Kevin's Commentary: Wyoming Basketball
Dec. 13, 2012
Laramie, Wyo. - It's unprecedented in the history of Wyoming basketball.
It's a bit unexpected I suppose, but it sure has been a whole lot of fun.
Since the Cowboys and Cowgirls began playing basketball in the same year--that goes back to 1973-74 -- never have both programs tipped off a season so successfully.
As the Cowgirls head into their Friday night game with Weber State, they are 7-1. As the Cowboys ready for their Tuesday (Dec. 18) game with Denver University, they are 10-0, and receiving votes to enter the national rankings. The combined 17-1 mark far outdistances any other tandem in Wyoming history. On six other occasions in their combined history, the two programs have gotten out of the pre-conference gate with a 14-4 record, but that's the closest any tandem has come to matching this current campaign.
In fact, just twice previously had one or the other ever been undefeated this deep into the season. Benny Dees' first Cowboy team began 1987-88 with an 11-0 record, before losing at New Mexico and UTEP to open conference play. Twice the Cowgirls started 8-0, 1973-74 (the first year of their existence) and in 1978-79.
In other words, we are experiencing something historic.
Here's how special this start has been. Through last weekend there were only three other schools in the country that had gotten off to a combined start like Wyoming's Cowboys and Cowgirls. Syracuse was 17-1, Oklahoma State was 14-1 and Kansas State was 13-1.
On the other hand, only the staunchest of Cowboy rooters could have felt Larry Shyatt's team could produce such a magnificent start. The Pokes had an excellent season a year ago, but six seniors from that group finished their careers. A lot of new names dotted the 2012-13 roster, and more than likely would need the pre-conference portion of the schedule to find themselves. That non-conference schedule also had some pratfalls lurking. Road games like UC Santa Barbara, Illinois State and Northern Colorado and a home date with old rival Colorado loomed as major hurdles. But like the Cowgirls, these Pokes have bought into their coach's system. They have assimilated his tough, street-smart attitude. That attitude has been most evident at the defensive end. While Wyoming has received offense from some unexpected sources, defense has been its key. These Cowboys are a confident bunch as well.
What I love most about these two outfits is that they can finish. Both teams have had first-half struggles during their respective auspicious starts. But both have executed their coaches' halftime adjustments and won games in the second half. During this early run of success that has happened time after time.
Wyoming has benefitted from a number of excellent basketball coaches through its history. But rarely has it ever been blessed with two better motivators, two better technicians, and two better floor coaches at the same time as it is enjoying right now. Both Legerski and Shyatt have been at it for a long time. They cut their coaching teeth in outstanding programs and learned from great basketball minds. We are the beneficiaries of their wisdom. They also know how to fit together the puzzle pieces, and maybe as important as anything, how to hire assistant coaches who understand their philosophies, and can complete that puzzle.
Yes, fans of Wyoming, we are very lucky right now. We are lucky to have these two gentlemen with us at the same time. Who knows how their respective seasons will play out. We do know there likely will be some rough spots. We know how much we have enjoyed watching these two programs make history to this point, and we also know that big time energy is back in the Arena-Auditorium. If you haven't been in the Double A yet, you'd better get there. History tells us this is a special year. Wyoming basketball--all of it--is fun again. Come experience it!
While the ultimate goal of a collegiate student-athlete is to receive a great education and earn a degree, it's always fun when individuals who have worn the brown and gold advance to the next level of their respective sports. A quick glance around the National Football League tells us that there are a number of Cowboys currently finding the spotlight on the big stage.
I was reminded of this the other week when Denver defensive tackle Mitch Unrein (2006-09) caught a touchdown pass for the Broncos on a tackle-eligible play. Just last week he recovered a fumble in the red zone. There's always an extra dose of Cowboy pride when we see that happen.
Certainly Unrein isn't the only Cowboy contributing to an NFL team. Malcom Floyd (2000-03) is a premier receiver for the San Diego Chargers. Derrick Martin (2003-05) for New England and Tashaun Gipson (2008-11) for Cleveland have intercepted passes. Two of Wyoming's very best safeties -- Chris Prosinski (2007-10) at Jacksonville and John Wendling (2003-06) at Detroit--have made impressive plays for their respective teams. These guys represent their current colors with distinction, but to us they will always be Cowboys first.