Conference Tourney Primers: WAC

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 12th, 2015

We’re in the midst of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the continuing action by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way.

WAC Tournament

Dates: March 12-14

Site: Orleans Arena (Las Vegas, NV)

wacrealWhat to expect: The talent gap between New Mexico State and the rest of the conference is substantial, a reality which the final standings confirmed; Marvin Menzies’ team cruised to a 12-1 WAC record and won the league by four games. The Aggies are led by an athletic point guard, senior Daniel Mullings, and one of the tallest frontcourts in college basketball. Since losing to Seattle in mid-January, the league champs have reeled off 11 straight victories, including their last seven by an average of nearly 16 points per game. And on top of all that, they are the only team with a bye to the semifinals. It’s hard to imagine the Redhawks or any other challenger stopping them from reaching a fourth-straight NCAA Tournament.

Favorite: New Mexico State. The Aggies were hit with the injury bug in early December, losing preseason all-conference forward Tshilidzi Nephawe for one month with a foot injury, and Mullings – reigning WAC Player of the Year – for eight weeks with a broken finger. Both are back and fully healthy, and the team now looks as good as it has all season. That is bad news for everyone else.

Darkhorse: Seattle. There probably isn’t a darkhorse or even a “next best bet” in this event, but Seattle was the only team to beat New Mexico State in league play this season and that has to count for something. Isiah Umipig is one of the best three-point shooters in college basketball (43% 3FG), once dropping 33 points in a victory over eventual Big West champion UC Davis. Perhaps similar heroics are in store this week. Chicago State and its steal-happy defense also played the turnover-prone Aggies tough this year, but it’s doubtful the Cougars (8-23 overall) have enough juice to reach the title game.

Who wins: New Mexico State. One good thing about Mullings and Nephawe missing time was that freshman Pascal Siakam (13.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and senior Remi Barry (13.2 PPG) became two of the WAC’s top players. New Mexico State (#93) now ranks 166 spots higher in KenPom than the league’s next-best team (Seattle – #259) and should have no problem taking care of business in Las Vegas. The Aggies are tall, talented and tournament-tested.

Player to watch: Daniel Mullings – New Mexico State. The Canadian (12.8 PPG) can get to the rim when he wants and defends as aggressively as anyone in the conference (1.8). He is the team leader, its most dynamic guard and don’t you dare question his athleticism…

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *