Vandals start WAC basketball play

Here's a tricky New Year's Day question: Name at least half the schools that play basketball in the revamped WAC? OK, how about a three of the nine that are the lone holdovers from last season? That's not so hard -- Idaho, New Mexico State and Seattle U. But the six newcomers are a collection of geographically diverse and not-so-well-known schools: University of Missouri-Kansas City (who the Vandals play Thursday night at Cowan Spectrum), Chicago State, Grand Canyon University, Cal State Bakersfield, Utah Valley and Texas-Pan American.

After the jump, we've got a quick preview of Idaho's home games on Thursday and Saturday -- the first weekend of WAC play.


COMING UP: Thurday vs. UMKC, 7 p.m.; Saturday vs. Chicago State, 7 p.m.

OUTLOOK: Right from the start of WAC play, the Vandals will get a feel for the new teams in the conference. They host the University of Missouri-Kansas City on Thursday to open the league portion of their schedule before taking on Chicago State on Saturday. The Kangaroos (3-9) and Cougars (5-8) are two of six new basketball-playing schools that entered the WAC for 2013-2014. Idaho, New Mexico State and Seattle are the only holdovers from last year. The Vandals (6-8) play at Cowan Spectrum for just the third time since Dec. 7, and they've dropped each of their last two home games by one point. Idaho's Stephen Madison is second in the WAC in scoring (17.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.6).

FREE-THROW WOES: Idaho has shot just 59 percent from the foul line in the last five games. Without poor free-throw shooting, it's fair to say the Vandals would have at least one more win. Last week against Montana, they went 18 of 33 from the foul line and lost by one. “For whatever reason over the last little bit we haven’t made our free throws,” coach Don Verlin said. “That’s an area we’ve got to improve in. We’ve always been a good free throw shooting team. That’s a huge part of the game, especially the way they’re calling the game this year.”

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