No. 3 Idaho (18-12, 9-5) vs. No. 6 Hawaii 15-15, 6-8), 1 p.m.
The teams split the season series, each team winning on the road. Two weeks ago, Hawaii was playing for a No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Hawaii has lost its last five games by an average of 18.8 points per game, including a 19-point home loss to the Vandals. Conversely, Idaho has won five of its last six league games and is the only WAC team to beat Nevada, doing so on the road. Hawaii is certainly talented enough to make a run this week, but the Warriors are clearly limping into the postseason.
No. 2 New Mexico State (23-9, 10-4) vs. No. 7 Fresno State (13-19, 3-11), 3:30 p.m.
NMSU swept series (60-56 home, 83-78 OT away). To his credit, Fresno State first-year head coach Rodney Terry has made the most of a lack of talent, slowing the game down to keep it close. Fresno State is 1-8 in games decided by six points or less and has lost four overtime league games. NMSU is clearly the more talented team with superior size. If the Aggies cut down on their turnovers, NMSU should advance.
No. 1 Nevada (25-5, 13-1) vs. No. 8 San Jose State (9-21, 1-13), 7 p.m.
Nevada swept the season series. When looking at the first-round matchups, appears to be the surest bet for the top seed advancing. Nevada beat San Jose State handily at home and then won a six-point decision at San Jose State. Although anything is possible in March Madness, it seems the only way Nevada would falter would be to look past the Spartans.
No. 4 Utah State (17-14, 8-6) vs. No. 5 Louisiana Tech (16-15, 6-8), 9:30 p.m.
Utah State swept the season series (69-65 at Louisiana Tech, 77-63 at home). Utah State has won two of the last WAC Tournament titles and no team wants to face the Aggies and coach Stew Morrill. But this is a different cast of characters. Both teams are Top 4 in 3-point field goal percentage, meaning whichever team heats up from long range will be marching on.
Looks like both Wen and Mullings got the real short end of the stick in POY and FOY. Appleby? Really?
What a crime McKines didn't get Player of the Year. It seems that McKines is more valuable to his team than Burton is to his. Maybe Nevada's opposing coaches voted for Burton, a sophomore (I think), to give him a nudge to declare early for the NBA draft so they won't have to face him next year.
Mullings also proved to be more valuable to his team than the La Tech frosh is. I thought Mullings was a lock after posting his triple-double in conference play (a feat matched by only 11 other guys across the nation). Hopefully, this will serve as motivation when the tournament rolls around.
Speaking of which, there's an old axiom in college basketball about beating a team three times in one season. If the Aggies can pull that off against Fresno State, beat Idaho* (who I think will win easily over a struggling Hawai'i squad), they'll face Nevada (most likely) for the third time.
Both Nevada and NMSU don't go very deep in their benches. For the tournament, the Aggies are going to need some production out of Dixon and DJ Lewis. I don't think we can expect Laroche to go 38-plus minutes three days in a row and if Lewis can provide five to ten quality minutes in each of the first two rounds where he plays good defense and doesn't turnover the ball, that will help a whole lot. I'm wary of Remi Barry. He now seems to operate with such uncertainty about himself. He moves like he has eggs in pockets. Dixon can defend and rebound when he decides he wants to. Someone should remind him that December was a long time ago; all's forgiven and forgotten. Stop already with self-imposed shame and mix it up.
I am really very hopeful about this team and their chances of winning this tournament. It'll be a grind of a weekend, but they have a guy in McKines whom I trust to put this team on his back and carry them to a championship.
*Idaho's a tough team to beat lately. That game's going to be a dog-fight. However, I'm glad Utah State is in the other bracket.
Overall, if you're a sports fan like I am, this is one the best times of the year. Conference-tournament basketball leading into the NCAAs is always a blast to watch. Before Selection Sunday arrives in seven days, I'm reminded of what a wise old friend says about the selection process: if you're in your conference's tournament, you're at the door of the NCAA tournament. To guarantee entry, win your conference tournament and leave nothing to chance for the committee who offer at-large bids to schools that travel well, meaning they have fans who can afford opening round tickets, airfare, and lodging. This is, after all, a revenue-generating affair.
Any who. I never should've had that second rambling-inducing cup of coffee.
Let's go Aggies!
Yeah, Appleby lived up to his billing when they came to Pan Am.
While I think Mullings is the better overall player compared to Appleby, there is a huge difference between being the 3rd or 4th scorer on the team and being asked to carry the scoring load every night like Appleby was. I don't have a huge complaint there.
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