Our fearless Anteaters are back on the road, this time braving the chilling winds and high altitude of Laramie, Wyoming. Matt from Cowboy Altitude of SB Nation was kind enough to exchange Q&A’s so we could get a better idea of what to expect from this 9-1 Cowboy team. It certainly looks like new coach Larry Shyatt has turned things around drastically from last year’s team that lost by 15 in Irvine. When you’re done reading here, head over to Cowboy Altitude to check out my responses to his questions. Amusing that everyone keeps on bring up the Banana Slugs when talking about the Anteaters.
1. Last year when UCI and Wyoming played each other, the Cowboys were athletic but not all that good as a basketball team. What has been the main difference this year?
We have a new coach named Larry Shyatt who has brought a whole new focus to this team. The motto for the team is ADU or Aggresive, Disciplined and Unselfish and that is exactly how they are playing. They play very tough defense and that is the biggest difference over last year.
2. What should we expect from the Cowboy offense? Do they like to run and push the tempo? What about their defensive schemes?
Luke Martinez and Pako Cruz love to shoot the ball from outside while Leonard Washington and Adam Waddell are very aggressive around the basket. The Cowboys aren’t going to try and run you out of the building. Instead they will use their tough defense to give opposing teams fits. They usually go man defense but utilized a zone against Colorado that worked really well. Wyoming has yet to give up 60 points or more this year.
3. It looks like most of the scoring comes from the top four scorers in Martinez, Washington, Cruz and Waddell. Is the Wyoming bench not that deep, or do they just not get many shots up?
This team has plenty of seniors, three juniors and then four freshmen. Wyoming has some depth but Shyatt has kept a pretty tight rotation. Afam Muojeke was the MWC Freshmen of the Year but has had season ending knee injuries the last two years so his minutes are fairly limited as he works his way back. Larry Nance Jr. doesn’t really score a lot of points but he fills up the stat sheet with rebounds, blocks and steals.
4. After a quick glance at the Wyoming schedule, the 9-1 record looks impressive, but the strength of schedule doesn’t look too tough, besides a solid road win against Colorado. Is the win-loss column inflated with cupcakes thus far?
It hasn’t been the toughest schedule but they’ve handled it really well and won most of the games by a large margin. Shyatt didn’t have a ton of time to put together a schedule after being hired at the end of March. He has made it a priority to play all the teams along the Front Range which is a good thing for local fans.
5. What’s the reaction from Wyoming fans regarding San Diego State’s imminent departure to the Big East/Big West? Is there a sense of loss, or are people mostly impassive?
Frankly that the Aztecs and Big East are pretty dumb. Their football team has only been good the last two years and basketball is really where their strength lies. To sell their better program down the river is pretty ridiculous. Especially when nothing is guaranteed with the success or money of the Big East in 2013.
6. If UC Irvine is going to have a chance in this game, what must they exploit?
UC Irvine will need to deal with the pressure of the Wyoming defense and stay calm. If they can get Wyoming into foul trouble it would help.