Aziz bandaogo, Utah Valley, WAC Tournament preview

CBB Review prepares you for every conference tournament leading up to Selection Sunday. Up next: The WAC Tournament.

*Featured image credit: UtahΒ Valley basketball Twitter

The WAC had quite possibly the strangest moment in college basketball, as New Mexico State forfeited its entire season in the midst of a major criminal investigation.

That also means we won’t see a repeat champ, as the Aggies won the WAC Tournament last season, and then upset 5-seed UConn in the first round. That does show that it is a quality conference tournament worth keeping an eye on.

2023 WAC Conference Awards

Player of the Year: Qua Grant, Sam Houston

Freshman of the Year: Chendall Weaver, UT Arlington

Transfer of the Year: Aziz Bandaogo, Utah Valley

Coach of the Year: Mark Madsen, Utah Valley

First Team:

  • G: Qua Grant, Sam Houston (13.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.9 APG, 2.0 SPG)
  • G: Cameron Tyson, Seattle U (18.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 0.8 APG)
  • G: Rayshon Harrison, Grand Canyon (17.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.3 APG)
  • F: Justin Johnson, Utah Rio Grande Valley (20.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.1 APG)
  • C: Aziz Bandaogo, Utah Valley (11.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.9 BPG, 60.7 FG%)

Second Team:

  • G: Will Johnston, UT Rio Grande Valley (14.5 PPG, 3.7 APG, 2.2 RPG, 44.7 3P%)
  • G: Riley Grigsby, Seattle U (13.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.6 APG)
  • G: Tevian Jones, Seattle U (17.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 SPG)
  • F: Sadaidriene Hall, Stephen F. Austin (13.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, 59.6 FG%)
  • F: Gabe McGlothan, Grand Canyon (11.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 0.8 APG)

WAC Tournament Simulation

First Round – Tuesday, Mar. 7

8. California Baptist (16-15, 8-10) vs. 9. Abilene Christian (13-16, 7-11) –Β  3 p.m. on ESPN+

In the lone matchup at California Baptist, Abilene Christian took control with 11 minutes left in the game and had a complete separation. However, Abilene Christian has been sliding, with its only wins as of late coming from the forfeits by New Mexico State. Even with that in mind, Abilene Christian is a better offensive team and should grab another win to advance here.

Jason’s Pick: 9. Abilene Christian

5. Grand Canyon (20-11, 11-7) vs. 12. UT Arlington (11-20, 6-12) –  5 p.m on ESPN+

Grand Canyon dominated the Mavericks in the second half in the lone matchup. Grand Canyon is just a more offensive team. Rayshon Harrison is one of the top scorers in this conference, and I expect him to take over this game as well.

Jason’s Pick: 5. Grand Canyon

7. Tarleton (16-15, 9-9) vs. 10. UT Rio Grande Valley (15-16, 6-12) – 9 p.m. on ESPN+

Both games in the regular season were close, with UT Rio Grande winning by 3 and 4 points. Even with the lower seed being UT Rio Grande, this team should be favored. With that in mind, the Vaqueros have been more explosive offensively, which gives them the boost in this game to grab the win.

Jason’s Pick: 10. UT Rio Grande Valley

6. Stephen F. Austin (19-12, 11-7) vs. 11. Utah Tech (13-18, 5-13) – 11 p.m. on ESPN+

In the only game between these two teams, Stephen F. Austin easily won 85-72. The Lumberjacks were in control for the entirety of the game. Utah Tech could easily take over this game. The Trailblazers have had better offensive games in the last few that could cause issues for the Lumberjacks. If Stephen F. Austin is on offensively, they should run away with it again.

Jason’s Pick: 6. Stephen F. Austin

Quarterfinals – Thursday, Mar. 9

9. Abilene Christian vs. 1. Sam Houston (24-6, 14-4) – 3 p.m. on ESPN+

Sam Houston is listed as the one seed for a reason, and in both matchups against Abilene Christian, the Bearkats won by 18 and 15 points. Sam Houston should cruise into another win here to advance.

Jason’s Pick: 1. Sam Houston

4. Seattle U (20-11, 11-7) vs. 5. Grand Canyon – 5 p.m. on ESPN+

Seattle U has shot makers in Cameron Tyson, Riley Grigsby, and Alex Schumacher, averaging 11+ points a game. If these players are off, this game could be a battle. In his second season as the head coach, Chris Victor has had Grand Canyon’s number this year.

Jason’s Pick: 4. Seattle U

2. Utah Valley (24-7, 15-3) vs. 10. UT Rio Grande Valley – 9 p.m. on ESPN+

These two teams met once during the season, and Utah Valley came out on top. Playing against Aziz Bandaogo, UT Rio Grande will likely struggle against the bouncy big man. Utah also has been an efficient team, and to stay close in that matchup, the Vaqueros had to take advantage of the turnovers. Still hard to pick against the Wolverines, who finished with the best record in the conference.

Jason’s Pick: 2. Utah Valley

3. Southern Utah (20-11, 12-6) vs. 6. Stephen F. Austin – 11 p.m. on ESPN+

Another set of teams that only played each other once this season and Southern Utah came out on top. This is where there will be an upset. This game is set up to be a Lumberjack 3-point contest. Sam Houston is the only team that shoots the 3-pointer better in this conference.

Jason’s Pick: 6. Stephen F. Austin

Semifinals – Friday, Mar. 10

1. Sam Houston vs. 4. Seattle U – 6 p.m. on ESPN+

Coach Jason Hooten and Sam Houston continue to execute game plans. The rotation and players that step up in different games continue to surprise. The Bearkats should slow down the game to keep it in check and prevent Seattle from getting hot to advance.

Jason’s Pick: 1. Sam Houston

2. Utah Valley vs. 6. Stephen F. Austin – 8 p.m. on ESPN+

The Wolverines saw this Stephen F. Austin team in their last matchup. Utah Valley has an easier path, and the balanced offensive play between Darthard, Harmon, Woodbury, and Bandaogo will be too much to handle. The inconsistent play of the Lumberjacks ends their season as they rely on the 3-pointer and fall short. The team tries to come back by driving in, but it is too late.

Jason’s Pick: 2. Utah Valley

Championship – Saturday, Mar. 11

1. Sam Houston vs. 2. Utah Valley – 11:30 p.m. on ESPN

Sam Houston wants this win as Utah Valley won against the Bearkats early in conference play. Bandaogo causes issues as he alters shots. While Sam Houston can get hot from the outside, it is tough to believe it happens. The Wolverines’ balance will just be too much to overcome.

Jason’s Pick: 2. Utah Valley