College Basketball Nation: Utah Valley Wolverines

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.
Utah Valley University would very much like to be a part of the Western Athletic Conference. The move holds a variety of no-brainer improvements over UVU's current status as a member of the loosely affiliated Great West, not least of which is the automatic NCAA tournament berth given to the winner of the WAC conference tournament each season. Being a small mid-major in Division I basketball is tough enough. Doing so as an independent is downright impossible.

Meanwhile, Utah State is the defining WAC power. In 11 years under Stew Morrill, the Aggies have won seven regular season conference championships, made eight NCAA tournament appearances, and maintained one of the highest winning percentages in the nation. In 2011, Utah State finished 30-4 after a five-point loss to Kansas State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Given that huge gulf in tradition, affiliation and success, would Utah State really sabotage Utah Valley's ability to join the WAC? According to Utah Valley, yes. Why? Recruits, maybe? From the Salt-Lake Tribune:
Utah Valley officials believe their USU counterparts have been less than supportive in bringing the Wolverines into the WAC, largely because they don’t want to compete with UVU for basketball recruits.

"Other people in the WAC tell me that if Utah State would support us … we would get in," Utah Valley athletic director Michael Jacobsen told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday. "We don’t think that we’re getting that support."

How does Utah State respond? Let's just say Utah State president Stan Albrecht has, ahem, minimal patience for these sorts of intimations:
"That’s a bunch of B.S.," Albrecht said. "There’s nothing to block. We haven’t even met yet. People have been getting way ahead of themselves on the issue, and it’s unfortunate. Until we meet in June, there’s really nothing to talk about. The notion that we wouldn’t want to compete for recruits is completely untrue. Give me a break. We’ve competed for decades against Utah and BYU, and we’ve done quite well."

That answer seems a bit more believable, if only because Utah State's explanation makes sense: The school has been competing with in-state powers far more intimidating that Utah Valley for decades now, and as you saw above, Morrill and company have had no problems maintaining success despite a pair of traditionally competitive neighbors. Is Utah Valley really going to sweep into the WAC and start stealing Aggie recruits? That seems ... doubtful.

In some ways, this counts as encouraging news for UVU. If Utah State isn't blocking the move, and has nothing to fear from the expansion, then the Wolverines' chances of joining seem even more likely, no?

There are rumors surrounding a potential invitation to Seattle -- a newly minted (and surprisingly competitive) member of Division I -- as a basketball-only member, which would damage but Utah Valley's hopes, so there is more at work than in-state rivalry here. But if UVU doesn't get in the WAC, it will be hard to believe that's because Utah State decided to get territorial.

The numbers you need to know

January, 21, 2011
1/21/11
10:01
AM ET
Here's an inside look at the numbers behind Thursday's top performances:

1. Santa Clara had lost 10 straight home games to Gonzaga and head coach Kerry Keating was 0-8 overall against the Bulldogs. But the Broncos broke through on Thursday with an 85-71 win courtesy of a career-high 36 points from Kevin Foster. John Bryant matched that total three years ago, but the last Bronco to score more in a game was Steve Ross (38) in 2002. Before that? Steve Nash in 1995. Foster scored 24 in the second half alone, including 11 straight to break the game open late. Only Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn averages more 3s than Foster, and Thursday was no different, as he knocked down six of 14 from long range.

2. Isaiah Thomas continued his torrid stretch as Washington topped Arizona 85-68. The junior finished with 22 points, 10 assists and just one turnover. Over the past 15 seasons, no Washington player had a 20-point, 10-assist game before last week. Thomas has now done it in two consecutive games. When Abdul Gaddy went down for the season, the point guard duties were handed to Thomas, and he's been up to the challenge. In the five games since the Gaddy injury, he is averaging 20.4 ppg and 9.4 apg. In fact, since the New Year, he's the nation's top assist man. Not bad for a guy who was averaging 4.2 apg before Gaddy went down.

Most assists per game since Jan. 1
9.4 -- Isaiah Thomas, Washington
9.2 -- D.J. Cooper, Ohio
9.2 -- Mickey McConnell, Saint Mary's
8.6 -- Scott Machado, Iona
7.8 -- Reggie Hamilton, Oakland

3. Florida shot 28.3 percent from the field and scored only 45 points, the fewest of the Billy Donovan era. Oh, and the Gators also beat Auburn 45-40. It was the fewest points in a conference by an SEC team since 1997, when Auburn beat Kevin O'Neill-coached Tennessee 43-35. The last time the Gators scored this few points in a win was 1962 (43). The opponent? Auburn. On Thursday, the Gators actually trailed 40-37 with under two minutes to go before going on an 8-0 run to close the game. The Tigers missed out on some crucial points, shooting just just 1-for-8 from the line. That's the worst free throw performance by a team attempting at least eight since 2008.

4. On the subject of ugly shooting, Stanford had a tough night on Thursday. The Cardinal shot 22.2 percent from the field in a 65-42 loss to USC. That marked Stanford's worst shooting performance of the shot-clock era (since 1985). Stanford didn't have a player score in double figures for the first time in five years. And how's this for offensive efficiency? Stanford took 63 shots, while USC attempted only 45 (hitting on 55.6 percent). That's 0.64 points per possession for Stanford, tied for the second fewest by a power six conference team this season, according to bbstate.com.

5. Whenever there's a four overtime game, you can count on some fun numbers. Utah Valley's 107-96 win over North Dakota is no different. In the third quadruple-OT game this season, UVU somehow only came up with one steal. That steal was made by Geddes Robinson, who also pulled down 17 rebounds in 53 minutes of action. Yet, he only scored three points and was 1-for-7 from the field. That's the fewest points when playing over 50 minutes since 2005, when Iona's Martin McCullough also scored three in 51 minutes.

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