WAC
David Kachelries and SFA looking to stay hot as WAC Vegas approaches. Courtesy SFA Athletics.

WAC Hoops Mailbag – Player of the Year, SFA’s Run, and More

With the regular season winding down on Saturday, there are a lot of questions surrounding WAC Hoops. Who will be Player of the Year? Can SFA stay red hot in Las Vegas? Which teams outside the top-4 have the best chance of winning? And so forth. So, before the final day of the regular season on Saturday, I am going to try to answer some of your questions as best as I can.

No. If two of either SFA, Seattle or New Mexico State lose on Saturday, and the third team wins, the third team is the outright champion. If NMSU and SFA lose, Seattle is the outright champ. For New Mexico State, Seattle and SFA would have to lose to be the outright champ. And, if NMSU and Seattle lose, SFA would be the outright champ. So, there is still a chance that one team wins the regular season title outright. It is slim considering the opponents for all three schools. But, there is a chance.

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Well, Carlos, this is a good question. And I may respond to this with a question. Which Sam Houston, GCU, UVU, ACU or Seattle team do we get on specific nights in Las Vegas? In its regular season finale on Thursday, Sam Houston looked like a million bucks. But, prior to that, at GCU, the Bearkats couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. And on and on it goes with these teams. ACU won 11 straight before losing five straight before winning six straight.

So, which ACU squad do we get? Utah Valley, GCU and Seattle are all the same. I am going to eliminate Utah Valley from this debate simply because I don’t see the Wolverines winning five games in five days. ACU would have to win four games in four days so that will be difficult. But, they are a veteran squad who has been there before. GCU is the defending champ and on a roll heading into Las Vegas. And Sam Houston boasts a Player of the Year candidate in Savion Flagg. So, pick your poison.

If we are being honest, the easiest chance would be Seattle simply because they would have to win one game as the 2-seed. But, that would likely mean they would have to beat SFA in the semifinals. And, as we have seen, that is no easy task.

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Ray is going to get me in trouble with the New Mexico State fan base right before I head to Las Cruces to catch the regular season semifinal. Let me be honest, I may be a bit biased in this…but after a 19-point, 19-rebound night in a loss at GCU on Thursday, I think Fardaws Aimaq has put himself firmly in position to win WAC Player of the Year. Think about it…Aimaq is averaging 19.2 points and 14.1 rebounds per game. He is averaging 20.5 points and 17.6 rebounds over his last six games. Some of the opponents in those six games have been New Mexico State, Seattle and Grand Canyon. In two of the games, Aimaq had 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds.

Aimaq now has a nation-leading 26 double-doubles. And the guy gets double and triple-teamed night in and night out. Just look at the picture in the tweet below. If Teddy Allen goes off on Saturday and New Mexico State beats Utah Valley, the award may go to Allen. But if Aimaq has another 19-19 game or something similar, don’t be surprised if Aimaq’s name is called on Monday when the awards come out. Something else to think about…Savion Flagg will be in this mix, too. Has scored in double figures in every game this season but one. And Flagg just had a double-double to cap the regular season.

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This is a silly question, Dustin. It’s actually an easy answer and that answer is ABSOLUTELY. Remember, this team has veterans in David Kachelries, Gavin Kensmil and Calvin Solomon who have been in these situations before. Add in the fact that these three along with Nigel Hawkins had to sit out the postseason in 2020-21 because of a ban, and this is a motivated squad. The big key is the four freshman who have filled in nicely for Kyle Keller. Day Day Hall, Jaylin Jackson-Posey, Latrell Jossell and now Derrick Tezeno have all been really good down the stretch for SFA.

The Lumberjacks get after it defensively and they play a physical style of basketball that a lot of teams aren’t prepared for. And after winning eight straight, the confidence is sky-high. SFA is playing its best basketball at the right time so yes, they will keep their momentum going through WAC Vegas.

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Well, that might be the question of the season. Stephen F. Austin has an NCAA Tournament win in recent years out of the Southland Conference. Abilene Christian beat Texas in the first round in 2020-21. This is a hard one to answer because it will be all about the matchup and the seed, in all reality. As of today, Joe Lunardi has Seattle as the automatic qualifier as a 14-seed in the West Region.

The bad news is that Lunardi has the Redhawks facing the 3-seed Texas Tech Red Raiders. This is a HORRIBLE matchup. The Red Raiders size, physicality and athleticism and rarely does any one team in the WAC have all three. One of the teams that do, New Mexico State, swept the season series against the Redhawks.

Let’s circle back on this question on Selection Sunday.

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Of course, Tyler would put me on the spot with this. I am sticking with my preseason pick, New Mexico State. Yes, the Aggies have shown their vulnerable in the past two games. But, I honestly think they right the ship, win Saturday and clinch the No. 1 seed. And then win two games in Las Vegas.

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If I am being honest in answering, my pick would be Utah Valley. Problem, as the 7-seed, they would have to win five games in five days. Not easy especially because the Wolverines aren’t significantly deep on a consistent basis. But, they have size, and can get after teams physically. If the Utah Valley guards can knock down shots, this team can be dangerous. I mean, Utah Valley has wins over Sam Houston, Seattle, and New Mexico State. So, they are capable. The Wolverines are the biggest wildcard that could win it.

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It’s possible. But, on the flip side, the teams that don’t play until Friday might be at a disadvantage, as well. Teams that play Friday won’t have played for nearly a week, at that point. And their opponents will have possibly played up to three games prior and got in rhythm, which could cause problems. It is something to keep an eye on. GCU doesn’t have a ton of depth. ACU isn’t extremely deep. Utah Valley. The list goes on. The deepest team is New Mexico State. But, in conference tournaments, you never know what will happen. It’s why it is called March Madness and you have to love it.

Thanks for asking these questions everyone. Good stuff. Looking forward to WAC Vegas. But first, let’s enjoy a wild Saturday of WAC Hoops to finish off a wild regular season.

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