First, go check out DerekAggie06's piece laying out the positives of this tournament. It may not be the NCAA's (or even the NIT), but it's what we've got so we might as well win it. And that journey starts tonight against the Wyoming Cowboys.
Who: Wyoming Cowboys (18-13, 9-9 MW, #5 seed in conference tourney, lost in the quarterfinals)
Where: Reed Arena (Free parking! Students get in free!)
When: 7:00 pm
TV: FOX College Sports Pacific
Big Game Players
The Mountain West was a two-bid league this year, with SDSU and New Mexico staking clear claims to the tourney... and the Cowboys came to play in all three games against the two squads.
Jan 8 vs UNM L 72-69 OT
Feb 5 @UNM L 66-61 OT
Feb 11 vs #5 SDSU W 68-62
If you think the bright lights and the overall enormity of the CBI are going to get to the Cowboys, think again.
Our personnel issues have been well documented on this site, but the Cowboys have had to deal with some issues themselves. Most notably, losing top scorer / top rebounder / blocked shots leader / steals leader / everything guy Larry Nance Jr. (15.4 PPG / 8.6 RPG) for the season to a torn ACL a couple of weeks ago.
For a team ranked 10th of 11 in the Mountain West in scoring (65.2 PPG) and last in just about every relevant rebounding category, it will assuredly be a big hurdle to clear.
Picking Up The Pieces
Junior guard Riley Grabeau and Sophomore guard Josh Adams will be asked to carry the load in Nance's absence, and will likely be the focus of the Aggie defense.
Grabeau is a gunner, leading the squad in three pointers attempted (159) and made (68). He averages a shade over 10 PPG, and led the squad in minutes played per game even before Nance went down. Keeping him in check from the outside is going to be key.
Adams is a more traditional guard, and he has blossomed in Nance's absence (averaging 24 PPG in his last four). He's the clear #1 option now, and the Cowboys will need a big night from him if they want to stay close.
Wyoming's full-season defensive statistics (2nd in scoring defense - 61.8 PPG), 4th in FG% against - 40.6) are respectable, but ultimately the loss of Nance will be too much to overcome. The Aggie height advantage (wow, haven't said that in a while) should lead to a barrage of offensive boards and I see the good guys pulling away in the second half.
Game Prediction: Texas A&M 68, Wyoming 57