Mountain West Basketball Profile: Wyoming Cowboys
Allen Edwards looks to keep Wyoming’s stretch of 20-win seasons going in ’18-19
Wyoming aims to finish in the top half of the conference behind star Justin James
Next in our Mountain West basketball preview series is Wyoming. The Cowboys look to notch 20 wins once again in the final year of the Justin James era in Laramie.
Projected Starting Lineup
- G, Ny Redding, Sr., 6-2, 172
- G, Justin James, Sr., 6-7, 180
- G, Hunter Maldonado, So., 6-7, 200
- F, Trace Young, Fr., 6-9, 179
- F, Hunter Thompson, Fr., 6-10, 235
Player To Watch
Justin James enters his senior season with the task of carrying the bulk of the Wyoming scoring load. The Cowboys lose their top four scorers not named Justin James, meaning Hunter Maldonado (5.3 PPG) is next in line in the scoring category. James, who returned to school after declaring for the NBA Draft, averaged 18.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. James is your prototypical do-it-all combo guard who is primed for a special season.
Potential breakout sophomore Hunter Maldonado is widely seen as the team’s “x-factor” in ’18-19. Maldonado is one of the best athletes to come through the Wyoming program ever, displaying a number of impressive finishes at the basket in his first year in Laramie. There’s still work to do on his jump shot and overall game, but the sky is the limit for Justin James’ wingman.
Wyoming is going to run and shoot threes. Naturally, Allen Edwards picked up an excellent perimeter shooter in Jake Hendricks. The 6-5 guard from the College of Southern Idaho knocked down 203 of his 504 three-point attempts as an underclassman, a formidable 40.3 percentage. He’s going to be a volume shooter from behind the line and will fit Wyoming’s offense like a glove.
Biggest Question Mark
Where does the production come from players not named Justin James? Wyoming’s supporting cast is a serious concern, and James can’t do it all every night. Look for Allen Edwards’ newcomers to fill out their roles as the season progresses. Jake Hendricks, Trace Young, Brandon Porter, A.J. Banks, and a handful of other guys have a chance of stepping up and logging significant minutes later in the year.
Marquee Non-Conference Matchup
Pac-12 foe Oregon State provided a thrilling matchup last November, a 75-66 Cowboys victory behind Hayden Dalton’s 22 points. The two face off again this season on November 10 in Corvallis. The Beavers return almost all of their key contributors from last year’s squad, highlighted by all-Pac-12 candidate Tres Tinkle, one of the nation’s best combo forwards.
Under Allen Edwards, Wyoming has ranked 14th and 13th in the nation, respectively, in possessions per game, per KenPom. Last year, Wyoming averaged 73.5 possessions per game, the fastest in the Mountain West.
Offensive Production Chart
Thirty Second Breakdown
Wyoming might be the toughest Mountain West team to gauge. There isn’t another team in the conference with as much riding on its newcomers. Justin James is a stud and Hunter Maldonado is a worthy sidekick, but the rest of the roster is cloudy. The talent is undeniable, though, and Allen Edwards has proven over two seasons that he knows what he’s doing. Laramie will always be a challenging place to play, so at least there’s that, if nothing else. Either Wyoming’s supporting cast shows up and the Cowboys are competitive or Justin James will have to score 30-plus every night. Both options sound fun.
Predicted Order of Finish
Eli Boettger is the lead basketball writer at Mountain West Wire. He’s covered Mountain West basketball since 2015 and his work has been featured on Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, MSN, and other platforms. Boettger is a current USBWA member.