Mountain West preview: Wyoming coming off CBI title
First in a series of articles previewing the men’s basketball teams in the Mountain West. Today, the Appeal looks at the Wyoming Cowboys.
Mountain West Conference basketball teams have won the last two College Basketball Invitational tournaments.
For Nevada, the 2015-16 winner, winning the CBI brought renewed interest to the program and that resulted in more season tickets the following year.
For first-year Wyoming coach Allen Edwards, it was much different. It was Wyoming’s first postseason basketball title since 1943. Edwards’ 23 wins tied for the third-most among first-year coaches in the NCAA last year.
“I think it was good in the sense of experience,” Edwards said at the recent MW Media Summit in Las Vegas. “We didn’t have any postseason experience established. It gave us extra practices and games.
“I think postseason play in itself always helps a program for next season and beyond that. When you have a big group returning and watch the team go about practice and how they carry themselves it allows you to work on different things.”
And, that was beneficial for a young team like the Cowboys, who lose only guard Jeremy Lieberman (4.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg) and guard Jason McManamen (11.3, 3.0) to graduation.
Edwards returns three starters — 6-4 guard Louis Adams (7.6, 2.6), 6-9 forward Alan Herndon (11.1, 6.0) and 6-10 Jordan Naughton (4.4, 2.8) — from the 23-15 team of a year ago. Six other lettermen — 6-5 guard Alexander Gorski (7.7, 2.3), 6-8 forward Hayden Dalton (12.2, 8.3), 6-7 guard Justin James (16.0, 5.0), 5-11 guard Cody Kelley (3.4, 1.3), 6-4 guard Sam Averbuck (0.7, 0.3) and 6-8 forward Andrew Moemeka (1.7, 2.5) — also return.
Edwards brought an up-tempo style of play when he took over for Larry Shyatt, and the Cowboys responded favorably, scoring a school record 2,961 points. Wyoming hit 369 3-pointers, shattering the old school record of 307. Wyoming attempted more then 1,050 3-pointers and shot 35 percent from beyond the arc.
“We are going to shoot it,” Dalton said. “Everybody can hit the 3. We can step out and hit the 3. Playing up tempo helps. We will be hard to guard in transition.”
Dalton, Herndon and Naughton lead a talented frontcourt.
“Hayden has stepped up his work ethic to a whole new level,” Edwards said. “He is an instant-offense kind of guy. We look for him to be a key player again for us this year. Alan is the glue to the team. He does everything we need defensively, and we want him to be more aggressive offensively. Jordan is long and has tremendous potential. He can be a presence in the post for us.”
Gorski, James and Adams give the Cowboys one of the deepest backcourts in the Mountain West. James led the team in scoring last year, and Gorski and Adams have the potential to be double-figure scorers.
“Lou is a talent,” Edwards said. “He may be our best guy taking it to the basket, and he can get to the foul line. We need him on the floor for longer periods of time. Alex has the capability of being a serious 3-point threat. Justin separated himself as a basketball player and leader. He has worked hard at improving his game.”
James, who was the CBI MVP, was the 6th Man of the Year and a third-team all-MW selection. He reached double figures in 30 of Wyoming’s 38 games.