NCAA tournament team previews: Wyoming Cowboys
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 25-9 (11-7 MWC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 101.8 (176th)/97.0 (67th)
Seed: East No. 12
Impact player: Larry Nance Jr., senior, forward. 16.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 106.7 offensive rating
The Case For: All you need to know about the Cowboys, making their first tournament appearance since 2002, can be summed up in three words: Larry Nance Jr. The son of 13-year NBA veteran Larry Nance Sr., son inherited the same eye-popping athleticism as dad, which means he is a threat to throw down a dunk every time the ball is in his hands. The offense runs through him, though junior guard Josh Adams (13.1 points, 3.5 assists) facilitates.
The Cowboys are content to grind it out, evidenced by their 45-43 win over San Diego State in the Mountain West conference tournament final. The teams shot a combined 30-for-88 (34%) in a game that demanded viewers appreciate defense. What’s more impressive is that the Cowboys finally beat SDSU, which had swept them in the regular season. Seeded fourth in the MWC tournament, Wyoming is playing well entering the NCAAs. And with Nance leading the show, the Cowboys could surprise again.
The Case Against: Some of Wyoming’s losses are head-scratching, and a perfect example of why the Cowboys weren’t projected into the tournament before winning their way in (think 56-44 to Utah State on Jan. 27 and 64-59 to Fresno State on Feb. 25). Wyoming deserves credit for forcing teams to play at their pace and making it tough for opponents to score—they rank 67th in kenpom.com’s defensive efficiency ratings—but what happens if they need a rash of points, and quickly?
The Cowboys’ highest output this season was 78, and they’ve only gone above 70 twice in their last eight games. They rank 303 out of 345 teams in scoring offense (61.7 points per game) and are 175th in scoring efficiency at kenpom.com. They average the same number of rebounds (30.1) as opponents, which means teams that hit the glass hard could get lots of easy second opportunities. Wyoming has played in the CBI the last three seasons, and could be overwhelmed by the big stage.