WAC Vegas got off to a pretty wild start. There was the Sam Houston women picking up an thrilling comeback win to open things up. Utah Tech and Utah Valley followed that up with an instant classic that came down to a pair of free throws late. It was the first-ever Division I postseason win in program history for the Trailblazers.
The evening session gave us a two games with very different styles of play. New Mexico State led wire-to-wire in picking up a win over UTRGV. The Aggies just kind of lulled the Vaqueros to sleep in a double digit win. In the nightcap, UT Arlington led by 10 going into the fourth quarter. However, Seattle U got hot in the fourth en route to the upset win in the first round.
So, WAC Vegas got off to quite the start.
On Tuesday at WAC Vegas at the Michelob Ultra Arena in the men’s first round, perhaps it will be just as good.
8 – California Baptist vs. 9 – Abilene Christian, Noon PT ESPN+
Which ACU and CBU teams are we going to get in the WAC Vegas opener for both schools? Both teams have had a roller coaster of a season. The Lancers went to East Texas and struggled to score. However, CBU returned home to score 50 first-half points en route to an 18-point win to end the regular season. ACU limps into WAC Vegas having lost five straight to end the regular season.
However, don’t let that fool you. ACU was the 6-seed last season and won three games to get to the tournament title game. CBU is in its first year of eligibility for the NCAA Tournament. It actually might be the best matchup of the day.
Neither team has a lot of size. So, both teams will rely heavily on the guards. Taran Armstrong for CBU and Damien Daniels for ACU. Daniels was an All-Defensive Team selection. Armstrong gets a lot of pub and hype from NBA Draft analysts. Keep an eye on this matchup.
ACU won the lone meeting in impressive fashion in Riverside on Feb. 4.
5 – Grand Canyon vs. 12 – UT Arlington, 2 p.m. PT ESPN+
Here is another one of those games where we wonder what teams we are going to get. Are we going to get the GCU squad that scored 13 first-half points in a home loss to Seattle U 10 days ago? Or do we get the GCU squad that swept the final road trip of the regular season in impressive fashion?
Along those lines…which UT Arlington squad do we get? The one that beat Sam Houston, SFA and UTRGV? Or the team that got blown out at Utah Valley and at Seattle U to end the regular season?
The Mavericks have shot the ball much better since Snoop Johnson took over. However, the Mavericks took a step back last week to end the regular season. Can they get it going at Michelob Ultra Arena on Tuesday?
Ray Harrison is the catalyst for GCU. If Harrison gets going, it makes everyone else around him that much better. Harrison averaged 27.0 points in a pair of wins to cap the regular season.
In the lone meeting between the two teams, the Lopes ran to a 32-point win at GCU Arena on Jan. 12.
7 – Tarleton vs. 10 vs. UTRGV, 6 p.m. PT ESPN+
It is the first to WAC Vegas for Tarleton. Now, the Texans are not eligible for the WAC Tournament due to NCAA transition rules. However, there is still quite a bit to play for. Add in that Tarleton hasn’t played a Division I game in 10 days and the Texans will more dangerous than they already are. Freddy Hicks has played well down the stretch. Jakorie Smith can be a game-changer. Shamir Bogues is one of the best defenders in the WAC. And the Texans play a style of basketball that can frustrate teams.
However, UTRGV has had the Texans’ number in 2022-23. UTRGV is one of two teams to beat the Texans at Wisdom Gym in 2022-23. Then, in Tarleton’s final WAC regular season game, UTRGV held of the Texans in a high-scoring affair in Edinburg.
This game will feature a lot of free throws. Justin Johnson gets to the line a ton for UTRGV. And Tarleton plays a physical style of basketball. Keep an eye on Will Johnston for the Vaqueros. If Johnston, the second-leading scorer for the Vaqueros, struggles, UTRGV will have a tough time getting to the second round.
6 – Stephen F. Austin vs. 11 – Utah Tech, 8 p.m. PT ESPN+
This nightcap on the second day of WAC Vegas should be entertaining. SFA comes in a bit banged up. However, the Jacks still have the ability to make a run. It will depend on how AJ Cajuste and Nigel Hawkins play. As these two SFA guards go, so goes the Jacks. There is the possibility Day Day Hall takes the floor for the Jacks on Tuesday. If Hall plays, that will give the Jacks 14.0 points and a bevy of rebounds. The wildcard will be Latrell Jossell. SFA’s best 3-point shooter has to get going early and consistently on Tuesday if the Jacks are to advance to Wednesday.
Utah Tech is another team playing in its first-ever Division I postseason game. The Trailblazers, like Tarleton, are not eligible for the NCAA Tournament. Don’t let that fool you. Jon Judkins has a team that can make noise in their first WAC tournament. Cam Gooden and Isaiah Pope are the leaders. The advantage Utah Tech has over SFA is in the paint. Tanner Christensen will create a problem on Tuesday night. Keep an eye on how SFA handles his size.
This will be up-tempo and high-scoring. A great way to end the second day of the 2023 WAC Tournament.