Nevada Reno v UNLV

WAC conference tournament preview

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The will probably be the last year of the WAC having any kind of relevancy nationally.

Nevada and Fresno State are leaving to become full-time members of the Mountain West. Hawaii is going to the MWC for football and taking the rest of their talents to the Big West. In exchange, the WAC is adding Denver, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio, Texas State and Seattle. Boise State will also return in all sports except for football.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the WAC is the biggest loser in this conference realignment mess.

But that’s not important this year.

What is important is that Nevada absolutely ran through this league, losing just two games since Thanksgiving. The only losses came to Idaho and at Iona for BracketBusters. I’m not sure anyone in the conference has the horses to run with them.

The Bracket

Where: Las Vegas

When: March 8th-March 10th

Final: March 10th, 11 p.m. ESPN2

Favorite: Nevada

The Wolf Pack were one of the hottest teams in the country down the stretch of the season, losing only twice after Thanksgiving. This is a group that is very, very talented. Deonte Burton and Malik Story are both high-major talents in the back court while Dario Hunt is one of the most intimidating defensive presences on the West Coast. Duke transfer Olek Czyz has made a name for himself in Reno.

And if they lose?: New Mexico State

Wendell McKines is one of the nation’s most underrated players. He averages a double-double despite facing double teams on a nightly basis. They certainly miss not having Christian Kabango out there, but the play of Hernst Laroche and Tyrone Watson has helped make up for it.

Sleepers: Idaho is the only team in the conference to knock off Nevada, and if that rematch were to come to fruition, it would be in the conference title game. I like Utah State’s roster. They have a talented back court and a couple of good big men, but they are young and get Nevada in the second round.

Studs:

Wendell McKines, New Mexico State: McKines deserved strong consideration for the league’s Player of the Year even though he didn’t play for the conference champ.

Deonte Burton, Nevada: Burton ended up winning the award, and rightly so. He was the leading scorer and the go-to playmaker for the conference champ.

Preston Medlin, Utah State: Good shooter, good athlete, smart player. What else would you expect out of a Utah State guard?

Vander Joaquim, Hawaii: Joaquim was probably the best true big man in the conference, averaging 14.0 ppg an 9.5 rpg.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

WATCH LIVE: Hofstra travels to Delaware on NBCSN

James Madison forward Yohanny Dalembert (40) prepares to shoot against Hofstra forward Rokas Gustys, behind, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Harrisonburg, Va., Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
(Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)
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Hofstra tries to keep pace with the conference’s elite as they travel to Delaware on Saturday afternoon. You can watch this CAA battle live on NBCSN at 5:00 p.m. EST.

The Pride (17-8, 9-4) are currently two games behind conference leader UNC-Wilmington and they’re trying to make a run to close out the season. Senior guard Juan’ya Green leads the Pride in points (17.7 ppg), assists (7 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) and he’s surrounded by a dangerous supporting cast.

Delaware (6-18, 1-12) had lost 15 consecutive games before beating Drexel in their last game. The Blue Hens have struggled in CAA play but Kory Holden (17.5 ppg, 4 apg) will try to help lead the upset.

These two teams met on Dec. 31 with Hofstra winning that one, 90-80, at home.

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

Michigan gets Caris LeVert back in a win over No. 18 Purdue

Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan (50) tries to steal the ball from Michigan guard Caris LeVert (23) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
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Zak Irvin scored 22 points and Michigan’s outmanned front line held Purdue’s redwoods to just seven offensive boards, six second chance points and just 22 points in the paint as the Wolverines landed a critical, 61-56, win over the No. 18 Boilermakers.

Depending on who you listen to, Michigan entered the day, at worst, on the bubble and at best, in headed for the 8-9 game.

And they picked up a top 25 win.

So yes, this win was big for them moving forward.

But more important than the win itself was that Wolverine fans got a glimpse of all-american guard Caris LeVert. He played just 11 points and didn’t return in the second half, he didn’t score and he missed the only shot that he took, but LeVert took the court for the first time since Dec. 30th. That day, LeVert rolled his left ankle and most likely reinjured a foot that had had a broken bone surgically repaired twice in the last 20 months. Michigan never confirmed what the actual injury was and never gave a timetable for when he would be back in the lineup, which is what made his brief appearance so important.

LeVert isn’t done for the season.

And since the Wolverines managed to post a 9-4 Big Ten record with LeVert acting as little more than a spectator, they have a chance to make a run in the Big Ten tournament and get into the NCAA tournament.

That will happen with LeVert in the rotation and, if all goes according to plan, the starting lineup.

So even with a loss against Purdue, the Wolverines had a good day. Bolstering their NCAA tournament profile was an added bonus.