Just one game on the slate tonight, so let's break it down, a la the :26 second mark of this:
First, why do the Stampede have a wolf mascot? I was going to give it the old college try and decide which mascot would win, and therefore, which team would. Once I found out about the Stampede not having a horse mascot, I can't go with that. I just can't judge this one fairly, as I can't decide if the Stampede should be represented as the horse in it's logo or the wolf mascot.
Then, I was going to look at Matt Brennan's power rankings and decide from there. Unfortunately, Tulsa, the 16th ranked team, went 2-1 last week, and Colorado, the top ranked team, has lost their last two games, so I might need to hold on that one as well! Disclaimer: My power rankings would be very similar to Mr. Brennan's, probably even the same, which is why I don't post them.
Since neither of those plans worked out, I guess I'm going to have dig further into this. Idaho's best perimeter player, Luke Jackson is out, so someone is going to have to step up to fill his spot. Utah's leader, point guard Dontell Jefferson is still on call-up for the Bobcats, so Kevin Kruger will have to step it up. Neither teams premiere BIG man can stay out of foul trouble, as Utah's James Lang is averaging just 20 minutes and Idaho via Toronto's Nate Jawai is averaging just 24 minutes. Those two should cancel each other out. I'd say Ronald Dupree should be able to go to work against the Stampede, but probably not going to happen with Brent Petway defending him. Basically, what it's going to come down to is Mo Almond's outside game versus Lance Allred's inside game. Both are hot lately (Almond always is in the D-League), and neither team really has the personnel to shut the other down.
There ya have it. Matchup of the night: 6'10" Lance Allred versus Utah's own Mo Almond. Kind of.
Also, big playoff implications for this game, as Utah is just one game behind Idaho for the division lead. If Idaho wins tonight, they will clinch the season series. If Utah wins, they still have a chance to tie.
My pick, and I've jinxed teams before, are the Idaho Stampede. Even matchup, so gotta come down to coaching -.B-Gates gets the nod!
As I predicted, Idaho won, 99-92, in a not spectacularly attended, but well-officiated, (besides one major gaffe that Marat Kogut wasn't even a part of!) basketball game.
Idaho was led by Nate Jawai! Jawai, the Toronto Raptors assignee, had his best game in the D-League yet, scoring 21 points, grabbing five boards, and blocking two shots in 34 minutes. He was being defended by Brian Jackson and Kyrylo Fesenko, not James Lang, which is what threw me off. Fes isn't a great defender, Jackson didn't have the girth - James Lang would have been just right. Regardless, Fesenko was overheard saying "Jawai, he is useless."
Other notables for Idaho include Lance Allred with 12 points and 15 boards (big first quarter - terribly officiated 3-second violation on an offensive rebound in the fourth where he was fouled multiple times) and Kevin Burleson with 16 points and six assists, but seven turnovers.
Utah was led by, you guessed it, Mo Almond. Almond scored just 20 points, not even making 50% of his shots (8-of-17)! As per his game, he really didn't add anything else to the game. Our on-site reporter, Dee-Jay, does report that he said the game was boring.
Other notables include Fes, who finished with 14 points and seven boards in 22 minutes, Kevin Kruger with 17 points and four assists (nice little one-man run in the fourth), and always solid, rarely spectacular Ronald Dupree, who finished with 14 points, six assists, and five boards.