College Preview

2006 Mountain West Conference Preview




HOW THEY'LL FINISH



Conference Overall


W
L
W
L
1. Texas Christian (19)
--
--
41
20
2. San Diego State
17
13
26
35
3. +Nevada-Las Vegas
23
7
35
29
4. Brigham Young
21
9
39
19
5. New Mexico
15
15
26
32
6. Utah
10
20
19
36
7. Air Force
4
26
9
44
(2005 records listed; 2006 national ranking in parentheses)
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface

Projected NCAA Teams (1): Texas Christian.
Conference Schedule: 18 games. Schedule begins April 6.
Conference Tournament: Seven teams, May 23-27 at Las Vegas (Nevada-Las Vegas).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
* 2005 conference leader

C—Jordan Swaydan, Sr., San Diego State (.333-2-26). 1B—Chris Carlson, Jr., New Mexico (.395-15-79). 2B—Chad Huffman, Jr., Texas Christian (.353-12-53). 3B—Jay Brossman, Jr., Utah (.377-8-51). SS—Lance Zawadski, Jr., San Diego State (.335-10-53). OF—Austin Adams, Jr., Texas Christian (.318-8-36); Quentin Berry, Jr., San Diego State (*.419-2-43, *18 SB); Ryan Bird, Sr., Nevada-Las Vegas (.343-6-57). DH—Jordan Pacheco, So., New Mexico (.408-15-52). P—Bruce Billings, Jr., San Diego State (6-5, 3.85, 108 IP/*112 SO); Brad Furnish, Jr., Texas Christian (5-6, 4.14); Justin Masterson, Jr., San Diego State (9-4, 2.09, 95 IP/96 SO at Bethel, Ind.). RP—Shawn Ferguson, Sr., Texas Christian (1-2, 5.56, 3 SV, 34 IP/49 SO).

Player of the Year: Quentin Berry, of, San Diego State.
Pitcher of the Year: Justin Masterson, rhp, San Diego State.
Freshman of the Year: Nick Romero, 2b, San Diego State (40th round/Royals ’05).

Top Newcomers: 1. Justin Masterson, rhp, San Diego State. 2. Jake Arrieta, rhp, Texas Christian (So., 26th round/Brewers ’05). 3. Brent Allar, rhp, Texas Christian (Jr., 11th round/Brewers ’05).

TOP PROSPECTS, 2006-07 DRAFTS

1. Justin Masterson, rhp, San Diego State.
2. Quentin Berry, of, San Diego State.
3. Bruce Billings, rhp, San Diego State.
4. Brent Allar, rhp, Texas Christian.
5. Lance Zawadski, ss, San Diego State.

BEST TOOLS

Best Pure Hitter—Chad Huffman, Texas Christian. Best Raw Power—Chris Carlson, New Mexico. Best Strike-Zone Discipline—Apana Nakayama, Brigham Young. Best Athlete—Quentin Berry, San Diego State. Fastest Runner—Quentin Berry, San Diego State. Best Baserunner—Quentin Berry, San Diego State. Best Defensive Catcher--Jordan Swaydan, San Diego State. Catcher/Best Arm—Jordan Swaydan, San Diego State. Best Defensive First Baseman—Ben Saylor, Brigham Young. Best Defensive Second Baseman—C.J. Long, Nevada-Las Vegas. Best Defensive Third Baseman—Jay Brossman, Utah. Best Defensive Shortstop—Mike Cruz, Nevada-Las Vegas. Infielder/Best Arm—Lance Zawadski, San Diego State. Best Defensive Outfielder—Ryan Bird, Nevada-Las Vegas. Outfielder/Best Arm—Ryan Bird, Nevada-Las Vegas. Best Fastball—Justin Masterson, San Diego State. Best Breaking Ball—Matt Luca, Nevada-Las Vegas. Best Control—Bruce Billings, San Diego State.

SHORT HOPS

• After leading Texas Christian to consecutive Conference USA titles in his two years in that conference, Jim Schlossnagle returns to familiar ground this year. Prior to taking the TCU coaching job in 2004, Schlossnagle was the head coach at Nevada-Las Vegas in 2002 and 2003 and led the Rebels to the conference championship in his final year at UNLV. Schlossnagle’s former UNLV assistant Buddy Gouldsmith has led the Rebels to Mountain West Conference titles in his first two years, giving UNLV three titles in a row.

• Despite adding TCU to the ranks, the Mountain West will reduce its conference schedule this year from 30 to 18 games. However, the league has added a pre-season tournament in San Diego, from March 28-April 2, a week before the regular season begins. The conference’s post-season tournament will move to Las Vegas from May 23-27.

• Led by San Diego State junior OF Quentin Berry, who hit .419 and led the conference with 96 hits and 18 stolen bases, the Mountain West returns its top four hitters. New Mexico sophomore 2B Jordan Pacheco (.408-15-52), New Mexico junior DH Chris Carlson (.395-15-79) and Utah junior 3B Jay Brossman (.377-8-51). The most notable absentee is Brigham Young 3B Brandon Taylor (.356-20-83), the conference home run and RBI leader who signed with the Cubs.

• San Diego State may have landed the nation’s premier transfer with the addition of junior RHP Justin Masterson, a potential first-round pick in June. Masterson spent his first two years at NAIA Bethel (Ind.) College and went 9-4, 2.09 with 96 strikeouts in 95 innings last year. He followed that up with a brilliant summer for Wareham in the Cape Cod League, going 3-1, 1.15 with 10 saves and 39 strikeouts in 31 innings. He is slated to take over as San Diego State’s No. 1 starter, bumping junior RHP Bruce Billings, his teammate last summer at Wareham and the reigning MWC strikeout leader, to the No. 2 role. “Justin is the best pitcher we’ve had in years,” Aztecs coach Tony Gwynn said.

• Masterson is one of three significant four-year transfers for San Diego State. Also joining the Aztecs is former UCLA RHP Adam Simon (1-5, 6.79), who will slot into the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind Masterson and Billings; and ex-New Orleans OF Paul Smyth (.338-4-39), who becomes the DH.

• Texas Christian lost its best pitcher, White Sox first-round draft pick Lance Broadway, who led Conference USA in wins (15), ERA (1.62) and strikeouts (151), as well as its top hitter, SS Shelby Ford (.370-7-39), who transferred to Oklahoma State. But the Horned Frogs went a long way to replacing the pair by importing sophomore SS Bryan Kervin from Arizona, where he hit .342-0-22; and a pair of righthanders from Weatherford (Texas) JC drafted by the Brewers, sophomore Jake Arrieta, a 26th-rounder and junior Brent Allar, an 11th-rounder.

• In addition to Taylor, the conference player of the year who left for pro ball after his junior year, Brigham Young also lost the services of Freshman All-American 2B Sean McNaughton (.327-12-43), who went on a Mormon mission. McNaughton’s spot will be taken by a freshman, Dan Vargas, while Chris Johnson and Blake Crosby, two freshmen returning from missions, will contend for the opening left by Taylor.