Boise State could make the conference look good here
A strong field could improve Broncos resume
Yes! It’s finally time for Feast Week Tournament to start. The Myrtle Beach invitational starts today. Boise State is repping the Mountain West — here’s a brief breakdown of each team in the field
Texas A&M: The Aggies are the favorite to win the tournament. Point guard Wade Taylor IV aid enjoying a sophomore breakout, leading A&M with 19.5 points and made 7-of-9 threes to begin the season. The 24th ranked Aggies are terrific on the defensive end. That’s not surprising considering Buzz Williams is at the helm and he always gets the most out of his teams on defense. Henry Coleman is the real X-Factor here — he’s a double double machine who can put match every other big man in the tournament — especially Boise’s if the two match up down the road.
Colorado: The Buffs lost to Gramblimg State then a few days later stunned Tennessee in Knoxville. The one to watch is KJ Simpson, a sophomore guard who checks all the boxes of what to look for in a program changing guard — smart, athletic, great playmaker and scorer. He’s averaging 17.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists to kick off the season. Colorado needs more from Ivy League transfers Ethan Wright and Jalen Gabbidon to make a serious push in Myrtle Beach.
Murray State: The Racers look way different than the 31-win team from one season ago. Out went Matt McMahon and Steve Prohm returned to coach the team. Although the team is different it’s still talented. Led by Rob Perry and D2 transfer Jamari Smith, the Racers could turn some heads in this tournament. There’s enough pieces who have played a lot of college hoops that can win during a tournament of this caliber.
UMass: Frank Martin took the job in Amherst after losing his South Carolina job. They beat Centrak Connecticut State to begin the year and lost to Towson the next game but it’s tough to know what to make of the minutemen right now. There’s plenty of front court options with Isaac Kante, Wildens Leveque among others but I’m concerned about the guard play. All-league performer Noah Fernandes is seeing dips in his numbers affords the board and lost minutes to Rahsool Diggins in the last game. It’s a rebuilding effort in the Northeast.
Charlotte: Of all the breakout performers to start the season, Jackson Threadgill is the most surprising. He’s leading Charlotte with 15 points in two games, shooting 11-16 from the field and 5-of-8 from deep. It’s a fairly low volume but why not let if fly! It’s working right now. The best player top to bottom is Aly Khalifa, a versatile forward who can make jaw dropping passes and makes shooters better with hi ability to find them. He doesn’t score much but he’s the facilitator of Ron Sanchez’s offense. Sanchez is a disciple of Tony Bennett at Virginia and plays incredibly slow, just like Bennett teams play.
Loyola Chicago: Everyone is familiar with Ramblers success over the past five seasons, but it hasn’t come easy this year. The Ramblers are fortunate to enter the tournament 2-0. The Ramblers needed a huge comeback to beat Fairleigh Dickinson in the opener and struggled to put away UIC in the second game. It’s easy to spot why the struggles happened: Loyola is turning it over on 28 percent of possessions and are only shooting 20 percent from deep. The team has plenty of talent but those two issues need correcting as soon as possible.
Tulsa: The Eric Konkol era in Tulsa took a rough turn early when the Golden Hurricanes blew an 18 point lead to Oregon State in the opener. There isn’t a ton of talent here, but Sam Griffin and Keyshawn Embery Simpson form a pretty formidable backcourt. There isn’t a ton to get excited about besides those two if you’re a Tulsa fan.
Boise State: Odds are if you’re on MWWire you know about Boise State so far. An opening night loss to South Dakota State on a buzzer beater followed by beating Washington State. The Broncos remain really good defensively, ranking 57th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric. Marcus Shaver Jr leads the team with 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists in two games but is 0-for-6 from deep, a team wide issue. Only Max Rice has connected on multiple three point shots, which is where Chibuzo Agbo could step in. Coming from Texas Tech, Agbo has fouled out in both games and made one shot but he’s plenty talented, maybe now is where the talent stands out. I expect the Broncos to handle Charlotte with ease before facing Loyola Chicago or Tulsa in the next round. I see Boise beating either team and moving onto the championship against Texas A&M — what could happen in the title game? Let’s see.
Pick to win: Texas A&M
I’m staying chalk here. I’ll take the clear favorite and the most talented team in the field. I see them sneaking past Murray State then knocking off either Colorado or UMass comfortably before facing the other side bracket winner in the title game. The defense, the size, the depth it’s too much for other teams in the field to contain.