BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
A lot of squads from Wyoming found early success in the first half of the 2011-2012 junior college men’s basketball season.
Teams like Sheridan College, Northwest College and Western Wyoming College either made (or are still in) the NJCAA’s top 25 poll or at least are getting votes for the list. There’s no question that junior college ball in the Cowboy State is extremely competitive right now. But things are about to get even more interesting. The first half of the season was dedicated to mostly playing out-of-state teams for Wyoming’s eight junior college squads. Now, that part of the season is over. Players have returned from the holiday break to a new level of intensity on the junior college hardwood. And it’s coming from within their own state.
Four teams from Wyoming found at least some sort of glory in the polls during the first half of the season. But now that those same squads are playing other teams in Wyoming, the almost perfect records are starting to become more blemished. In the NJCAA’s Jan. 10 poll, Northwest and Sheridan received votes to be in the top 20 while Western sat high and mighty in the No. 9 spot with an impressive 14-1 record. However, just eight days later, voters for the NJCAA’s top 20 frowned upon the Mustangs, ranking them No. 20 after the team suffered losses to Sheridan and Gillette College. Meanwhile, Northwest has also felt the strength of Wyoming’s teams after experiencing an early-season run. The Trappers didn’t receive any votes to be in the top 20 poll, losing their past two to Casper College (preseason top-20 team) and Montana’s Miles Community College of Miles City, Mont.
Yes, this part of the season is the best in Wyoming junior college hoops. There’s already starting to be some parody at the top and it seems like it could come down to the Region IX tournament before we actually find out who’s the best in the Cowboy State.
Now, here’s a look at the top five teams in Wyoming:
BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
The world of National Junior College Athletic Association men’s basketball is on hiatus right now with the long college break.
I figured this would be the opportune time to start my newest weekly blog that will highlight and rank Wyoming’s eight NJCAA Division I men’s basketball teams. The hardwood has been full of excitement through about the first third of the Wyoming college hoops season and this week’s rankings indicate just how close a handful of teams are at the top. There are currently five (more than half) teams in the Cowboy State’s junior college ranks that have already hit double-digits in the win column. And if those teams can stay hot, this may just be one of the most exiting years in Wyoming junior college basketball.
Now without further holdup, here’s how Wyoming’s eight junior college teams stack up as of Tuesday, Dec. 27. These rankings will hold until at least Jan. 8 because of the holiday break. Records and stats are compiled from Njcaa.org and are upheld believed to be accurate information for this blog.
• Top spot, top scorer: The Trappers may not have the best record of Wyoming’s eight teams, but they do have the NJCAA’s ninth best scorer in freshman Chris Hansen. The Fort Collins, Colo., native is tearing up the junior college hardwood this season, scoring 20.9 points per game and hitting a jaw dropping 52 3-pointers in NWC’s 16 games this season. For having such a dynamic player who only seems like he’ll climb up the scoring leader’s board, it’s the Trappers who get the No. 1 ranking in the premiere of the Wyoming college hoops rant.
• Taking down the Generals: NWC has also shown that it’s one of the top JUCO teams in the Cowboy State by sticking it to perennial powerhouse, the Sheridan Generals. The Trappers defeated the formerly ranked NJCAA top-25 ranked team 79-69 in their last game Dec. 10 in Powell. Any matchup against the Generals should be considered a statement game and the Trappers made theirs in early December. NWC has shown it can beat the state’s toughest teams and at least hang with some of the best in the nation. The only two losses the Trappers have suffered came to No. 5 Salt Lake Community College and the always respectable Western Nebraska Community College. And the NJCAA top-25 poll voters must gave noticed, casting NWC a few votes for the top 25.
• Snubbed for top billing?: I must apologize to the Mustangs for not picking them as Couchside’s No. 1 team. After all, the NJCAA does have Western ranked No. 11 in its latest poll Dec. 13. But since the distinguished ranking, the Mustangs lost to Snow College 69-64 in their final final game before the holiday break. The loss was Western’s first of the season and just Snow’s second, proving that the Mustangs’ only defeat must have been a tough pill to swallow. Although perfection has surpassed the Mustangs, I expect big things from the squad and perhaps the matchup of the year when Western travels to Powell for a clash against the Northwest College Trappers.
• It must be chemistry: It seems Western’s power comes from more than just one player. Actually, it comes from every single athlete in the starting five. Led by D.J. Stennis, who averages 12.1 pointers per game, the Mustangs’ other four starters also average double-digit scoring figures. Greg Meacham is one of those threats and lights up the scoreboard from downtown, hitting 33 3-pointers this in 14 games.