NCAA Season Preview: Western Athletic Conference Predictions For 2010
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Both regular-season champion Utah State and tournament champion New Mexico State reached the NCAA tournament last season, making it the WAC’s first two-bid season since 2007. Utah State has won three straight WAC titles, and it appears that they are the odds on favorite to extend that streak in 2010-11.
The Aggies should dominate conference play, but beating on the door will be New Mexico State, Nevada and a conference with plenty of teams that are all capable of making a run at the division title.
Utah State continued to roll winning its final 15 games straight to finish the 2009-10 season 14-2. Nevada and New Mexico State—the divisions other Aggies–finished in a tie for second at 11-5, while Louisiana Tech finished just 9-7 after fading down the stretch.
The following is a look at a few of the top teams in the Western Athletic Conference this season along with their current odds to win the national championship.
All odds are supplied by Sportsbook.com
Utah State (+10000) – The WAC regular-season champion returns four seniors including first team All-WAC player, Tai Wesley and Nate Bendall, as well as guards Pooh Williams and Tyler Newbold. They did lose the conference player of the year, but the team boasts a solid defense and makes good use of their ability to hang onto the ball, and knack for finding the open high-percentage shots. The experience on the team will be the best in the conference.
New Mexico State (+8000) – The WAC tournament champion return the league’s most talented frontcourt, with Wendell McKines, Troy Gillenwater and Hamidu Rahman. They are big, and have plenty of depth, and that should make them competitive once again to win this year’s WAC, assuming the rebounding improves with the larger lineup on the floor. They did lose their top two guards, so you can expect to see a lot more interior scoring.
Fresno State (+8000) –Without forwards Paul George and Sylvester Seay and guard Malik Ladd, all-conference center Greg Smith will have to carry the Bulldogs at both ends. Smith’s presence definitely helps boost the ‘Dogs frontcourt. The team also has enough depth and solid play at guard to approach a 20-win season and looks to rejoin the battle for a Western Athletic Conference championship.
Nevada (+20000) – The Wolf Pack is one of the conference’s more consistent programs, but they Pack will be woefully inexperienced after losing four of its starters including Luke Babbitt. That equates to nearly 84 percent of its scoring from a season ago. They will rely on freshman Deonte Burton and transfers Olek Czyz (Duke) and Malik Story (Indiana) to carry the load. Nevada ranked first in the
conference and 13th nationally in scoring with almost 80 PPG, but don’t expect that to happen this season. However, they remain a force to be reckoned with.
THE PICK: With a majority of their staring seniors returning and their tenacious defense, I have to go with Utah State. They have proven to be a worthy foe both in and out of conference play and are one of just three programs that has won at least 23 games in each of the last 11 seasons and there is no reason to think that trend will not continue in 2010-11.
Pick: Utah State +10000
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Matt Martz is a sportswriter for the Bakersfield Californian located in Central California. “ Football (soccer) is a game in which a handful of fit men run around for one and a half hours watched by millions of people who could really use the exercise.”