WAC tourney preview

Utah State’s position atop the Western Athletic Conference was made official late Thursday night after Nevada defeated New Mexico State, 100-92. The USU 81-63 victory over NMSU Saturday night was merely a formality, yet still sent a strong message to the rest of the league that USU (25-6, 14-2) remained the premiere men’s basketball team in the conference with its third straight regular-season WAC title.As games concluded around the WAC Saturday night, the last regular season standings for the rest of the WAC finalized but required some tie-breakers. The final standings have also set the stage for who will be playing whom in the

<a href=”http://www.wacsports.com/pdf8/677424.pdf”>WAC Men’s Basketball Tournament</a>

March 11-13th. USU, the back-to-back-to-back WAC champs will face off against Boise State (15-16, 5-11) in the first game of the tournament at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, NV with tipoff at 1 p.m. MST. Boise St. began conference play losing seven straight and 10 of their first 12 overall against WAC opponents. The Broncos seem to have found themselves over the past few weeks, however, as they have won four of their last six. In their two losses over that span, both were by less than 10 points. Boise has also stepped up its offensive output, averaging 81 points a game over that stretch. Pre-game coverage of the Aggies versus the Broncos begins at 12:05 p.m. on 610 AM/102.1 FM KVNU and 95.9 KLZX. The game will also be carried on ESPNU beginning at 1 p.m.Even though Nevada and New Mexico State ended their seasons with the exact same overall (19-11) and conference records (11-5), Nevada owns the tiebreaker based on a sweep of the season series. Nevada finishes second and New Mexico State finishes in the third position.Nevada will face Don Verlin’s seventh-seeded Idaho Vandals (15-15, 6-10) in the first game of the second session Thursday. Idaho came into the season being selected by the coaches and media to finish as the number four team in the conference but finished far below expectations. The Vandals share the same conference record as San Jose State, but end the season at number seven in the standings. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST. San Jose St. (14-16, 6-10) began the season as a promising team, winning seven of 10 since right before Christmas. After the Spartans came up against the Aggie buzz saw, however, their season fell into a steady decline losing eight of their last 10, including their season finale vs Boise St. by nearly 30 points. San Jose St. will face off against New Mexico St. in the late game Thursday, with tipoff scheduled at 9:30 p.m. MST. The winner of the New Mexico St.-San Jose St. game will play the winner of the Nevada-Idaho game Friday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.After a strong first half of their season leading the WAC, Louisiana Tech (22-9, 9-7) has stumbled down the stretch losing every-other game it has played since mid-January. La Tech will enter the WAC tournament as the number four seed. The Bulldogs will have a rematch of their regular season finale which they lost to the other Bulldogs of Fresno State, 66-59. Fresno St. (15-17, 7-9), meanwhile, enters the tournament as the number five seed. Fresno and La Tech will face each other Thursday at 3:30 MST on ESPNU. The winner of that match-up will face the winner of the USU-Boise St. game on Friday at 7 p.m. There is no national television planned for this game.Hawai’i finished the season as the last place team (10-20, 3-13) and will not participate in the WAC tournament. The WAC excludes the ninth-place team from its conference tournament. Hawaii also finished the season 0-9 on the road. This year’s win total was the lowest Hawai’i has ever had since going 6-20 in 1998-1999.The winners of the semifinal games on Friday will face off in the WAC Championship game Saturday, March 13 at 8 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2. The winner of the WAC tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

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