The Idaho men’s basketball team is on a bit of an uptick, having won four of its last six games. But it’s hard to know how the Vandals will respond in two non-conference games this week — versus Seattle University tomorrow night and Long Beach State on Saturday evening. Both are in Moscow, and I’ve got a short preview of the weekend below.
First, here is a blurb for tomorrow’s S-R:
Record: 12-12, 4-8 WAC
Coming up: Tonight vs. Seattle University, 7; Saturday vs. Long Beach State, 5:30 p.m.
Outlook: The Vandals take a weeklong respite from the Western Athletic Conference to face two teams with similar profiles. Seattle University and Long Beach State entered the week at 12-13, and both are athletic clubs that prefer up-tempo styles and often apply full-court pressure. “Both (are) teams who have played good competition and have beat good competition,” coach Don Verlin said. The Vandals prevailed at Seattle two weeks ago, despite 23 points from Redhawks’ standout Charles Garcia. Verlin said Garcia, a 6-foot-9 junior averaging 19.7 points per game, is perhaps the best power forward the Vandals have faced this season. LBSU is coached by former Gonzaga head man Dan Monson, whose father Don is a UI coaching legend. The 49ers own double-digit wins over UCLA and Utah State.
The Vandals have been hard to figure all season. They came into the year with serious expectations (many thought their fourth-place slot in the WAC preseason polls was too low) and a roster full or returners or promising newcomers. But after trouncing Portland to start 5-2, Idaho’s inconsistencies started to shine through. They have followed a win with a loss seven times and have yet to put more than two consecutive victories together since November.
No doubt the Vandals would be in better shape in the WAC if it weren’t for two gut-wrenching losses at home (to Boise State and Nevada). But in both of those games, the Vandals can point to stretches of sketchy play.
The question is: has UI turned the corner? A win at Fresno State was promising, but this week will be telling. The Vandals host two teams on a similar level, so you can argue these are two games they should win. They’ve already beaten Seattle on the road, and Long Beach State lost its second straight tonight versus Pacific.
Here’s an RPI breakdown of the three teams: Idaho entered the week at No. 161, LBSU is at No. 146, and Seattle sits at No. 209.