Wyoming gave ranked and undefeated USC all they could handle in Las Vegas.

Wyoming gave ranked and undefeated USC all they could handle in Las Vegas.

Hello WyoNation, welcome to the second edition of the Three Point Play. Our weekly look at Wyoming basketball where I will make three points consisting of stats, observations and more. As always your feedback and comments are appreciated. Let us know what you think on the WyoNation Forum, in the comments of this blog or on Twitter (@WyoNationBlog). Now on to the Three Point Play!

The Las Vegas Classic Was a Success

The Wyoming Cowboys had a very strong showing in the Las vegas Classic. With an overall record of 3-1 there is certainly nothing to complain about. They defeated Cornell and Troy (after a power outage) at home and then knocked of Depaul of the Big East in Las Vegas. That win over the Blue Demons saw them advance to the title game. The opposition in that Las Vegas Classic title game was ranked and undefeated USC.

In the last edition of the Three Point Play, I speculated the Cowboys could tack on three wins. They did just that and a fourth win wasn’t far away, as Wyoming fell to USC 94 to 92 in overtime. It was an amazingly competitive game considering Wyoming turned the ball over a total of 17 times. Even in defeat, it was still a great game for the Pokes because of the national exposure. Many experts said it was one of the best college basketball games played so far this season. These Holiday tournaments are great preparation for conference play and can really bond a team together. I would expect to see the fruits of Wyoming’s success in the classic early on during Mountain West play.

Hello World, Meet Hayden Dalton

A secondary benefit to the Las Vegas Classic was the introduction of Hayden Dalton to the world with two Cowboy basketball games on Fox Sports. Hayden Dalton doesn’t look like a baller joked Fox (they compared him to a book author) but he certainly delivers on the court and he did just that last week in Laramie and Las Vegas.

For his efforts, Dalton was rewarded by being named the Mountain West Player of the Week for the first time in his career. The junior from Parker, Colorado averaged 16.3 points and 14 rebounds a game. He is turning into a key player for Wyoming basketball this season because of his versatile inside and outside game. Not many programs in the Mountain West can bring a player of his quality off the bench and it looks like he is only going to get better from here.

Mountain West A One Bid League? 

As things currently stand, the Mountain West is an improved conference from last year but still pretty weak overall. In terms of conference RPI the Mountain West checks in at ninth this season. This currently ranks them behind the American Conference but ahead of the West Coast and Missouri Valley conferences. Long gone are the days where three to five teams would go dancing come March. It’s looking like just as it was in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the Mountain West will probably be a one bid league. With a small outside chance at two bids depending on numerous other factors.

This means the best way the Pokes can go dancing in 2017 is to win the conference tournament as they did in 2015. Wyoming is second in the Mountain West in RPI at 62 trailing only Nevada ranked at 36. Wyoming will need a strong conference campaign that sees their RPI end in the 40’s or 50’s to have a shot at an at-large bid. In order to do that, the Pokes would have to get north of twenty wins. This is according to the website RpiForecast.com because of the weakness of the remaining Mountain West Conference schedule. The Cowboys got off to a solid start in conference play last night with a home win over Air Force.

The question now becomes how did this happen? Why has the conference taken such a hit on the hardwood? The loss of conference members BYU and Utah is a factor. The biggest reason though is the Mountain West needs their remaining bell cow programs to be strong. New Mexico and UNLV basketball are those programs and have had some down years of late. San Diego State has had some success but they don’t have the national program recognition over the years as the Lobos or Running Rebels do.

Upcoming Schedule

12/31 @UNLV 2pm MT

1/4 @Fresno State 8pm MT