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WAC Basketball Makes a Statement in March Madness

On Thursday evening, WAC basketball was thrust into the national spotlight, thanks to Teddy Allen and New Mexico State. The Aggies managed to pull off a stunning upset of UConn in the NCAA Tournament. Allen lived up to his nickname of “Teddy Buckets” by dropping 37 points in the shocking win. As New Mexico State prepares to venture into the Second Round of March Madness, several other WAC teams are getting set for some postseason tournament play of their own.

The NCAA Tournament certainly garners all of the hype and attention this time of year. However, there are three other college basketball postseason tournaments taking place this month as well. While there are no WAC basketball teams in this year’s National Invitation Tournament, the conference will be well-represented in the annual College Basketball Invitational.

The following offers an update on the latest WAC basketball news as teams partake in postseason tournaments around the country.

Teddy Allen New Mexico State NCAA Tournament WAC basketball
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

WAC Basketball News and Headlines

Teddy Allen Leads New Mexico State to March Madness Upset

Stars are born in March. On Thursday, “Teddy Buckets” became a household name across the entire country. Although New Mexico State marks the fifth different school in as many years for Teddy Allen, this was his first time getting a chance to shine under the bright lights of March Madness. Allen went off for 37 points on 10-24 shooting from the field to lead the Aggies to a 70-63 First Round upset of UConn.

The victory may have come on St. Patrick’s Day, but there was hardly any “luck” involved for New Mexico State. Unlike many other NCAA Tournament underdogs who pull off monumental upsets, the Aggies more or less put on a clinic. NMSU dominated in seemingly every phase of the game over the first 20 minutes to take a 32-22 lead at the half. Although Connecticut was able to establish itself on the glass in the second half to make things interesting, the best the Huskies could manage was to tie the game at 58 with two minutes to play.

Allen already had 26 points on the evening when UConn tied things up. The final two minutes of play saw him completely take over. It all started with a three-pointer to break the deadlock and put the Aggies back on top. Then, he managed to finish a layup through contact and convert the ensuing free-throw for a three-point play. Allen knocked down all seven of his free-throw attempts in the final minute to ice away the victory for New Mexico State basketball. The individual performance was truly incredible as Allen scored over half of the Aggies’ 70 points in the game. The next-highest scorer for NMSU was Sir’Jabari Rice who finished with nine points.

Aggies Earn First NCAA Tournament Victory in Nearly Three Decades

Thursday’s win marked the first NCAA Tournament victory for New Mexico State in their last 12 trips to the Big Dance. Despite regularly qualifying over the past few decades, no team since 1993 had actually managed to win a game in March Madness. This result marks the latest success story for a proud Aggies program that even counts a Final Four appearance in 1970 among its list of accomplishments.

Chris Jans’ team might not be done just yet, either. While Allen stole the show in the First Round, Ne Mexico State has plenty of other players capable of contributing to a possible Sweet 16 run for WAC basketball. In addition, the Aggies have above-average size for a mid-major program. Up next is a Second Round clash with Arkansas of the SEC.

Airion Simmons Abilene Chirtisan Wildcats WAC basketball
Credit: Kevin Bires/Abilene Christian University Athletics

Stephen F. Austin, Abilene Christian, California Baptist Ready for CBI Tournament Play in Daytona Beach

The 2022 College Basketball Invitational tips off this weekend. After only eight teams partook in the tournament last year, the bracket has expanded the normal number of 16 again this season. Traditionally, CBI games have been played at the home venue of the higher-seeded team. This is no longer the case as the entire 2022 CBI will be held at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida.

With three WAC basketball teams accepting invites to the CBI, the conference will certainly be weel-represented. The Western Athletic Conference joins Conference USA with three schools in the field, the most from a single league.

The highest-seeded WAC basketball team in the College Basketball Invitational bracket is Stephen F. Austin. After earning a three-way split of the WAC regular-season title, the Lumberjacks suffered a one-and-done fate in the conference tournament. SFA will get a shot at redemption in the postseason. As the 4-seed in the CBI Tournament bracket, they will take on 13-seed UNC Asheville in the First Round.

Abilene Christian, the team that defeated Stephen F. Austin in the WAC Tournament, is also a part of this year’s CBI bracket. This veteran Wildcats team is no stranger to postseason success. ACU knocked off Texas in the NCAA Tournament last year. Seeded sixth in the bracket, their quest for a CBI Championship will begin with a matchup against 11-seed Troy.

The third WAC basketball team that will take the court in Daytona Beach this weekend is California Baptist. Despite posting a sub-.500 record in conference play, the Lancers still finished over the .500 mark on the season overall. CBU is the 15-seed in the College Basketball Invitational Tournament and will try to upset 2-seed Middle Tennessee in the opening round.

Fardaws Aimaq Utah Valley WAC basketball
Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Sam Houston State, Utah Valley Pass on Playing in The Basketball Classic

Upon learning that no WAC basketball teams would be taking part in the NIT this season, it was immediately clear that at least one deserving team from the conference would be left out of postseason play. Aside from the CBI, the only other option as far as tournament play this year was The Basketball Classic. Some college hoops fans might remember the event under its former Tournament (CIT) name.

The inaugural edition of The Basketball Classic has been a headache, to say the least. Tournament organizers initially said that the bracket would include 32 teams. That total failed to materialize, and tournament play began this week with only 21 teams in the field. With TBC games being played at on-campus sites, some schools might not have wanted to pay for the travel and expenses.

The tournament has also decided to heavily promote identity politics. The title sponsor of the event is Erascism, and random games are being dubbed as “Legend Games” where the winner receives a trophy honoring a former HBCU player. Whether this also played a factor in the decision of seven teams to decline invites is unknown.

Among those seven schools declining an invitation to participate in the TBC were WAC basketball members Sam Houston State and Utah Valley. Both programs would have been formidable competition in this or any other postseason tournament. The Bearkats’ season thus ends with an overall record of 19-14. SHSU went 13-5 in conference play to finish fifth in the standings. Meanwhile, Utah Valley concludes the year with a 20-12 overall record. The Wolverines finished 10-8 in WAC play.

Upcoming WAC Basketball Games to Note

New Mexico State’s upset of UConn in the NCAA Tournament ensured that there are four WAC basketball teams that will be in action this weekend. Along with the Aggies, each of the conference’s three CBI representatives will take the court for postseason tournament play.

UNC Asheville vs. Stephen F. Austin

CBI Tournament — First Round
Date: Saturday, Mar. 19
Time: 2:30 pm EST
TV Coverage: FloHoops

California Baptist vs. Middle Tennessee

CBI Tournament — First Round
Date: Saturday, Mar. 19
Time: 5 pm EST
TV Coverage: FloHoops

New Mexico State vs. Arkansas

NCAA Tournament — Second Round
Date: Saturday, Mar. 19
Time: 8:40 pm EST
TV Coverage: TNT

Troy vs. Abilene Christian

CBI Tournament — First Round
Date: Sunday, Mar. 19
Time: 7:30 pm EST
TV Coverage: FloHoops

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