John Luke Fabian
This might have been one of the most unusual seasons for the Wyoming Cowboys basketball team, with some very high, highpoints and some incredibly low, low points.
The Pokes came into the season as the defending Mountain West tournament champions, looking to replace four starters who graduated last year. Senior Josh Adams was the only returning starter and junior Jason McManamen and sophomore Alan Herndon were the only other players to have any significant playing time. Young players were going to need to step up if the team was going to have any success.
Anytime a team has to replace starters with players who have had little playing experience, the road is going to be bumpy. You could get the feeling of what kind of season it was going to be when Wyoming lost an exhibition game to Fort Lewis to start the year.
The Pokes were clearly in a transition phase.
Wyoming went 14-17 overall and 7-11 in conference play, finishing eighth in the Mountain West. At face value, the record looks pretty sad, but a closer look will have UW fans feeling optimistic.
There were few games Wyoming was blown out in, and they were in just about every game they played. A young team, like Wyoming, will learn how to close out games given more time and experience.
But the announcement of five players, all of whom are new comers, being suspended for the rest of the season may stunt Wyoming’s growth. The suspension included backups Hayden Dalton, who averaged 3.8 points per game, and Justin James who averaged 5.2 points per game. According to a UW Athletics press release, the reason for the players’ suspensions was, “failing to meet expectations of Cowboy Basketball off the court.”
With the season Wyoming had, they need to win the Mountain West tournament to make the NCAA tournament. The suspensions hurt Wyoming’s already slim chances of making a run in the Mountain West tournament.
It really is quite sad that this has to be the final season for the lone senior on the team; Josh Adams. Wyoming fans got to witness one of the greatest seasons a UW player has ever had, which earned Adams MW Player of the Year. The 722 points he scored this year is the most by a Cowboy in a season, a record that stood for over 50 years. It is rare to see a player win POY and not be on a team competing for a championship.
The season has had Josh at center stage with the other Pokes standing off to the side. This is not to say that the Cowboys are completely helpless without Adams, but they can get a little wide-eyed. When Josh was suspended for the Boise State game, the Cowboys had moments where they played really well and there were other moments where they looked lost and needed a voice to calm everyone down.
Wyoming had wins this year that peaked my interest, giving me hope for where this season could go. UW would follow those hopeful wins with losses that saw me slam my palm to my face.
Overall, a season of transition from the old guard to the new.
Wyoming is set to play Utah State in the Mountain West tournament on Wednesday. The game is scheduled for 12 p.m. MT at the Thomas & Mach center in Las Vegas.