The 2016 WAC Tournament gets underway on Thursday from Las Vegas, with seven teams fighting it out for the conference's automatic bid into the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
The tournament features only seven teams, which is an extremely odd number for most tournaments, but there's a good reason. The conference's eighth member (Grand Canyon) is ineligible for postseason competition until 2018 due to their transition to Division I status. That's a shame, too, because the Antelopes finished the season tied for second in the conference standings, and went 25-6 overall.
As for the rest of the field, New Mexico State and CSU Bakersfield appear to be a level above the rest of the conference. The Aggies and Roadrunners are the only two teams in the conference tournament to finish with more than 20 wins. New Mexico State won 13 of its last 14 games, and its only WAC loss was to Grand Canyon, which isn't in the field.
No. 1 seed New Mexico State gets a bye into the second round, and is the only team to get a bye due to the tournament's odd number of participants. Every team in the conference except for Grand Canyon, as previously mentioned, qualifies for the conference tournament. No. 4 Utah Valley and No. 5 UMKC start things off on Thursday, with No. 2 CSU Bakersfield vs. No. 7 Chicago State and No. 3 Seattle vs. No. 6 UT Rio Grande Valley filling out the rest of the schedule for the day. New Mexico State plays the winner of Utah Valley-UMKC in the first semifinal on Friday, and the winners of the other two quarterfinal games play in the other semifinal. The winners of those games meet on Saturday night in the championship game.
1. New Mexico State
2. CSU Bakersfield
4. Utah Valley
6. UT Rio Grande Valley
7. Chicago State
Schedule and results (all times Eastern)
Thursday, March 10 (Quarterfinals)
Game 1: No. 5 UMKC 80, No. 4 Utah Valley 78
Game 2: No. 2 CSU Bakersfield 79, No. 7 Chicago State 57
Game 3: No. 3 Seattle 75, No. 6 UT Rio Grande Valley 52
Friday, March 11 (Semifinals)
Game 4: No. 1 New Mexico State 78, No. 5 UMKC 64
Game 5: No. 2 CSU Bakersfield vs. No. 3 Seattle (11:30 p.m., WAC Digital Network)
Saturday, March 12 (Championship)
Game 6: No. 1 New Mexico State vs. Game 5 winner (11:30 p.m., ESPNU)
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