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West basketball notes: Wyoming creating big waves in MWC
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With the defections of BYU and Utah, the Mountain West Conference has UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico.

But with those three schools expected to be the class of the league, Wyoming has created big waves with its play this winter.

Heading into Saturday's matchup against New Mexico, the Cowboys are playing their best basketball in years, with an 18-5 overall record and a 4-3 conference mark.

Wyoming defeated nationally ranked UNLV this weekend to solidify itself, and could put themselves in contention for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2002 with a strong finish. The Cowboys are doing it with defense and rebounding. Leonard Washington has made a huge impact with his play in the paint as well.

Making noise on the court

Wendell McKines, a senior power forward from New Mexico State, will visit the Spectrum this Saturday, and when he does he will be a public enemy in Logan for his brash nature, his love-hate relationship with the Aggies student section (mostly hate), and his penchant for making outrageous posts on twitter.

But McKines is a heck of a player for a 6-foot-5 inside guy. Last week he became the second NMSU player in history to top 1,000 rebounds for his career, with Sam Lacey being the first. McKines is attempting to lead New Mexico State to a second NCAA Tournament berth in three seasons. He made a splash this past summer by being named the MVP of the San Francisco pro-am, one of the most competitive in the country.

Better days ahead?

Teams should take their shots at UCLA now, and they are, as the Bruins are 13-10 overall, 6-5 in the Pac-12 conference and have virtually no hope at the NCAA Tournament without winning the conference postseason title.

But that may not fly next season, as Ben Howland already has two of the best players in the country signed, and is heavily in contention for two more that would give him arguably the best class in the nation.

Kyle Anderson, a 6-9 point guard from New Jersey, spurned the likes of Seton Hall and Georgetown to sign with UCLA. "Slo Mo", as he is called, will probably start from day one, as will Oak Hill star Jordan Adams, a scoring small forward with the athleticism Howland's been missing.

The Bruins are finalists for 6-10 big man Tony Parker, one of the best low post scorers in the country, and Shabazz Muhammed, the top overall player in the country.

Fighting it out

Right now, the West Coast Conference looks like a two-bid league for the NCAA Tournament. St. Mary's is a lock at 22-2. BYU and Gonzaga appear to be fighting it out for that second invite. That makes a three-game road trip, topped off by a trip to Gonzaga, huge for the Cougars. Should they do well in that stretch, they can make a serious push for the committee to take them seriously as at-large candidates.

tjones@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tonyaggieville —

A new brand of Cowboy

With the defections of BYU and Utah, the Mountain West Conference has UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico. But with those three schools expected to be the class of the league, Wyoming has created big waves with its play this winter. Heading into Saturday's matchup against New Mexico, the Cowboys are playing their best basketball in years, with an 18-5 overall record and a 4-3 conference mark. Wyoming defeated nationally ranked UNLV this weekend to solidify itself, and could put themselves in contention for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2002 with a strong finish. The Cowboys are doing it with defense and rebounding. Leonard Washington has made a huge impact with his play in the paint as well.

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