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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Can They Give Us More Than Spuds

Idaho is a beautiful state.

Coeur d'Alene, if you have not visited, you should put it on the bucket list. Sun Valley, not for me, but lots of people like it and the Magic Valley of Southern Idaho is one of the most gorgeous settings and best climates in all the 50 states. Last, but not least, where else are you going to get awesome potatoes, actually no where,  as Idaho spuds are the best.

The big question is, are the Idaho Vandals on the cusp of giving us some consistent good basketball for the first time ever? It would appear the answer might be yes.

Under the direction of  head coach Don Verlin, the Vandals are improving and starting to show signs they can become a force in the Western Athletic Conference. Some more good news, they no longer have to battle downstate rival Boise State in league competition, as the Broncos have moved to the Mt. West after having some pretty good basketball years under Greg Graham and last year with first year coach Leon Rice.

While the Vandals are not ready to give the people of Idaho an NCAA championship, they might be ready to make it to the NCAA tournament. Under Verlin's three year reign, he has guided the team to a 50-46 record, not something to throw a parade about, but considering that before Verlin arrived the Vandals had nine straight losing seasons.

Verlin has a nice recruiting class coming in for 2011-12 in local product Connor Hill, Xavier Brazilo and standout JC player Mansa Kaleeb, who very easily could become newcomer of the year in the WAC.

Last year the Vandals pulled off one of the biggest upsets in basketball school history, when they defeated perennial WAC powerhouse Utah State at home on national TV, 64-56, to break the Aggies 25 game league winning streak. While one game does not make a basketball program, confidence in beating the best can go a long ways. The Vandals also reached the post season of one of alphabet tournaments, losing to Santa Clara in the CIT (College Insider Tournament).

When you think about Idaho Vandal basketball, you have to think really, really hard about notable players. Sadly, there is only one, the great Gus Johnson, one of the most tenacious defenders and rebounders the NBA has ever seen and a 2010 inductee into the basketball Hall of Fame.

Greatness with Idaho Vandal basketball stopped with Johnson, but perhaps winning consistently can come back under the direction of Don Verlin. Of course the one big problem, is keeping Verlin at the Moscow campus. His name is often mentioned when jobs become open on the west coast and obviously some people are paying attention to the work he is doing with the Vandals.

It will be fun to watch the Vandals in 2011-12. Can they keep it going? I sure hope so, cause the state of Idaho needs more to cheer about than Boise State football.

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