College Basketball Nation: Idaho Vandals

ESPN.com's WAC preview

November, 2, 2012
11/02/12
11:45
AM ET
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Western Athletic Conference, here is Eamonn Brennan's quick wind sprint through the league:



Here are Blue Ribbon's in-depth previews of all 10 WAC teams: Insider

Denver
Idaho
Louisiana Tech
New Mexico State
San Jose State InsiderFree Seattle
Texas State
UT Arlington
Utah State
UTSA
1. Louisville coach Rick Pitino said in a text Tuesday night that Indiana and Louisville couldn’t get a date set to schedule a game next season. Indiana coach Tom Crean wasn’t ready to close the door in his response, saying he wasn’t sure. But Pitino said he’s now trying to start the home-and-home series in 2013-14, which is a shame considering that the two teams could be ranked 1-2 to start next season. Indiana still has a few more games to schedule.

2. Missouri still might have landed Jordan Clarkson without restrictions put on his transfer from Tulsa. In a statement, the Golden Hurricane wouldn’t detail why there were restricted schools like Texas. Somehow, Tulsa escaped national criticism for the way it handled Clarkson. Mizzou coach Frank Haith has five transfers eligible next season, then Clarkson in 2013-14; the use of transfers is helping the Tigers avoid a rebuilding phase. The schools that get these transfers, though, shouldn’t ever block one of their own from seeking a new home.

3. Denver’s plan, according to a source, is to try to convince the remaining WAC members (Idaho, New Mexico State, Boise State and Seattle) that they should stay together to keep the league’s automatic NCAA tournament berth. The WAC could then add available Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield. The problem is that NMSU and Idaho will need a home for football and Boise State now would rather be in the Big West or, if the Big East were to fail, head back to the Mountain West. And, according to a source, if Denver had its choice, the Pioneers would go to the stable and all-private WCC.

ESPN.com's WAC preview

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
12:18
PM ET
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Western Athletic Conference, here is Diamond Leung's quick wind sprint through the league:



Blue Ribbon breakdowns of all eight teams in the WAC:

Fresno State
Hawaii
Idaho
Louisiana Tech
Nevada InsiderFree
New Mexico State
San Jose State
Utah State

More WAC content:

Idaho fans encouraged to 'throw the V'

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
1:42
PM ET
Idaho has unveiled a new hand signal and is urging fans to "throw the V" in order show their Vandals pride.

Just in time for its homecoming football game, the school announced that along with the new alternate 'V' logos that it hopes fans will embrace the use of the hand gesture in a way that is similar to Texas fans long using the Hook 'em Horns sign.

"It ties together really the concepts of value, vigilance, valor, vibrancy, victory, and really Vandals forever," athletic director Rob Spear said at the news conference. "We're going to get it done."

According to The Argonaut, "V Throwing 101" sessions have already been held with alumni and that director of marketing and licensing Nick Popplewell said the hand signal has already been an instant success.
"It's so simple, I don't know why somebody didn't think of it before," he said. "You look at Texas with the 'Hook 'em horns' as well as Arizona State with the pitchforks and our students are so creative. You have to think about what it means to us as Vandals and what it signifies."

Popplewell said the "V" is a celebratory gesture that doubles to unify fans.

On the basketball court, Idaho should have plenty of chances to "throw the V." The Vandals finished third in the WAC, won 18 games and played in the CIT during coach Don Verlin's most successful season. Now the program has some momentum built up and a new way to brand itself.

"This is about Vandals connecting with other Vandals, showing their pride and building a tradition," Spear said in a statement. "We are the only Vandals in the nation and our pride in who we are and what we represent is unsurpassed. That’s what the 'V' symbolizes: as an institution we are unrivaled in the impact we have on our great state of Idaho and beyond. Our students come here to lead and succeed."
Before the season began, the team with the best shot at going undefeated throughout its entire conference schedule wasn't Duke. Or Kansas. Or Ohio State. Or Pittsburgh. It was, believe it or not, Utah State.

Yes, the Aggies began the year as overwhelming WAC favorites, that rare kind of mid-major team that looks like a totally singular outlier in its own conference. Thanks to that disparity, Ken Pomeroy projected Stew Morrill & Co. with the "highest" probability of an undefeated season -- the Aggies had a 1.14 percent chance, so "least low" is probably more accurate -- of any team in the nation. Projection-wise, Utah State had a greater than 80 percent chance to win every game on its schedule but two: a Nov. 17 date at BYU and a Dec. 4 trip to Georgetown.

In other words, the stakes for Utah State were clear from the beginning. The Aggies needed to win one of those nonconference games. If they didn't, they'd probably have to win out in conference play -- a reasonable ask, given how bad the WAC is -- to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid.

Since losing at Georgetown, the Aggies had rolled off 17 straight wins, many of which came by blowout margins. In the process, Utah State earned itself a spot in the Top 25 and got themselves listed in the Bubble Watch. But they were far from a slam-dunk case. Not only do the Aggies not have a win against the RPI top 50, they don't have a win against anyone ranked in the RPI top 100. That does not a strong bubble case make.

All of which is a prelude to this: Utah State lost -- yes, lost -- at Idaho Wednesday night (a result you might have missed if you were caught up in the rest of the hoops madness), and thanks to that loss, you can probably bury the Aggies' at-large bid chances somewhere on the outskirts of Logan. If Stew Morrill's 22-3 team wants to get in the dance now, it'll have to win the WAC conference tournament. It's a weird sentence to write -- 22-3! -- but in this case, it's true.

There is some good news here, though. One: That bubble is still very soft. Two: With their recent jump into the Top 25, the Aggies have received a nice dose of national attention that might help them catch the ever-wandering eye of the committee in advance of Selection Sunday. And three: Utah State still has a chance to get a win over another highly regarded mid-major bubble team -- St. Mary's -- when the Aggies travel to Moraga for a big-time BracketBusters matchup Feb. 19. A win there might not seal a bid, but it would certainly help this team climb out of this unfortunate at-large hole.

Such is life as a mid-major. You can't get teams to come play you in your house -- why would they? -- so you go on the road. You lose those games. Your conference stinks. Your margin for error is minuscule. You beat everyone's brains in, but you slip up once on the road, and then splat: Your at-large bid goes bye bye.

It isn't fair, but it's life, and you know how the old saying goes: When life throws you a terrible schedule and no RPI top 100 wins, make automatic-qualifier lemonade. Or something like that.

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