The Mountain West title likely won’t be decided by transfers, but three newcomers should make an impact on the Mountain West standings.
And Tim Williams, who landed at New Mexico, should be one of the most productive additions to the MWC.
The 6-foot-9 forward won’t solve the issues New Mexico had shooting from the perimeter last season, but the former Samford Bulldog brings a scoring punch on the inside.
In 2013-14, Williams shot 73.6 percent at the rim for Samford. The Lobos ranked 156th in the nation in field goal percentage at the rim last season making just 59.4 percent of their close range shots, per Hoop Math. It was a steep fall from the 2013-14 season, when New Mexico posted the most efficient offense in the conference and finished in the nation’s top 50 in field goal percentage at the rim at 64.6 percent.
Last year New Mexico’s offense was only better than Nevada and San Jose State in the Mountain West. With Cullen Neal’s return from injury, the Lobos should see an improvement in perimeter efficiency. Neal has made 37.6 percent of his career 133 three pointers, but he struggled in his freshman year scoring inside the arc, as he shot 39.2 percent on two pointers.
Williams averaged 17.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in his final year at Samford. There might be a slight step up in competition for Williams going from the Southern Conference to the Mountain West, but he should be one of the better interior scorers in the conference next season.
UNLV will be expecting a scoring boost from a transfer, as former Mercer Bear Ike Nwamu could find himself in the starting lineup from game one. Nwamu will be taking that same step up as Williams coming from the Atlantic Sun, but unlike Williams, Nwamu won’t have a season off to acclimate to his new team. He’s eligible immediately after scoring 15.1 points per game last season.
Nwamu has proven to be an efficient player, shooting 39 percent from three in his career, which also includes a season at Cleveland State. He’s also shot 49 percent from two, while posting an offensive rating over 107 in every season.
But how much Nwamu contributes is yet to be determined. UNLV is deep on the wings, and while Nwamu will likely be a starter, it’s not a sure bet. It might not be his slashing or shooting that keeps him on the floor, but rather his defense.
In last season’s 18-15 disappointment, UNLV performed pretty well on offense, posting the third best efficiency mark in the Mountain West. It was on defense – eighth in efficiency – particularly defending off the dribble that cause the Rebels downfall. If Nwamu can simply stay in front of his man, he’ll give Dave Rice a pleasant sight that was missing from last year’s UNLV team.
The third transfer that will make a major impact is Lonnie Jackson going from Boston College to Boise State. Jackson is the transfer that makes the most sense. He is a shooter, and the Broncos rode the three ball to a Mountain West regular season title. At 38.9 percent, Boise State finished 24th in the country in three-point shooting.
Jackson shot 38.2 percent from three in his Boston College career; 78.9 percent of his shots were three pointers. He missed nearly all of last season due to a leg injury, but is eligible immediately for Boise State.
The Bronco offense thrived off of Derrick Marks playmaking last year. Marks is gone, but Anthony Drmic is back from injury and will assume the lead-scorer role again for Leon Rice. But Drmic doesn’t create off ball-screens like Marks once did. But with Jackson and terrific shooting bigs in James Webb and Nick Duncan, the Broncos will once again have one of the most efficient offenses in the conference.