WAC watch: Utah State and Louisiana Tech continue to be class of conference

28 Dec

With conference play kicking off in two days, it seems like a good time to evaluate the entire WAC conference and how they’ve done thus far. Spoiler alert – there’s a lot of decent teams, but only two really good ones.

It seems like the conference regular-season championship will have to come from either Louisiana or Utah. Three other teams could surprise and make a run, but I really only see two major contenders for the regular-season title and automatic NIT bid.

The big risers were Denver, who finally caught a break in their schedule and responded. The big fallers were Texas State, who pretty much just lost a lot of games without being all that competitive. For more, read on!

(The last ranking for each team is in parentheses.)

1. (2) Utah State, 9-1. Best win – at Santa Clara. Worst (only) loss – vs. Saint Mary’s. The marquee matchup on Utah State’s nonconference schedule was a road tilt with BYU that has been rescheduled to February. Other than that, there’s a lot of solid if unspectacular wins, the best of which are Santa Clara and Southern Illinois. USU is a quality team.

2. (1) Louisiana Tech, 9-3. Best win – vs. Southern Miss. Worst loss – at Northwestern State. Two of the three losses are head-scratchers, but the overall record is one that’ll send Louisiana Tech into some postseason tournament or another with a decent WAC run.

3. (3) UT-Arlington, 5-3. Best win – at North Texas. Worst loss – vs. Oklahoma. All three losses came against Big 12 schools, and all 5 wins came against teams ranked 250 or higher in the RPI. Safe to say, UTA has yet to truly prove how good it can be, although the OU loss was by just two points.

4. (5) New Mexico State, 6-6. Best win – vs. Southern Miss. Worst loss – at Niagara. Getting a win in one of the two games against New Mexico would have been gigantic, but the Aggies came up just short at home. Still, this is a fine resume – Niagara is the only truly “bad” loss.

5. (9) Denver, 4-6. Best win – vs. Mercer. Worst loss – at Iona. Every Denver win has been by at least 17 points, while some of their losses have been close ones – like at undefeated Wyoming and at home to Colorado State. This is a very solid team whose record doesn’t yet match the talent, thanks to a seriously challenging schedule.

6. (4) San Jose State, 5-5. Best win – vs. Weber State. Worst loss – at New Orleans. The overtime win over Weber is a quality one, but there’s a lot of question marks on this resume otherwise. Losing at one of the very worst teams in college basketball (New Orleans, 339 in RPI) is never good.

7. (7) Seattle, 5-5. Best win – at Eastern Washington. Worst loss – vs. Jackson State. Losing to a previously winless team knocks the Redhawks down a couple of notches. Other than that, SU doesn’t have a bad loss… or a good win, really. Idaho on Saturday will be a nice test.

8. (8) UT-San Antonio, 4-6. Best win – vs. Holy Cross (neutral court). Worst loss – at CSU Bakersfield (by 33!) UTSA has depth issues and some very questionable losses, but they’ve only played one home game so far this year. Five of their first 7 conference games are at home, which will be go-time for the Roadrunners.

9. (10) Idaho, 4-6. Best win – vs. UC Davis. Worst loss – vs. Wright State. The Vandals did hang with Boise State before narrowly falling, and squeaked out an overtime road win at Eastern. But they’ve yet to do anything impressive, or to beat a D-I team by more than 10 points.

10. (6) Texas State, 4-8. Best win – vs. UC Riverside (neutral court). Worst loss – Loyola Marymount (neutral court). Wins over nothing but bad teams and plenty of losses earn Texas State the bottom spot rather easily. The Bobcats have been suspect on defense, giving up 73 points or more in 9 of 12 games.

If you’re curious, here’s a link to the last rankings from the beginning of December.

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