The Big Sky Tournament is set to get underway this week at Michelob ULTRA Arena and Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, with the winner punching their automatic bid to the 2023 men’s NCAA tournament. The WAC is likely to be a one-bid league this year, which means the entire season comes down to the conference tournament.
There is, well, a lot to talk about when it comes to the WAC this season. New Mexico State, one of the preseason favorites in the conference, suspended their season after a number of off-court incidents. Forward Mike Peake was allegedly involved in a shooting in November where he was lured onto the campus of the University of New Mexico and after being shot at, returned fire. Brandon Travis, a 19-year old and one of the individuals who allegedly lured Peake to the campus, died following the incident.
NMSU then suspended their season in February after allegations of hazing on the team surfaced. Head coach Greg Heiar was fired days later.
Utah Valley finished the season with the best conference record, at 15-3 (24-7 overall) but they will be the No. 2 seed in the tournament this week. Instead it is Sam Houston, with their 14-4 conference record (24-6 overall) that enters the tournament as the top seed. Why? Because the WAC altered how they structure the seeding for the conference tournament.
Instead of using conference record, the conference is using a “resume seeding system,” Developed in conjunction with Ken Pomeroy, the WAC is using a formula to look at a team’s entire resume, including the strength of their opponents. Losses against tough teams are not judged as harshly as losses against weaker opponents. Conversely, wins against good teams are given more credit than wins against inferior opponents.
On the strength of this formula, Sam Houston is the top seed, while Utah Valley will be second.
Interestingly enough, these teams met just once this season, with Utah Valley winning by a final score of 80 to 64. That game came back in the end of the December, and it was the conference-opener for both teams.
2023 men’s WAC tournament bracket
2023 men’s WAC tournament schedule
March 7 First Round
Game 1: No. 8 California Baptist 69, No. 9 Abilene Christian 62
Game 2: No. 5 Grand Canyon 82, No. 12 UT Arlington 77
Game 3: No. 7 Tarleton 74, No. 10 UT Rio Grande Valley 70
Game 4: No. 6 Utah Tech 80, No. 11 Stephen F. Austin 76
March 9 Quarterfinals
Game 5: No. 1 Sam Houston 64, No. 8 California Baptist 51
Game 6: No. 5 Grand Canyon 84, No. 4 Seattle U 79
Game 7: No. 2 Utah Valley 72, No. 7 Tarleton 58
Game 8: No. 3 Southern Utah 76, No. 11 Utah Tech 75
March 10 Semifinals
Game 9: No. 5 Grand Canyon 78, No. 1 Sam Houston 75
Game 10: No. 3 Southern Utah 89, No. 2 Utah Valley 88
March 11 Championship
Game 11: No. 5 Grand Canyon 84, vs. No. 3 Southern Utah 66