Thanks in large part to a highly questionable call in the Colorado-Arizona game the other night, there are still four undefeated teams left in college basketball. Three are from power conferences and then you’ve got the runt: the Wyoming Cowboys. Sitting at 13-0 prior to the start of Mountain West Conference play, they’ve got a head of steam heading into their opener against Boise State tomorrow night in Laramie.
The Cowboys have been tested, so don’t think their unblemished record is the product of an easy schedule. The Cowboys hosted the Southern University Jaguars, a team that should contend in the SWAC this season, and won by seven. They took care of then-No. 19 Colorado at home, 76-69. They traveled to Southern Methodist to take on the Mustangs and came away with a hard-fought 59-56 win.
OK, so the only impressive win is over Colorado, but still, 13-0 is 13-0. The true test will begin tomorrow as a they kick off tough Mountain West schedule with a home game against the high-scoring Boise State Broncos, whose record sits at a lofty 12-2 and have beaten an 11th-ranked Creighton Blue Jays team tabbed to win the Missouri Valley Conference and Louisiana State. The MWC has six teams with at least 12 wins, so this conference is proving once again that it’s for real.
The real question goes back to this–is Wyoming a serious threat in the MWC? The answer is yes. They’ve got good balance on offense with forward Leonard Washington inside and guard Luke Martinez outside. Washington averages more than 15 points and eight rebounds a game while Martinez isn’t bashful with his shot selection and is straight deadly from beyond the arc, shooting a robust 42 percent (35-83) for the season. They’ve got two other starters averaging over ten points per game in senior forward Derrious Gilmore and sophomore forward Larry Nance Jr., so they’ll never be struggling for a scorer.
Their biggest deficiency seems to be, well, the rest of the team. They’ve got some role players who come in and give them some minutes, grab a few boards and dish out a few assists, but they have virtually no bench scoring (under 15 points per game) and this could come back to haunt them. The MWC is loaded and it’s physical, so they need some bench guys to step up and give them good minutes.
Are they going to go undefeated? No. They might even lose tomorrow versus Boise State. Should they be ranked? Maybe. They do have an RPI of 20 and are receiving votes. The conferences ranked teams–No. 16 San Diego State, No. 24 UNLV and No. 25 New Mexico–have proven themselves in years past, so we know what to expect. The Cowboys were 21-12 last year but again, besides their in-conference schedule, they didn’t play a ranked team.
Is their 13-0 start good story for college basketball? You bet it is, even if Colorado is the best team they’ve play. But if they go even .500 in conference play, I’d expect Wyoming to make a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. Cowboy Up!