The Western Athletic Conference Tournament begins today with first round games starting at 2:30 Pacific Time on ESPN3. The tournament is hosted at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Because there are only eight teams in the WAC, the tournament begins with the quarterfinals. New Mexico State, the regular season champions of the conference, are predicted to win the tournament for the second year in a row.
1 New Mexico State vs. 8 Chicago State:
The Aggies are favored by 25.5 over the Cougars. In their two meetings against each other, NMSU has won both games. When the Aggies visited CSU on January sixth, they obliterated the Cougars by 37. In the next contest at home, the Aggies won by 11.
NMSU’s season has been quite exciting so far, with wins over Miami, Davidson, Illinois, UC Irvine, and Utah Valley. They have a 12-2 record in the WAC, the best in the conference. At one point this season, the Aggies were 26th in the country.
This season is not that surprising, with the nations second-best rebounded in 6’5″ Jemerrio Jones, who is also the WAC Player of the year. The team also has Zach Lofton, a grad transfer from Texas Southern who is an offensive fire power. Lofton averages 19 points and 5 rebounds shooting 46% from the field.
Chicago State, on the other hand, has had a terribly disappointing season. The Cougars have won a mere 3 games this season, though in their season finale they defeated UMKC by double-digits. The Cougars are led by Fred Sims Jr. and Deionte Simmons, who combine for 26 points and 10 rebounds per game.
There isn’t much of a chance for Chicago State, unless NMSU goes completely cold and Jones hauls in less than 5 rebounds, which hasn’t happened yet this season. The Aggies are a powerhouse in the WAC and are looking to go deep in the NCAA Tournament.
2 Utah Valley vs. 7 Cal State Bakersfield
This game seems to be an easy one for the Wolverines, though it’s quite possible the Roadrunners will turn their gears in the tournament. In the past two years, CSUB has been to the WAC Championship game. In 2016, the Roadrunners went dancing, though in 2017, they fell short to New Mexico State.
Utah Valley has a great season, winning 21 games and only having 9 losses. They’ve defeated NMSU, which only one other WAC team has done this season (Seattle). The Wolverines have 5 players who are averaging over 11 points per game. They share the ball very well, ranking in the top 30 in the country for assists.
Cal State Bakersfield has had a somewhat disappointing season. The main problem for the Roadrunners is their horrid offense. They are one of the worst offenses in the entire country, only scoring 65.8 points per game. CSUB does not share or rebound the ball well either. Their defense is decent, as it is 80th in the country in points allowed.
This contest will likely be an easy Wolverine win, unless the Roadrunners start scoring tremendously better. Utah Valley has defeated Bakersfield by a combined total of 56 points this season, and another domination is expected for the Wolverines this evening.
3 Grand Canyon vs. 6 UMKC
Grand Canyon will likely have an easy win in their first-ever WAC Tournament game. In the teams’ two match ups this season, Grand Canyon has won both by double digits.
The Antelopes are building a program in Phoenix. This season is a milestone, as it is GCU’s first time being eligible for Division 1 postseason play. The team will likely be extremely motivated to win the WAC, and maybe win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament. The Havocs will likely be at every game in the post season cheering them on, quite loudly.
Grand Canyon is a solid team. They rank in the top 30 in the country in rebounds and assists per game. They also have a stifling defense, allowing only 64 points per game. That’s 14th in the country. The Antelopes will be a tough out in March.
UMKC has not had a good season by any means. They were the only team to lose to Chicago State in Division 1. The team is young, and in the next two seasons the Roos will be a legitimate threat in the WAC.
Grand Canyon should secure this win by double digits, as it would surprise me if the Roos could score on Grand Canyon’s defense.
4 Seattle vs. 5 UT Rio Grande Valley
This game may be the most fun to watch in the WAC Quarterfinals. Seattle has won both games against UTRGV this season, the one was within three points. Seattle has much more postseason experience, as they went to the WAC Championship in the 2015 season, though lost to NMSU.
One thing that Seattle has on their record that no other WAC team has besides Utah Valley is a win over New Mexico State. If the Red Hawks defeat the Vaqueros tonight, then Seattle gets New Mexico State- barring a near impossible upset to Chicago State. The Red Hawks are led by guard Matej Kavas, though five players on the roster average 10 or more points per game.
The Vaqueros have had a much better season than previous years. UTRGV has won 15 games, and are at the middle of the WAC, something they aren’t used to. Nick Dixon averages points a game, something that the Red Hawks will have trouble with tonight.
This game will be a battle of the guards between Matej Kavas and Nick Dixon. Both players will likely score over 20 points tonight. This contest will close out the WAC Quarterfinals with this match up in a late night game, starting at 8:30 Pacific Time on ESPN3/Watch ESPN
The WAC Semifinals will also be aired on ESPN3/WatchESPN, and the Tournament Championship will be on ESPNU.