I’m not sure if this is the third or fourth year that I’ve written conference tournament previews for all 32 conferences, but the WAC is my favorite one year in and year out. I could basically just write “Bet New Mexico State” and leave it at that. There is never really any value on betting the Aggies, but they are the best team in this conference year in and year out.
You would think that they would eventually want to join a conference and be able to challenge themselves a little bit more, but what’s the point? Except for Cal State Bakersfield in 2016, New Mexico State has won seven of the last eight in this conference tournament. It is as close as it gets to a free berth to the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, maybe the lack of competition ultimately hurts the Aggies, who have not won a game in the NCAA Tournament since 1993, but they’ve had some close calls. They lost to Michigan State by 3 in 2010, lost in overtime to San Diego State in 2014, and we all remember how they nearly beat Auburn in last year’s first round. A terrible shot attempt right before the horn cost NMSU the chance at knocking off a team that eventually went to the Final Four.
Here are the teams, seeds, standings, and odds from 5Dimes Sportsbook for the 2020 WAC Tournament:
- New Mexico State 25-6 (16-0) -300
- UT Rio Grande Valley 14-16 (9-7)
- Seattle 14-15 (7-7)
- Grand Canyon 13-17 (8-8)
- UMKC 16-14 (8-7)
- CSU Bakersfield 12-19 (6-10)
- Utah Valley 11-19 (5-10)
- Chicago State 4-25 (0-14)
Why are there no odds for anybody else? Because 5Dimes has grouped the Field at +240. Seems like the right course of action.
Things got really messed up thanks to the coronavirus in Seattle. The Redhawks had their games against Chicago State and UMKC canceled. Chicago State also opted not to travel out to Utah Valley on that road trip, so that one went in the books as a cancellation. As a result, the standings are kind of all over the place, but Seattle draws the #3 seed.
As always, this conference tournament is at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas and will be pretty sparsely attended, especially this time around with all the COVID-19 fears.
Here is the schedule for the 2020 Western Athletic Conference Tournament:
Thursday March 12
12 p.m. PT: 8 Chicago State vs. 1 New Mexico State
2:30 p.m. PT: 5 UMKC vs. 4 Grand Canyon
6 p.m. PT: 7 Cal State Bakersfield vs. 2 UT Rio Grande Valley
8:30 p.m. PT: 6 Utah Valley vs. 3 Seattle
Friday March 13
6 p.m. PT: 5/4 winner vs. 1 New Mexico State
8:30 p.m. PT: 7/2 winner vs. 6/3 winner
Saturday March 14
7 p.m. PT: Championship Game
This conference tournament does not re-seed or anything. New Mexico State is virtually a lock to get to the championship game and the price and common sense suggest as much. There really isn’t a whole lot of equity in betting anybody else, considering you can just take a money line price opposite New Mexico State if you want to give it a try.
New Mexico State did have some close calls. The Aggies won 84-82 at home against Utah Valley on February 15. They won by four over Cal State Bakersfield at home on January 30. They won by three over UMKC at home. Focus has to be hard for a team that really plays a bunch of preseason games before the NCAA Tournament.
There just aren’t a lot of ways that New Mexico State can lose. Cal State Bakersfield has an excellent head coach in Rod Barnes, who does very well in the conference tournament format, but his Roadrunners took a complete nosedive after starting 4-1 in conference play.
UMKC might be the second-best team in this league. They did rank first in eFG% defense and first in 3P% against. They, unfortunately, draw New Mexico State in the semifinals, though, so we can’t even entertain the thought of a futures investment on them.
Seattle doesn’t turn the basketball over and UTRGV forces the highest percentage of turnovers, so that likely semifinal game could be interesting.
Ultimately, nobody beats New Mexico State here. UMKC would have the best chance. They finished the regular season with four straight wins and were the most competitive team against New Mexico State, with a loss by three on the road and a loss by six at home in a game played to just 59 possessions.
At a real price, UMKC is about the only bet to entertain, but this tournament goes to New Mexico State again and -300 really isn’t that bad of a number.
Pick: New Mexico State -300