LARAMIE -- Jeff Linder's Cowboys arrived way ahead of schedule.

Let's be real, if I told you before the season that Wyoming would win 25 games -- 11 on the road -- finish fourth in the Mountain West and punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament, no way you would've believed that.

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I'm with you.

Oh, by the way, they accomplished all of that without Kenny Foster, who missed a huge chunk of the season with a high-ankle sprain followed by an illness. Xavier DuSell also missed time during conference play with a hamstring strain. He didn't play to his own expectations on the offensive end of the floor, either.

I knew this squad would be competitive. I thought they could steal one or two games they shouldn't. I figured the Pokes would be a team no one wanted to face.

All true -- and then some.

Consider this, UW lost the conference freshman of the year in Marcus Williams. The offense went through the point guard, who bolted for Texas A&M after the season. Hunter Maldonado was asked to fill in as the floor general, a position he had never played in Laramie.

Linder called most of his roster "COVID freshmen." Four of those guys -- DuSell, Graham Ike, Jeremiah Oden and Brendan Wenzel -- were playing in front of fans for the first time in their career. Another guy in the rotation, Noah Reynolds, was a true freshman.

Is anyone really surprised that Wyoming was picked to finish tied for eighth in the league in the preseason poll considering all of that?

If your memories of this team is a rash of turnovers and a squandered opportunity in that opening-round loss to Indiana in the First Four in Dayton, you're doing yourself a serious disservice.

Linder is now the proud owner of a new contract extension. Hunter Thompson announced he will be back for a fifth year. If his NBA plans don't pan out, Maldonado will also be back for a sixth season.

Drake Jeffries, for now, is the biggest offseason loss. The Pokes' top deep threat has entered the NBA Draft. Whether or not he gets that call, he's planning to go pro. John Grigsby, Deng Dut, Eoin Nelson and Ben Bowen entered the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Those four scored a combined 22 points.

Listen to our recap of the Cowboys' magical ride right HERE.

Jared Newland and I chatted about the Cowgirls run through the WNIT, the 19-year UW career of Gerald Mattinson and the new bench boss, Heather Ezell.

Craig Bohl's boys opened spring camp two weeks ago. With only four seniors on the roster, the storylines are plentiful this season. Position battles are heating up and the new blood -- especially at the QB spot -- brings the most intrigue.

We get you up to date on the latest from the Pokes on the gridiron.

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University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

During the summer of 2021, 7220Sports.com counted down the Top 50 football players in University of Wyoming history, presented by Premier Bone & Joint Centers, Worthy of Wyoming.

The rules are simple: What was the player's impact while in Laramie? That means NFL stats, draft status or any other accolade earned outside of UW is irrelevant when it comes to this list.

This isn't a one-man job. This task called for a panel of experts. Joining 7220's Cody Tucker are Robert GagliardiJared NewlandRyan Thorburn, and Kevin McKinney.

We all compiled our own list of 50 and let computer averages do the work. Think BCS -- only we hope this catalog is fairer.

Don't agree with a selection? Feel free to sound off on our Twitter: @7220sports - #Top50UWFB

- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players