Cowboys Highlights

General Information

NCAA Division: Division I

Conference: Mountain West

Past Conferences: MWC, WAC, MSAC, Ind

City: Arena-Auditorium

Stadium: Laramie, Wyoming

NCAA Tournaments: 1941, 1943, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1958, 1967, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1988, 2002, 2015, 2022


  •    National Championships: 1
  •    Conference Titles: 3

NCAAB Wyoming Cowboys Team History

The Wyoming Cowboys men’s basketball program has a deeply rooted history, but the program has dealt with some incredible highs while going through times of hardship. Unlike other programs across the nation, the Cowboys had an unusual beginning as a group known as the “Laramie Town Team” challenged the team.

Wyoming won their first game by a score of only 17-5. However, it took decades for the school to gain national attention, so the foundation had yet to be laid. The team became a powerhouse under head coach  Willard Witte, who was dubbed the “Dutch”.

As a member of the Mountain States Athletic Conference, Witte would lead the program to a national championship by the Helms foundation as odds why high due to a regular season record of 26-3. Everett Shelton took over the team after Witte stepped down in 1939 and became Wyoming’s winningest coach during his 19 years on the job.

Despite his abysmal start, he quickly made up for his early failures, as he was on the rise once again. The program was in its golden age under his leadership, as this is the only time the school made multiple Elite 8 appearances in the dance. In addition to the level of success, the program was able to reach its zenith in the 1943 season with a regular season record of 31-2 with the Wyoming Cowboys team stats also reaching their peak.

On his way to earning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award, Ken Sailors scored 16 points against the Georgetown Hoyas in the championship game. Amazingly, Sailors would come back after serving in WWII. In 1946, he again won college basketball’s Player of the Year award, an incredible accomplishment to say the least.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end as Shelton retired from the game. As coaches leave or retire from programs, once dominant programs begin to fall on multiple occasions throughout history. The Cowboys would stay stagnant for nearly a decade.

Bill Strannigan took over the reins and joined the Western Athletic Conference. Regardless of the change, success was a difficult task for the most part until the program punched one ticket to the dance in 1967. They would reach the Sweet 16 before falling to the eventual national champion, UCLA Bruins. There was only one winning season for the Cowboys, in 1976-77, under head coach Don DeVoe. 

Brandenburg Brings Back Success

DeVoe would leave the program to join the Tennessee Volunteers, and left the vacant seat for Jim Brandenburg, who would bring back success. During his nine-year tenure, the Cowboys would not experience a losing season, since they took advantage of the opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament four times, ending a 14-year Tournament drought.

In the 1981 season, the Cowboys would cruise past the Howard Bison in the opening round. Unfortunately, they would lose to the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round by one possession. In the second round the following season, they would lose to the Georgetown Hoyas.

In the 1986 season, the Cowboys got invited to play in the NIT, and fought to the end. However, they would lose in the Championship Game against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Brandenburg left the Cowboys in 1987 after leading them to the Sweet 16 to coach conference rival San Diego State Aztecs.

In 1988, Benny Dees took over the Cowboys and went 26–6, returning them to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Loyola-Marymount in the first round in a high-scoring affair. The program would go through another NCAA Tournament drought until Larry Shyatt led the team in his lone season before heading to the Clemson Tigers.

Steve McClain would be the next in line and had a solid record from 2001 to 2003. In 2001 and 2002, the team won two total conference titles, and in 2002 they made it to the NCAA Tournament. In the beginning, joining the Mountain West Conference was a difficult decision because it would shake up the program, all because the program went through several coaching changes, but it would eventually be worth it.

In his second stint with the program, Larry Shyatt helped the school get back on track as the team produced a record of 21-12 in the 2012 season, which was also their first 20-win season in nine years. In addition, the team would earn a bid in the 2015 season but was no match for the Northern Iowa Panthers.

Regardless of the results, the school made history once again as Larry Nance Jr. was drafted with the 27th overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers. He would be the first Cowboys player to be drafted. Theo Ratliff got the call in the 1995 Draft by the Detroit Pistons (18th overall).

In the 2022 season, the team would post a record of 25-9 under coach Jeff Linder and would lose to the Indiana Hoosiers in the First Four. Leading the charge once again for his third season, but this season is the tale of two halves for the school as they face long NCAAB odds to win the Mountain West Conference. 

All-Time NCAAB Wyoming Cowboys Records

Points Scored

  • Fennis Dembo 2,311
  • Brandon Ewing, 2,168
  • Justin James 2,061


  • Reggie Slater 1,197
  • Josh Davis 956
  • Fennis Dembo 954


  • Hunter Maldonado 513
  • Sean Dent 502
  • Brandon Ewing 471


  • Sean Dent 249
  • Fennis Dembo 176
  • Brandon Ewing 161

NCAAB Wyoming Cowboys FAQs

What is the highest win total in program history?

The highest win total in the program’s history was 31 wins to go along with just two losses. This would be the season when the Cowboys won the national championship against the Georgetown Hoyas.

Who is the winnest coach in program history?

Everett Shelton is undeniably the winnest coach in the program’s history with a record of 328-201. On top of that, he is the only coach that crossed the 300-win milestone in the team’s history. No other coach has yet to reach the 200-win milestone.

Who Is the Greatest Player in Program History?

The greatest player in the Cowboys’ history can is Theo Ratliff as he was selected in the 1995 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons with the 18th pick. He would make one All-Star appearance with the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2000-01 season. His greater accomplishments include becoming a three-time BLK Champ and making two All-NBA Defensive Teams in his 16-year professional career.

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