Jun 25, 2019

Men’s WAC Tournament Preview

Entering this week’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament the only thing warmer than the Las Cruces weather is the play of the Fresno State men’s basketball team.

The team finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak that included a last-second victory over Boise State and upset
road victories over Utah State and New Mexico State.

The team’s sizzling play propelled the Bulldogs, who hovered near the bottom half of the conference pack for most of the season, to clinch the third seed in the conference tournament.

The sudden burst of momentum has rejuvenated the Bulldogs’ season and transformed the team from an NIT hopeful to an NIT lock, on the fringe of the NCAA tournament. Fresno State’s bubble status started Monday when the team received three votes in the Associated Press top 25.

The prospect of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament was unthinkable a month ago following the Bulldogs’ Feb. 8 loss at home to Nevada. With a disappointing 5-6 conference record and a 16-8 record overall, the Bulldogs regrouped from the 12-point loss and like Jell-O in a refrigerator, the team jelled together.

Now the team’s 22-8 record overall, an RPI in the mid-70s (a score of 74 according to realtimerpi.com) and an impressive non-conference victory over Missouri Valley Conference tournament champion Creighton could have the Bulldogs two wins away from an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.

Of course the Bulldogs could take the NCAA selection committee out of the process by winning the WAC tournament and receiving the conference’s automatic bid. However, the path to a tournament championship would be difficult. Boise State is a tough opening round opponent for Fresno State. The teams split the season series and were separated by a total of only five points in the two games.

Fresno State would most likely need to defeat New Mexico State in the semifinals and then No. 10 Nevada in the WAC Championship game. The Bulldogs swept its season series with New Mexico State and played Nevada tough in both losses.

Winning three games in three days with a short-bench would be an incredible feat, but everyone wrote Fresno State off a month ago, it would seem silly to do it again.

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