Vandal men's basketball is CIT bound

THE VANDALS WERE PICKED TO FINISH 8TH IN WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE PRESEASON POLLS, but showed tremendous poise and growth as the 2010-11 progressed to register wins at Oregon and at home over then-No.21 Utah State (the Aggies' only WAC loss), and finished the WAC season in a tie for third. As a reward, Idaho has been invited to compete in the CIT, their 2nd invitation in the last three years.

GETTING INSIDE

Idaho saw its chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years vanish with a poor final two minutes in a WAC tournament quarterfinal. The Vandals lost to San Jose State 74-68 at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, failing to win a game in the conference tournament for the third year in a row. Idaho turned the ball over three times in a four-possession span in the final two minutes and didn't score in the final three minutes of the game.

Still, coach Don Verlin couldn't find much fault about Idaho's season. The Vandals, who were picked eighth in the WAC's preseason polls, finished in a tie for third place and positioned themselves for a second postseason bid in three seasons.

"We'd love to have another opportunity, and I think this team deserves another opportunity," Verlin said before learning that the school had received, and accepted, an invitation to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.

Idaho tips off Wednesday night at 7pm PST at the University of San Francisco (17-14, 11-4 West Coast Conference).


NOTES, QUOTES

--Idaho started slowly in its regular-season finale against non-conference Seattle University on March 5. The Vandals trailed by double-digits in the first half before coming back to win 78-69.

--Idaho was picked to finish eighth in the WAC preseason polls (media and coaches), but ended up with the No. 4 seed in the league tournament with a 9-7 record. That was similar to coach Don Verlin's first season in 2008-09, when they were picked ninth in both polls but finished third with a 9-7 league mark.

--Idaho overcame a 13-point deficit to beat visiting Fresno State 69-66 on March 3, thereby clinching a first-round bye in the WAC tourney. That was the biggest deficit that Idaho overcame this season. "I think if we had lost to this game we would have just been sick to our stomach," guard Landon Tatum said in the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review.

BY THE NUMBERS: 38.8 -- 3-point shooting percentage for Idaho, which led the WAC through the regular season. The Vandals don't really specialize in the long-range, taking fewer attempts from behind the arc than almost any other WAC team, but senior G Jeff Ledbetter helps Idaho be dangerous.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've been doing that lately. That's one thing we've got to fix going into the tournament." -- G Jeff Ledbetter, in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, on the team's slow start to games.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: The Vandals accepted an invitation to play in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament shortly after their WAC tournament quarterfinal loss to San Jose State. Idaho (18-13) will play at San Francisco on March 16. The Vandals would be willing to host a second-round game in Moscow if they won, athletic director Rob Spear said.

FUTURES MARKET: True freshman F Stephen Madison had a career-high 12 points against Seattle in the final game of the regular season. He had seven consecutive points for Idaho in the first half and hit a key 3-pointer in the second half. "I thought he gave us a huge lift, I thought he was aggressive," coach Don Verlin said. "He turned it over a couple too many times, but I thought he was one of the differences in the game for us tonight." Madison is the only freshman who is contributing for Idaho.


PLAYER NOTES

--Junior F Luiz Toledo, who hadn't scored in double figures since a 19-point outburst against San Jose State on Feb. 3, finished with 12 points in the WAC tournament loss.

--Senior F Brandon Wiley made all five of his shots in the loss to San Jose State in the WAC tournament, finishing with 10 points. Through March 10, he had made eight shots in a row. He hadn't missed from the field since a March 3 win over Fresno State.

--Senior G Jeff Ledbetter made five 3-pointers in the WAC tournament loss to San Jose State. It was the seventh time this season that he made at least five treys in a game. His career high is six in a game.



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