March Madness: WAC Tournament preview

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by - 3/7/2012 1:22 AM Share
Regular season champion Nevada is the clear-cut team to beat when the WAC Tournament starts Wednesday in Las Vegas - bet on the tournament and all of at

The Wolfpack, who haven't played in the Big Dance in five years, finished the regular season with a 25-5 record and won the WAC title by three games. They've only lost twice since Nov. 25. They only lost one league game — to Idaho in early February. And yet, still, Nevada probably needs to win the WAC Tournament to ensure a spot in the NCAA Tournament because David Carter's team is 0-3 against the Top 50 with an RPI in the 40s. That's not awful, but it's not great either. So the Wolfpack would be wise to win three games in Las Vegas, cut nets and relax. Anything short of that could make for a stressful Selection Sunday. New Mexico State is the No. 2 seed this week. Nevada beat the Aggies twice this season by an average of six points.

A sleeper this week could be Louisiana Tech. Before losing to the Wolf Pack on Saturday, the Bulldogs had won six straight games, including a pair of non-conference games against North Dakota and Central Arkansas. The team's top five scorers are all guards. Freshman Raheem Appleby led the squad with 13.8 points and scored a career-high 30 points on Feb. 4 against New Mexico State. He had 25 points in the two losses against USU. Ole Miss transfer Trevor Gaskins also provided 11.0 points and scored at least 13 points in his last four games. The 6-foot-2 senior hit 39.1% of his threes.

One marks the number of times the No. 1 seed has won the men's championship when played at a neutral court arena. New Mexico won the tournament in 1993 as the No. 3 seed, while No. 4 seed Hawai‘i won the title at the 1994 tournament. Both neutral-site tournament were held at the Delta Center (now Energy Solutions Arena) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah State became the first No. 1 seed to win the tournament at a neutral site in Las Vegas in 2011.

Of the 28 previous tournaments, a team which has either won or tied for the regular season title has won the tournament only 12 times: UTEP (1984, 1986), Brigham Young (1992), Utah (1995, 1997, 1999), Hawai‘i (2002), Nevada (2004, 2006), Boise State (2008) and Utah State (2009, 2011).

UNLV (1998) and Hawai‘i (2001) are the lowest seeded teams to ever win the tournament. Both teams were the fifth seed. The tournament's top-seeded team has been beaten in the championship game six times.

No team from the conference has received better than a 11 seed in the March Madness NCAA Tournament the last five years. They did snag two 12 seeds in 2010, but 2007 was their last tourney win (when Nevada as a seven-seed beat Creighton in the first round). The odds are that they won't get more than one team in again this year.

WAC Tournament schedule

Thursday (All games played at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas)

G1 - #3 Idaho vs. #6 Hawaii - Noon (All times Pacific)

G2 -#2 New Mexico State vs. #7 Fresno State - 2:30 PM

G3 - #1 Nevada vs. #8 San Jose State - 6PM

G4 - #4 Utah State vs. #5 Louisiana Tech - 8:30PM


G5 - G1 winner vs. G2 winner - 6PM

G6 - G3 winner vs. G4 winner - 8:30PM

Saturday, March 10

G7 - Mountain West Championship G5 winner vs. G6 winner - 9PM (ESPN2)

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