The WAC Player of the Year Starr Jacobs leads the Lady Mavs into WAC Vegas on Monday night. Courtesy UT Arlington Athletics.

WBB: First Round Tips Off from Michelob Ultra Arena

It’s the week we’ve all been waiting for. WAC Vegas officially tips off on Monday. Four games are on the slate. Two of which are in-state foes. Another features the WAC Player of the Year. It all tips off from Michelob Ultra Arena after a wild regular season.

Three months of regular season play has given us a regular season champion and automatic bid to the WNIT. Over the course of the next week, we determine our NCAA Tournament automatic bid…starting with a four game slate on Monday at Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay. All times are listed in Pacific time and all games are on ESPN+. Let’s dive into Monday’s matchups.

8 – Abilene Christian vs. 9 – Sam Houston, Noon PT

A battle of in-state foes perhaps playing their final game against one another tips off WAC Vegas. The two sides split their regular season meetings with the road team winning each time. In their first meeting at Moody Coliseum, it was Sam Houston jumping out to a 24-point lead and then having to survive a furious Wildcats rally for a 3-point win. Meanwhile, in Huntsville, the Wildcats led for 34 out of a possible 40 minutes en route to a 74-68 win.

This is the final matchup between the former Southland Conference foes as Sam Houston State is headed for CUSA next year.

Predictions:

Derryl- Abilene Christian

Chelsea-Abilene Christian

5 – Utah Tech vs. 12 – Utah Valley, 2 p.m. PT

Anytime the Beehive State teams get together, it promises to be a fun game. The Old Hammer Rivalry tips off on Monday afternoon in a win-or-go-home situation. That narrative ratchets up the intensity even more.

Utah Tech is having an impressive second season of Division I play, having racked up 16 victories this season (10 in the WAC).

This game is going to come down to pace. If Utah Tech shoots the ball the way we know they can, they should win. Battling injuries and transfers this hasn’t equated to the greatest regular season for Utah Valley. However, the Wolverines have fought and been in a majority of their games.

Unfortunately, the Wolverines have struggled to score in 2022-23. And it will a lot of firepower to knock off a Trailblazer squad featuring Breaunna Gillen, Emily Issacson and Amber Kartchner.

Predictions:

Derryl-Utah Tech

Chelsea-Utah Tech

Amber Kartchner and Utah Tech take on in-state rival Utah Valley in their first-ever WAC Tournament game on Monday. Courtesy Utah Tech Athletics.

7 – New Mexico State vs. 10 – UTRGV 6 p.m. PT

This game features one of the WAC’s top defenses in New Mexico State against a very dangerous Vaqueros offense led by Iyana Dorsey. In the lone regular season matchup, it was New Mexico State coming away with an 8-point win in Edinburg during the opening weekend of WAC play.

It’s been a different Aggie stepping up throughout the course of WAC play. Expect that to continue on Monday evening. Molly Kaiser, Tayelin Grays, Sofia Innoussa. First-year head coach Jody Adams has weapons at her disposal.

UTRGV has a chance if they can turn this game into an up and down shootout. The Vaqueros got hot at WAC Vegas in 2022. Can Iyana Dorsey, Kaycee Kyle, and Jena’ Williams do the same in 2023? Keep an eye on pace. If this game slows down, it favors New Mexico State. If it gets into a track meet, UTRGV could move onto Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Predictions:

Derryl-New Mexico State

Chelsea-New Mexico State

6 – UT Arlington vs. 11 – Seattle U

Player of the Year Starr Jacobs makes her debut on the WAC Vegas stage. That debut comes against a Redhawk squad that started 0-11 before posting a 5-12 mark over their next 17 games. UT Arlington rolled in the lone regular season matchup between these two teams at the Redhawk Center. The Lady Mavs won the Sun Belt tournament in 2022. With the way Shereka Wright’s squad has been playing down the stretch, moving onto Wednesday’s quarterfinals is very possible.

Suzy Barcomb’s squad has had its fair share of ups and downs. If Taliyah Clark and the Redhawks can knock down shots from the perimeter, this game could be interesting.

Predictions:

Derryl-UT Arlington

Chelsea-UT Arlington

 

 

About the author

Derryl Trujillo

Derryl Trujillo is a Southern California based sportswriter who won the 2019 Inland Empire Baseball Coaches Association's Supporter of the Year award. He joined the WAC Hoops Digest staff in 2020 and also covers local sports for Inland Sports and the Valley News. Before transitioning to media Derryl was a high school, collegiate and club volleyball official along with serving as a high school basketball scorekeeper for ten years.

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