Chalk will be tough to beat in MW, WAC

Chalk will be tough to beat in MW, WAC

March 14, 2019 3:01 AM
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Ja Morant didn’t leave his team’s tournament hopes to chance.

The Murray State sophomore and soon-to-be NBA Lottery pick scored 22 of his 36 points in the second half in leading the Racers to a 77-65 win over Belmont and an Ohio Valley Conference championship.

While the Bruins will now sweat out Selection Sunday, Murray State won’t. Since the Racers’ Saturday win, they’ve been joined by the champions of 10 other conferences who claimed automatic bids to next week’s NCAA Tournament.

That leaves 22 conference titles to be decided between now and Sunday. Three of those champions will be crowned in Las Vegas.

Pac-12 (at T-Mobile Arena, Wednesday-Saturday): As the Pac-12 stumbled through a collectively forgettable season, it could at least say, “Well, what about Washington?”

The Huskies won 12 straight games, including their first 10 in conference play, before falling to Arizona State on Feb. 9. That loss wasn’t so bad, but then Washington fell to lowly California (No. 248 per KenPom) on Feb. 28 and closed out the regular season with its worst offensive performance in a 55-47 loss to Oregon.

Still, the Huskies, No. 38 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, are probably safe even if they don’t win the conference tournament.

Arizona State, the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, is currently projected as one of the last four in, according to the 2019 Bracket Matrix, which combines the work of 118 bracketologists around the country.

Oregon (No. 61) is the second highest-rated Pac-12 team in the NET. To be safe, the Pac-12 will need a team other than Washington to win Saturday’s final to avoid becoming a one-bid league.

The pick: Oregon. While the Huskies stumbled down the stretch, the Ducks played some of their best basketball, routing Arizona and Arizona State at home and winning at both Washington schools to close the regular season.

Mountain West (at Thomas & Mack Center, Wednesday-Saturday): Utah State’s March 2 win over Nevada likely solidified the Mountain West as a two-bid league (although the Aggies needed overtime to avoid disaster at Colorado State three days later).

Utah State’s No. 30 NET ranking probably makes them safe on Sunday.

In November, Nevada was ranked in the Top 10 and considered a No. 1 seed candidate. While the Wolf Pack dropped some from its early-season heights, it’s still No. 18 in the NET. 

The pick: Nevada. The Wolf Pack has a tough potential semifinal match-up against fourth-seeded San Diego State (assuming the Aztecs get by UNLV on Thursday). Round 3 of Nevada-Utah State would be fun.

WAC (at Orleans Arena, Thursday-Saturday): The WAC this season was ruled once again by New Mexico State. They’re 27-4 entering the WAC Tournament, but their No. 46 NET ranking makes them a long shot for an at-large bid.

The pick: New Mexico State. The Aggies will need to watch out for Utah Valley, which finished the season with seven straight wins and clinched the No. 2 seed. 

Thursday

Texas vs. Kansas: The Jayhawks find themselves in an unusual spot: as the third seed in the Big 12 Tournament. And the Longhorns, at 16-15, will be desperate for a win. TEXAS

Indiana vs. Ohio State: This feels like a play-in game for Big Ten bubble teams. While the Buckeyes have lost three in a row, Indiana has won four straight. INDIANA

Akron vs. Buffalo: The Zips cruised past Miami (Ohio) on Monday but now face the top-seeded Bulls, to whom they lost twice this year. BUFFALO

Chicago State vs. New Mexico State: The Aggies beat the Cougars by 44 and 34 points in their two meetings Can oddsmakers set this line high enough? NEW MEXICO STATE

Last week: 3-1

Season: 32-26-2

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