. Cut down the time to 15 seconds, and reward coaches who spend their timeouts wisely.