WAC Vegas
Will interim head coach Snoop Johnson get the opportunity to be the head coach at UT Arlington?(Photo by/Ellman Photography)

WAC Vegas, WAC Championship, UTA Hire, and More in Mailbag

“Viva Las Vegas!” At least that is what I will be listening to a little less than 2 weeks from today when I get ready to board my flight. WAC Vegas is upon us. Two weeks from today, in fact, games will be played at Michelob Ultra Arena.

The women will tip things off in Las Vegas on Monday, March 6. Four games on that slate. On Tuesday, 5-12 seeds on the men’s side tip off at Michelob Ultra Arena.

Gosh, it is so close. Yet, there is so much basketball to be played between now and then. The race for the regular season champion still has to be decided. Seeding is still up for grabs. It’s going to be a wild two weeks of basketball. What more would we want from this wild season?

So, let’s get to the questions.

Any Idea Who UTA Might Hire as Their Next Head Coach?

This is a tough one to answer because I don’t want to cause any tension. I believe Royce ‘Snoop’ Johnson needs to get consideration, especially if the Mavs finish well down the stretch. That win on Saturday over SFA should put Jon Fagg on notice, if he isn’t already, that Johnson can coach.

Another name that keeps popping up is Kansas State associate head coach Ulric Maligi. He is a native of Arlington, was an assistant at UT Arlington in 2006-07 under Scott Cross, and can recruit. Maligi has experience at multiple Power 5 schools and high mid-major programs. I am going to assume he is at the top of Jon Fagg’s list.

Outside of those two, I am not sure who else. Maybe I will have a better answer this week after my trip to UT Arlington.

How Far is Sam Houston Making It In WAC Vegas?

This is a question that I get quite often. Winning a conference tournament is the one thing that has eluded Sam Houston head coach Jason Hooten in his 12 years as head coach of the Bearkats. In the final year in the WAC, can the Bearkats finish a really good season on a high note?

Sam Houston currently sits in second place behind Utah Valley. Both in the standings and WAC resume seeding. The Bearkats need some help in order to make that jump to the 1-seed.

But, let’s talk about this Bearkat squad. Last season, it was the Savion Flagg show. The Bearkats ran everything through him and depended on him to hit big shots at big moments. In 2022-23, it is an entirely new team in terms of executing. Hooten can place the ball in the hands of Qua Grant, Donte Powers, Lamar Wilkerson, or Cam Huefner. The Bearkats also have a paint presence in Kaosi Ezeagu. Kian Scroggins is developing nicely for the Bearkats and provides a post presence. Javion May and Tristan Ikpe are as reliable as they come. The biggest advantage is the Bearkats can defend.

For the Bearkats, it is all about matchups. As it stands right now, the Bearkats would get the winner of Tarleton and UTRGV in the second round. The way the WAC has been all season, I won’t make any predictions. However, Sam Houston does have the pieces in place to win WAC Vegas.

Who Can Realistically Catch UVU for the WAC Championship?

I’m going to assume you are talking about the regular season title with this question. The answer is Sam Houston and Southern Utah. SFA has an outside chance sitting at 9-5 but the Jacks need to win out and get some help. Utah Valley holds a two-game lead with four to play. The Wolverines are at Tarleton and at ACU this week…never an easy road trip. If the Wolverines win both, that will eliminate SFA and, either SUU or Sam Houston, from the race.

Sam Houston is the likely candidate because the Bearkats play three of their final games in Huntsville. The lone road game is at SFA on March 1. Sam Houston hosts CBU and SUU this week and finish up the regular season with ACU.

If, SUU can sweep this Texas road trip, there is potential for the T-birds to be in the mix.

Utah Valley controls its own destiny in terms of the regular season title and top seed. Win out and it’s a done deal. Sam Houston and the others need some help. Saturday, one team is getting eliminated from the race. And perhaps the regular season title comes down to the final day of league play again. It’s the wild, wild, WAC. Anything can happen.

What is the Biggest Surprise You Think Will Happen at WAC Vegas?

Good question. Since there are 12 teams heading to WAC Vegas, that means there are obviously three double-digit seeds. I don’t know if it will happen…but I think the biggest surprise that could happen is a double-digit seed making it to the WAC semifinals. UT Arlington is playing better as of late. Utah Tech is dangerous and can get rolling. As we all saw Wednesday night, UTRGV can score and hit big shots.

That is where I will lean.

Arguably the biggest surprise has already happened. Yes, New Mexico State, I am looking at you. I think the fact the Aggies were on the outside looking in to begin with and have now suspended their season is the biggest surprise of WAC Vegas. The defending champs won’t even be there in their final season in the league. Pretty surprising, right?

If You Had to Pick a Longshot for WAC Vegas, Who Would It Be?

Jason, my friend, I know where you are leading with this question. For what it is worth, I am going to agree with you and give the fans what they want.

Watch out for the Tarleton Texans. The style of basketball Billy Gillispie’s team plays is different. It is chaotic, frustrating, and maddening for most coaches. Now, Gillispie has some scorers in Jakorie Smith and Lue Williams to go with Freddy Hicks, Shakur Daniel and Shamir Bogues. Add in Chicago State transfer Coreyoun Rushin who rebounds and defends.

The Texans are not to be taken lightly and for whatever reason, they play better under the bright lights. Lacking size, the Texans play like giants. Do not be surprised if they play spoiler on Thursday night against Utah Valley at Wisdom Gym.



About the author

Kyle McDonald

Love everything about WAC Hoops so decided I wanted to write more about it and cover this amazing conference that just keeps getting better. Follow us on Twitter @wachoopsdigest for information, game analysis and much more.

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