Wyoming College Hoops Rant (1/20 — 2/3),
Just as I predicted, the Wyoming community college basketball season is catching fire with five of the Cowboy State’s six Div. I Juco teams still in the hunt for the Region IX regular season title. Wyoming’s squads may be beating each other up, but it sure doesn’t show in the standings. Five of Wyoming’s Juco eight teams currently boast at least 15 wins despite mainly playing inner-state matchups for about the past two months.
Sheridan College, Northwest College, Western Wyoming, Central Wyoming and Casper College are rolling right now, making this week’s top five poll very easy. It seems voters for the NJCAA men’s basketball top-20 poll don’t seem to think Wyoming is worth any praise, though. Western, Sheridan and Casper have all spent at least a week in the top-20 with the Mustangs topping out at No. 9. So it doesn’t make much sense when voters didn’t pick a single Wyoming squad for the top 20 in their latest poll on Jan. 31. In fact, not a single team from the Cowboy State even received a vote to join the club of the nation’s best.
Now don’t get me wrong. The top 20 is full of talented squads, ranging from No. 1 South Plains College (20-0) to No. 20 Sante Fe College (19-3). But at least Northwest College at 17-5 should receive a vote for in the top 20 or one earning at least one vote to be in the national poll. So I’ll take it upon myself and give these Wyoming schools some love:
Back on top: The Trappers of Powell earned Couch Side’s first ever Wyoming College Hoops Rant No. 1 ranking in December. Now, NWC is in the top spot again. I received a little feed back about how accurate my previous polls were and an assistant coach in the area advised I look more into match ups. And of all eight of Wyoming’s Juco teams, the Trappers have the most “big wins.” When NWC returned from break they were fresh off a win against Sheridan, but then were upset by Casper College. The Trappers then responded with a win against Western, which was considered the best team at the time. NWC’s next two in-state challenges is against Sheridan and Casper again, so the Trappers will have something to prove in early February.
Player update: Northwest still has the best offensive player in the state, Chris Hansen. The Fort Collins, Colo., native’s 20 points per game is No. 15 in the nation and the freshman is No. 7 for total points at 421 in 21 games. Hansen is also the ninth best 3-point shooter is NJCAA Div. 1, draining 68 shots from downtown this season. NWC isn’t a one-man show, though. Sixth man Junior Coleman averages 13 points per game and forward Jeffry Solarin is No. 2 on the team in scoring at 14 points per outing. Solarin also leads the team in rebounding at nine boards per contest.
Tough choice: The Rustlers of Riverton could have easily been this week’s No. 1 team. But each of Central’s losses is to Wyoming’s top teams. Central split with NWC and dropped games to Sheridan and Western — the Rustlers’ only other loss was to the College of Eastern Utah earlier this season. I still have to give a lot of credit to Central, however, for beating some tough teams, handily. The Rustlers should be proud for downing Miles City Community College —which received Region IX’s only top 20 vote — Casper by 12 and Gillette College by 10. And if Central can prove that they can defeat the top teams of the Cowboy State, the Rustlers could ride a lot of momentum going into the Region IX tournament.
Player update: I guess I should be surprised anymore to see that the Rustlers have four players averaging double digits. Sophomore James Johnson leads Central’s balanced attack at 13 points per game and he’s closely followed by Armani Flannigan, who averages 12 points per game. And if that wasn’t enough, Davion Pearson and Malachi Roberts each chip in 11 points per night.
Skidding: The boys of Rock Springs could also have been this weeks No. 1 team. However, it seems the Mustangs have lost their edge. Western’s top 10 ranking earlier this season could’ve been a money on their back, but the Mustangs have really been hurting lately. Western is 3-4 in it’s last seven, losing to all three of its inner-state matchups. Those losses to Sheridan, Northwest and Casper should be a cause for concern. Give them credit for defeating Central, though.
Player update: Like the Rustlers, Central also has a four-headed scoring punch. B.J. Kline leads the attack at 12 points per game. D.J. Stennis is No 2 at 11 points per game while Same Wunderli and In Matos each average 10 points per game.
Possible comeback: With Western on the decline, expect the state’s most consistent Juco team, the Generals, to get hot at this time of year. Sheridan has proved it can beat the big schools except for NWC, but those two squads will clash tonight. If the Generals pull off a victory at home, they may just work their way back into the top 20, or at least receive some votes.
Player update: Beyond Chris Hansen of Northwest, Sheridan’s LaMont Prosser may just be the next best thing. The sophomore, who was an all-conference forward last season, leads the Generals in scoring at 14 points per game and he work the glass, pulling down about six boards per outing.
Tough test ahead: Like Sheridan, Casper will have its statement game Friday night against Central. But Casper seems to play their best against teams from within the Cowboy state. Casper split with Western and has defeated Sheridan, Northwest and Gillette College. Central is the only squad Casper hasn’t pulled out a victory against yet, buy that could all change Friday.
He’s back: The man who leads Casper in scoring has soared his was to the top in just six games. Sophomore Jerrold Brooks averages 14.5 points per game despite playing in only a third of the T-Birds’ games. Tyler Larson is one who has played in all 18 contests, though, and led the team most of the year. He is now No. 2 at 13 points per game.