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Second season most important for Idaho, Vandals enter Big Sky Conference play with crucial home games
Idaho men's basketball coach Don Verlin is as anxious as anybody to see what a nine day break from playing will mean on Thursday when the Vandals open Big Sky Conference play against Idaho State at the Cowan Spectrum.
The Vandals last played on Dec. 22 at Northern Kentucky before players departed for a five day Christmas vacation.
Based on the last two days of practice, Verlin admits to some nervousness. But he hasn't understated the importance of conference play to his team.
After all, if Idaho doesn't play well enough over the next three months then there won't be a postseason at all.
Unlike the Western Athletic Conference where every team makes the conference tournament, only eight of the 12 teams in the Big Sky will participate in the Big Sky Tournament. The four teams with the worst conference records will be left out of the tournament, hosted by the regular season conference champion.
Idaho opens Big Sky play with three consecutive home games: Idaho State on Jan. 1, defending conference champions Weber State on Jan. 3 and the favorite to host the conference tournament, Eastern Washington, on Jan. 10.
"What I’ve told our team is that there’s three parts to every season. There’s the preseason, there’s the conference season and the postseason," Verlin said. "Well, basically there’s no postseason if you don’t have a good conference season. Now, the most important of our season is the conference season and these three games at home are very important."
Idaho is familiar with the Bengals, having played its rivals from Pocatello the last two seasons in southern Idaho (both Vandal wins).
Verlin coached for 15 years with Weber State coach Randy Rahe. He said it will help the Vandals be prepared for the Wildcats, saying it'll feel like "an intra-squad scrimmage." The two coached under Stew Morrill at Colorado State and Utah State
A good start at home is imperative to Verlin.
"I think the real key in the Big Sky Conference is the depth of the league. I think every night there’s going to be a battle," Verlin said. "You look around the conference, there’s a number of good teams, a number of veteran teams that really work hard to protect the home court. That’s going to be important in conference play is to protect the home court."
If the Vandals are to come out of the opening weekend of Big Sky play with one or two wins, they will have to improve dramatically on the defensive end of the floor.
In their last three losses the Vandals conceded a combined 31 3-point baskets (on 71 attempts). Many of the misses were open looks. Currently, Idaho ranks No. 331 in the country in Ken Pomeroy's Adjusted Defensive Efficiency metric, out of 351 teams. The metric concludes that, on average, Idaho is giving up 108.3 points per 100 opponent possessions.
"We have to compete harder. We’ve got to get a little more nasty. We’ve got to grind a little bit harder," Verlin said. "We played a lot of games right down to the wire that we haven’t found a way to win. So the thing I’m looking for is a little bit more toughness, a little bit more competitive attitude."
The Vandals tip against Idaho State on Jan. 1 at 7 p.m. in its first Big Sky Conference contest since 1996.
The Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho, the smallest stadium in the FBS, seats about 16,500. (University of Idaho courtesy photo)
The Kibbie Dome is like no other venue in college football. It sits like an enormous barrel half-buried into the University of Idaho campus and, in fact, once was referred to as "a Campbell's Soup can cut in half" by a visiting coach. It ranks as both an architectural marvel and the smallest home field in the Football Bowl Subdivision, holding about 16,500 fans. Inside, the roof of laminated wooden beams arches over a field sunken below ground level, and new translucent panels over the end zones allow a flood of natural light. Goalposts are attached to the walls about 5 yards behind the end zone — rather than from a post in the ground — with those walls padded for players' protection. The Dome has been called too small and outdated by some, yet embraced by others who've seen (and heard) it at its packed-to-full-volume glory/Doug Williams, ESPN Playbook. More here.
Question: Do you enjoy watching games in the Kibbie Dome?
The Coeur d’Alene football team’s 2012 schedule already was going to be the toughest in school history. Now it’s been amped up another notch. It will be a clash of the Idaho and Washington big-school state champions when the Skyline Spartans of Sammamish take on the Coeur d’Alene Vikings as part of a quadrupleheader at the Kibbie Dome on Sept. 15. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. Skyline originally was scheduled to play host to Manatee of Bradenton, Fla., in a matchup between two of the nation’s top quarterbacks. But the game was scrapped when the marketing company that helped arrange the game couldn’t afford to fly Manatee to Washington. CdA athletic director Todd Gilkey received an email from Skyline’s administration Wednesday confirming it planned to play CdA pending final approval from its school board. Skyline is led by senior-to-be, 6-foot-5 Max Browne, who has given an oral commitment to the University of Southern California. Browne is rated the nation’s No. 2 recruit/Greg Lee, SR.
Question: Do you think you might see this dream matchup between the 2011 Idaho & Washington state high school champion football teams?
Say, any way that mass exodus from the Western Athletic Conference can be accelerated? Like maybe starting this week? Subtraction in the ranks may be the only way the Idaho Vandals achieve any addition in the win column this fall. OK, one game does not a college football season make, so rather than suggest it’s going to be a long year for the Vandals let’s just say Thursday was a long night. Or a short one – all intrigue having been sucked out of their season opener before the second quarter was half gone. Bad timing on letting all the sunshine in through the Kibbie Dome’s end walls. This one deserved to be played in the shadows/John Blanchette, SR. More here. (Complete game story, boxscore coverage here)
Question: Will the Vandals bounce back?
Idaho quarterback Brian Reader is pressured by the Bowling Green defense into throwing an interception during the first half of their game at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow tonight. Bowling Green jumped out to a 30-7 halftime lead over the Vandals in their season opener. Bowling Green avenged its 2009 Humanitarian Bowl defeat by stopping host Idaho 32-15. See boxscore here And: Bruce Mann's first-half photo gallery here.
It wasn’t supposed to go this way. Not in the first game in the spiffed-up Kibbie Dome. Not after Idaho football coach Robb Akey declared his team ready for another march to the postseason. The Vandals, appearing ill-prepared for the start of the season, were steamrolled by Bowling Green 32-15 on the opening night of the college football season. In front of an announced crowd of 12,173 – the actual number looked smaller – the Vandals roared to a touchdown and defensive stop on the first two possessions Thursday night … then collapsed/Josh Wright, SR. More here.
Thoughts on the game?
The Idaho Vandals host Bowling Green at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Kibbie Dome to kick of their 2011 college football season. After nearly four weeks of fall practices, Coach Robb Akey reports that the Vandals are showing signs of marked improvement on the offensive and defensive fronts as well as stability in the backfields and among the receiving corps. You can read Akey's preseason State of the Idaho Vandals here. (Courtesy photo: Idaho Athletic Media Relations)
Question: Any predictions re: how the Vandals will do without Boise State on their schedule this year?
Item: Vandals know Broncos will pounce on mistakes/Josh Wright, SR
More Info: In the Vandals’ three games against teams ranked or receiving votes in the national polls – losses to Nebraska, Hawaii and Nevada – they piled up 14 turnovers. Most of the mistakes and the poor execution have come early, effectively wiping out any chance of an upset. Idaho (4-5, 1-3) was buried at then-No. 6 Nebraska after back-to-back interceptions returned for touchdowns. Two weeks ago, three turnovers in rapid succession gave Hawaii a 31-3 halftime advantage. And last week, Nevada vaulted to a 35-3 lead.
Question: What will be the score at halftime?
Joe Vandal, the mascot of the Idaho Vandals, is shown encouraging fans to join him at the “Vandal Walk” at the west end of the Kibbie Dome at 11:40 Saturday, before the home game against Nevada. (Photo courtesy of UIdaho Athletics Media)
Question: Is Joe Vandal a good college mascot?
Idaho Reporter, Via Twitter: The Idaho State Board of Education has approved $5.3 million in renovation to U of I’s Kibbie Dome and $1 million seating sponsorship deal with Litehouse
Ok, I know…this is getting somewhat pathetic; the name just hasn’t come to me yet. It will - every good name has to come eventually. (I even Googled “how to come up with good blog names”, and got a great website by Chris G, creator of the NANOWRIMO…but I’m still workin’ on it…)
March 13th (12-9 pm) and 14th (10am-8pm) marked the 11th Annual Home and Garden Expo, kickin’ off at the University of Idaho Kibbie Dome in Moscow. (This may sound like your standard work-gloves-wearing, home-improvement-obsessed, ‘DIY’, Martha Stewart-y gathering of old farts…but I am proud to say that it’s just the opposite.
This marks my 4th time attending and it gets better every time. First off, the awesome-ness of the Kibbie Dome. You walk in, and not only can you catch the scent of amazing new cars and fresh gardening soil wafting through the bleachers, (two really great smells in my opinion), but you can also breathe in the delicious aromas of the food. Two words: delicious. Hmmm wait - …I guess I only needed one word to describe that one.
To get a better picture of this shin-dig, just imagine a huge college fair. Except every time you see a table full of college information, forms, and free pencils - replace it with a local business trying to do some advertising. There were booths by Staples, ReMax, Recycling Centers, the Pullman Aquatic Center, the Schwan Food company (with free samples!) and every construction business in a 50-mile radius of Moscow. Plus about 15 spankin’ new cars from local dealers.
And a lil’ sidenote: The free stuff is much much better than any college fair. (I totally scored some free sticky notes and an orange…yes…an orange as an advertising-tactic…:D)
But back to the food. The Home and Garden Expo not only features business from your local community, large and small, but the food is local too. We had to choose from Basilio’s italian food, Papa John’s pizza, even a mini-espresso stand! (Well - there wasn’t any choosing with the espresso, it was a must.) I ended up grabbing some of Basilio’s portable fare - it’s one of my all-time favorite resturants in Pullman, WA.
My-All-Time-Tried-and-True-Favorite! (The Recommendation:) Another 12 oz. Americano for me! That mini-espresso stand was too cool to resist. And it’s hard to beat a hot cup of coffee on a really cold day. For lunch I enjoyed some of Basilio’s Tomato Basil Raviolini Soup - and this really does get two words: truly amazing! It was the perfect size and amount for a quick-pick me up before making my final rounds of the business booths.
Check out the Expo’s Official Site (Anyone want to reserve a booth for the VOX next year?!?) I’m all in! Here’s the Palouse Expo!
Ever gone to this event? Does anyone have their own garden? Does this DIY-fest sound like a good time?