January 8, 1997 in Sports

Vandals Face Big Task In Expanded Big West

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Coach says Idaho will be fortunate to reach postseason Coach Kermit Davis would like to tell Idaho men’s basketball followers that the Vandals will compete for the title in their first season in the Big West Conference.

But that would be his heart talking and not his head.

“I think we can compete, but all the games have to be right - the tempo and things,” said Davis, whose 7-6 club opens conference play against 5-5 Nevada at 7:05 Thursday night in the Kibbie Dome.

That isn’t to suggest Davis is writing a concession speech. Davis is proud that the Vandals are playing within earshot of their potential. They are rarely outworked.

But Davis witnessed the Big West for two years as an assistant at Utah State before returning in March. The conference is a major step up from the Big Sky.

Pacific and New Mexico State are receiving votes in the AP poll. Pacific beat Georgetown 73-56. New Mexico State clubbed 20th-ranked Texas Tech 122-105.

The conference is loaded with athletic, high-flying guards/forwards. There are skyscrapers - Pacific’s Michael Olowokandi, North Texas’ 7-foot Sean Riley and 6-11 UCLA transfer Ike Nwankwo at Long Beach State.

But the marquee players are Long Beach’s James Cotton, New Mexico State’s Antoine Hubbard, Enoch Davis, and Louis Richardson, Nevada’s Jimmy Carroll and Faron Hand, Utah State’s Marcus Saxon and Maurice Spillers, Cal State Fullerton’s John Williams and Santa Barbara’s Raymond Tutt.

All but one, the 5-11 Hubbard, stand between 6-2 and 6-8.

The Big West is divided into two six-team divisions. The top four in each advance to the conference tournament in Reno.

Idaho is in the Eastern Division, where it’s likely that the Aggies are going to be champions. Question is, New Mexico State’s Aggies or Utah State’s Aggies?

Pacific, perhaps the conference’s best team, is heavily favored in the Western Division with Long Beach State a potential challenger.

“We’ll be VERY fortunate to get into the tournament,” Davis said. “Where this league kills you is depth.”

Idaho’s depth is shallow. Gone from the preseason roster are Marcus Wallace (academics), Reggie Rose (injury), Nate Gardner (quit) and David Sturing (quit).

Idaho will be patient offensively and make do with only two true interior players - Jason Jackman and 6-8 sophomore Kevin Byrne.

, DataTimes MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition.

See related story under the headline: Big West Conference basketball

Cut in the Spokane edition.

See related story under the headline: Big West Conference basketball


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