Tuesday, March 8, 2005

WAC Tournament Preview

The Western Athletic Conference was a close race until Nevada won their last 10 games of the season to clinch the regular season title. UTEP was neck and neck most of the way, while Rice went 12-6 to finish four games back of Nevada. Three squads went 9-9 during the conference season, but only three teams finished below .500 overall.
Favorites: Nevada is the prohibitive favorite, as they are one of the hottest teams in the country. The Wolfpack have one of the more underrated frontcourt duos in Nick Fazekas, a legitimate star, and Kevinn Pinkney. The combine for 34 points and 17 boards per contest. Nevada is lead by Ramon Sessions on the perimeter. UTEP has a very good inside-outside combo in Filberto Rivera, the WAC's leading assist man, and Omar Thomas, who goes for 20 and 7 every night. Jason Williams can do a little bit of everything from the wing. Rice has the best player in the conference in Michael Harris. He ranks second in the conference in scoring (20.3) and rebounding (11.9). Jason McKrieth does it all on the outside for the Owls. They are the best shooting team in the WAC.
Sleepers: SMU has four double figure scorers, including one of the best all-around players in the conference in Bryan Hopkins. Eric Castro and Patrick Simpson are a legit duo in the post for the Mustangs. It seems that every other team in the conference is on a losing streak, including Lousiana Tech, who has lost five of their last six, but the Bulldogs have Paul Millsap. He leads the nation in rebounding, and also puts up over 20 points per game. They also have three other double digit scorers.
Prediction: The WAC is chalk full of great post players that can carry a team on their shoulders to a conference tournament championship. However, Nevada has Pinkney along with Fazekas on the inside. Their depth in the frontcourt is tremendous, and the Wolfpack also have quality guards. They have won 20 of 22, with the last ten wins coming by an average of 11 points per game. UTEP will give them a run in the final, but Nevada will come out victorious.

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