Written By: Bill Harty
Saturday’s WAC Men’s Basketball Championship final featured the second seed New Mexico State Aggies and the fifth seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The prior two nights have seen the Aggies defeat Fresno State (seeded seventh) and Hawai'i (seeded sixth and upset winner over Idaho on Thursday). The Bulldogs road to the final went through Utah State (fourth) and Nevada (first).
This game would be another test of the maxim about how difficult it is to defeat a team for the third time as New Mexico State won both regular season meetings, January 7 in Ruston by a score of 83-73, and February 4 in Las Cruces, 83-72. On the tournament’s first day, the top two seeds won their third consecutive matchups against the bottom two, but Louisiana Tech’s victory over Utah State followed the Aggies’ regular season sweep of the Bulldogs. Nevada had also swept Louisiana Tech during the season, and again Tech prevailed.
The tournament was held at the Orleans Arena, attached to the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Orleans sports book odds (the path from the rooms to the arena goes through the book) favored New Mexico State by eight and the over/under bet on the total score was at 148½. The arena itself and its proximity to the hotel are nice, but attendance was poor again for the second year of the WAC’s neutral site experiment. During the tournament, I heard that using a neutral site might be continued for next season’s event because the conference membership is changing so radically that data from prior seasons might not mean much. (Next year, the WAC is losing Nevada, Fresno State, and Hawai'i to other conferences, and adding Seattle, Denver, Texas-Arlington, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio.) Attendance at campus sites has been much greater, with the tradeoff that one of the schools is playing home games for their crowd.
The weather, after finally getting here, has been great. Getting to Las Vegas was a bit of an adventure, as heavy winds closed the airport there for much of Tuesday. Our scheduled 3:40 departure from El Paso came closer to 7:40, but those who left at noon were still in Phoenix, and those who left at 1:30 were still in San Diego at that time. The New Mexico State team and entourage were originally on the 6:50 flight, which left about 8:00, but moved up to fill all the empty seats on our flight. At Saturday’s 9:00 p.m. tip off, it was a beautifully still and clear sixty degrees. Continue Reading This Post >>