WAC Tournament
Reggie Miller and ACU will look to advance to the WAC Tournament championship game on Friday night at the Orleans Arena. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

WAC Tournament Preview: Abilene Christian vs. Seattle U

It is semifinal day at the 2021-22 WAC Tournament. A 10-team bracket is now down to its Final Four. And on Friday night at the WAC Tournament, a very intriguing semifinal is game takes place at the Orleans Arena.

With its 76-62 win over Stephen F. Austin on Thursday, 6-seed Abilene Christian will look to win its third game in three days. On the flip side, 2-seed Seattle U is looking to make it to its second WAC Tournament title game since 2015.

No. 6 Abilene Christian 22-9 (11-7 in the WAC)

The Wildcats are rolling. ACU knocked off Utah Valley on Wednesday. And then on Thursday, in their third game against SFA, the Wildcats put on a clinic in a 76-62 win to advance to Friday’s WAC Tournament semifinals. Mahki Morris had 22 points and Coryon Mason finished with 12 for the Wildcats. And once again, ACU forced 22 turnovers. ACU used a 12-0 run to end the first half and never looked back. The win comes two weeks after SFA beat ACU on a Day-Day Hall buzzer-beater in Nacogdoches.

After playing two games in two days, will the legs be there for the Wildcats? Here is Brette Tanner’s thoughts on this subject.

Flying around, forcing turnovers, creating chaos. That is what Abilene Christian does. And on Friday night in the WAC Tournament, that is what the Wildcats will have to do to advance to the WAC Tournament title game.

A big thing that ACU has going for itself is experience. The majority of the roster was on the 2020-21 squad that won the Southland Conference Tournament and beat Texas in the NCAA Tournament. Add in that Reggie Miller and his teammates said they would not take the floor unless Brette Tanner became the head coach and you have a team that plays for each other.

Player to Watch

Jr. F Airion Simmons

Simmons played just 21 minutes on Wednesday due to foul trouble. But the 6-5 junior is going to have to be on the floor more on Friday night. Simmons had a team-high 19 points in a win over Utah Valley on Wednesday. With the ability to step out and knock down a 3-pointer or finish at the rim, Simmons plays a key role as the man in the middle for the Wildcats. We all know about the ACU guards who get after teams defensively. But, they are able to do that knowing that Simmons is protecting the paint. Seattle U doesn’t have a ton of size so Simmons could be a big factor on Friday night.

No. 2 Seattle U 23-8 (14-4 in the WAC)

The 2021-22 season has been arguably the best in the Pacific Northwest in the last 40 years. Head coach Chris Victor took over as interim head coach three days before the season began. Victor proceeded to lead Seattle U to 23 wins, an 8-0 start in WAC play, and a share of the regular season crown. Hence, why his colleagues voted him as Coach of the Year. In all reality, Victor will tell you that the success comes from the players. And this is true.

Seattle U returned nearly every starter from the 2020-21 season. The lone holdout has been Aaron Nettles who hasn’t played all season due to a nagging injury. But Riley Grigsby, preseason Player of the Year Darrion Trammell, Kobe Williamson, and Emeka Udenyi all returned. And then the Redhawks were able to persuade Cameron Tyson to return home after going to the Final Four at Houston a season ago. Seattle also added some size with Washington State transfer Brandton Chatfield.

Now, Seattle U has a chance to go to its first WAC Tournament title game since 2015.  And if the Redhawks shoot it as well as they can, perhaps their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1968-69.

Player to Watch

RS So. Cameron Tyson

When Tyson gets going, there is little a team can do to stop him. Just ask Chicago State and UTRGV. In the regular season finale, it was two deep 3-pointers by Tyson that gave Seattle the lead en route to the title-clinching win over the Cougars. At UTRGV, Tyson hit 10 3-pointers in a 40-point win. With a quick trigger and green light, Tyson can light it up from anywhere on the floor.

On the season, Tyson is averaging 14.7 points per game and has hit 101 3-pointers on the season. If Tyson gets going, and the Redhawks take care of the basketball, they have a significant shot at getting to Saturday’s WAC Tournament title game.

It will be strength on strength on Friday night. ACU’s guards against Seattle U’s guards. Reggie Miller, Coryon Mason, Mahki Morris and Damien Daniels for the Wildcats. Darrion Trammell, Riley Grigsby, Cameron Tyson and Kyree Brown for Seattle U. Seattle U, on paper, has the better shooters and scorers. ACU, on paper, has the better defenders. So, who gets the breaks? Who knocks down the timely shots? And who moves on to the WAC Tournament championship game on Friday?

Tip off is set for 8:30 p.m. PT on ESPN+.

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