Favorite(s)-Louisiana Tech (26-5 16-2)
People weren’t sure what to expect in the WAC this season. The conference was loaded with turmoil as teams were coming and going. As the dust settled a surprising team rose to the top, Louisiana Tech. After finishing barely over .500 last year (18-16) they have won a share of the WAC regular season title and have an astonishing wins. How have they done it? With depth, they have a top 40 offense nationally but yet just one player averaging double figures, Raheem Appleby (14.5). They have 11 players averaging at least 10 minutes, the Bulldogs come at you in waves but with just two seniors and not having been in the favorite position very often, how do they handle the pressure of March?
Contender(s)-Denver (21-8 16-2), New Mexico State (21-10 14-4)
Any other year and the Pioneers’ record of 16-2 could be good enough for the #1 seed, in 2013 they will have to settle for 2nd and a share of the regular season title. Denver has a forward combo of junior Chris Udofia and sophomore Royce O’neale that is averaging 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 3 steals. The duo dominates the stat sheet and if Denver wants to unseat Louisiana Tech they will have to continue to do so.
New Mexico State has been a constant in the race for the WAC title. The Aggies are there again as the 3 seed. In a way New Mexico State mirrors league leader Louisiana Tech, they have just two seniors and have 10 guys with double digit minutes, but unlike the Bulldogs New Mexico State has four guys with double digit points.
Team Likely to pull an upset-Utah State (21-9 11-7)
Thought to be a contender once again in the WAC, Utah State lost its two best players to injury during a January game with New Mexico State. Before Kyisean Reed went down with an ACL tear and Preston Medlin fractured his wrist the Aggies were undefeated in the WAC, since they are 7-8. Even without those two they lost to Louisiana Tech and Denver by 3 and beat New Mexico State by 4. With head coach Stew Morrill and center Jarred Shaw who has stepped up in the absence of the stars, Utah State still has the firepower to pull an upset.
3 Key Players-Chris Udofia-Denver, Bandja Sy-New Mexico State, Jarred Shaw-Utah State
Chris Udofia, Denver’s junior forward is Mr. Everything for the Pioneers. He leads the team in scoring (12.9) and assists with 3.4 while being second in rebounding (4.6). Denver may be the stiffest competition for Louisiana Tech and for the Pioneers to win the title they will need Udofia to be strong in every aspect of his game.
Bandja Sy the senior forward from France is probably New Mexico State’s most important player. Not only is he key for his scoring(11.8) and rebounding (7.3) but his ability to defend the interior and his ability to stay on the floor while doing so and not getting into foul trouble. If the Aggies are to win the WAC Sy is going to have to be a big part of it.
Utah State was riddled with injuries to key players Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin late in the year. When those two went down the senior, Jarred Shaw center picked up his offensive game averaging 16.6 points a game since January 26. With the Aggies potentially getting healthy for the tournament, the experience gained by Shaw as the go to guy could bode well for Utah State.
2013 WESTERN ATHLETIC TOURNAMENT
March 12-16 Las Vegas, NV
#7 Texas State vs. #10 Seattle
#8 San Jose State vs. #9 Texas-San Antonio
#3 New Mexico State vs. #6 Idaho
#2 Denver vs. #7/10
#1 Louisiana Tech vs. #8/9
#4 Texas-Arlington vs. #5 Utah State