Hello WyoNation, welcome to the inaugural edition of the Three Point Play which will be my 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!
Improved Pace of Play
With Allen Edwards taking over as head coach for Larry Shyatt the biggest question over the offseason was what changes would he make to the Cowboys in terms of style of play. Now that we are reaching the end of non-conference play assessments can be made and the biggest change to the eye between Edwards and Shyatt is pace of play. Under Shyatt the Pokes would look to shorten the game in terms of possessions and look to win the game on the defensive side of the court. During the 2015/16 season under Shyatt Wyoming ranked 291st in the nation in terms of pace of play averaging 68.6 possessions per game.
As expected, the Cowboys have upped the ante in terms of pace of play opting for a more aggressive style of offense. Under Edwards, the Cowboys have made a big jump to 90th in the nation averaging 74.8 possessions per game. We will have to see if this trend continues as we get into conference play. Will Edwards look to slow things down like his predecessor as these all-important Mountain West conference games tip-off?
More Balanced Scoring Load
Another big concern over the offseason was who would pick up the scoring load with the graduation of Josh Adams. The shooting guard from Parker, Colorado accounted for 33% of Wyoming’s points last season averaging 24.1 points per game. Jason McManamen was expected to be the number one scoring option and he has produced so far and is second on the team with 15.3 points per game. He has had some considerable help though and Wyoming is a much more balanced team this year with leading scorer Justin James (15.4 ppg), Alan Herndon (11.0 ppg), and Hayden Dalton (9.4 ppg) adding some scoring punch.
I have been especially impressed with Justin James and his future with proper development could be on the Larry Nance Jr. path. I know those are big words but I genuinely believe it can happen under this coaching staff in this system. The Florida sophomore is incredibly talented and the sky is the limit if he puts in the work.
The Pokes are 7-2 (if you count the wins versus Division II schools Western State and Colorado Christian) and have the second-best record so far in non-conference play in the Mountain West. They only trail Colorado State and Nevada who are both 8-2 in non-conference play to date. The Cowboys will be looking to pad that record in the final few non-conference games and they have a good chance to do so.
The Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic is next and Cornell (2-5) comes to Laramie on Saturday afternoon and Troy (5-4) on Monday night. Play then shift to Las Vegas where Wyoming will play 5-3 Depaul (to be broadcasted on FS1) with a game to follow against USC or Missouri State in the quasi-tournament format. The takeaway from these games is the Pokes have a solid chance to get to nine or ten and even eleven wins before conference play.