Marvin Menzies wants to recreate this scene from last year (AP Photo)

WAC Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

1 Comment
Marvin Menzies wants to recreate this scene from last year (AP Photo)

The WAC played out as many expected, with preseason favorite New Mexico State winning the league with a 13-1 conference record. Two of the Aggies’ key players, Daniel Mullings and Tshilidzi Nephawe, returned to the rotation in mid-January after missing time due to injury and New Mexico State hasn’t missed a beat. And this is their tournament to lose, as the only other WAC team with an overall winning record (Grand Canyon) isn’t playing since they’re ineligible for postseason play as a provisional Division I member. While there could be some surprises in other areas of the bracket, the biggest would be if the Aggies didn’t win the automatic bid.

READ MORENBC Sports’ latest Bracketology

The Bracket

source:’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

When: March 12-14

Where: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 14, 11:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

Favorite: New Mexico State

The Aggies lost just one conference game, falling 58-52 at Seattle January 17. Since then they’ve won 11 straight games, with Mullings and Nephawe back in the rotation. Nephawe’s injury meant even more time for freshman Pascal Siakam, and boy did he step up. The WAC’s top freshman, Siakam averaged 13.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and senior forward Remi Barry is also averaging 13.2 points per contest. Five players average between 9.5 and 13.2 points per game and a sixth, guard D.K. Eldridge, adds 8.4 ppg.

And if they lose?: Kansas City

Kansas City has the WAC’s best scorer in sophomore Martez Harrison, who averaged 17.4 points to go along with 3.8 assists per game. Kareem Richardson’s team does a good job of forcing turnovers on the other end, as they forced a league-best 16.8 turnovers per game. But if there’s a concern for the Kangaroos, it’s that they allowed conference opponents to post an offensive rebounding percentage of 40 percent. They have to be better in that area in order to make a run in Las Vegas.

Other Contenders:

  • Seattle: Cameron Dollar’s Redhawks are led by the tandem of Isiah Umipig and Jarell Flora, who combine to average nearly 31 points per game. But can anyone else step forward offensively?
  • Bakersfield: Rod Barnes’ Roadrunners dropped two straight to end the regular season, including one against quarterfinal opponent Utah Valley, but they have one of the WAC’s best big men in Aly Ahmed (13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg).

Player of the Year: Martez Harrison, Kansas City

In addition to averaging 17.4 points per game, Harrison also accounted for 3.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game. He’s the feature option for Kansas City, which relies on him to create for himself and his teammates. And despite the attention from opposing teams that comes with this, Harrison’s been very productive.

Coach of the Year: Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State

Menzies’ team went 13-1 in conference play, and their 13 wins were by an average of 14.2 points per game. Sure they were expected to win the league, but New Mexico State was flat-out dominant this season.

First Team All-WAC:

  • Harrison
  • Isiah Umipig, Seattle: Averaging 16.7 points per game, Umipig shot 43 percent from beyond the arc.
  • Daniel Mullings, New Mexico State: Mullings averages 12.8 points per game, and he second on the Aggies in both rebounds (5.4) and assists (2.6) per game and he led the team in steals.
  • Pascal Siakam, New Mexico State: Siakam was one reason why New Mexico State was as dominant as they were despite some key injuries, and he posted a double-double in 12 of the Aggies’ 14 league games.
  • Aly Ahmed, Bakersfield: Ahmed’s averaging 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for the Roadrunners.

CBT Prediction: New Mexico State rolls to another WAC tournament title.

American Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Getty Images
1 Comment
source: AP

The American is as down this season as the league is ever going to be. UConn and Memphis are both NIT-bound, barring a miracle run through the conference tournament. Temple is good, but they’d be headed to the NIT if they didn’t happen to catch fire against Kansas on a night the Jayhawks were struggling. Cincinnati overachieved this year, especially considering what happened with Mick Cronin.

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology

It certainly didn’t help matters that SMU spent the first half of the season without Markus Kennedy, the second half of the season without Justin Martin or Keith Frazier, and the entire season without Emmanuel Mudiay. Think about it like this: the Player of the Year in the American wasn’t even supposed to be the starting point guard on his team this season. That’s why a team like Tulsa, in their first season in the American, was able to sneak in and play for a league title.

That said, those struggles should mean that the conference tournament is going to have some weird things happen.




MORE:’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

When: March 12-15

Where: Hartford, CT

Final: March 15, 3:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Favorite: SMU

The Mustangs are, quite simply, the best team in the conference, and I’m not convinced that it is all that close. They have the league’s best point guard in Nic Moore and a front line anchored by the likes of Markus Kennedy, Yannick Moreira and Ben Moore. They’re tough, they defend and they execute offensively. There’s a reason Larry Brown is a legend.

And if they lose?: Temple

I’m not quite sure what to make of the Owls at this point, but in talking to people around the conference, many seem to be in agreement that Temple is as good as anyone in the league … when they’re at 100 percent. Well, guess what? They’re at 100 percent.

Other Contenders:

  • Cincinnati: The fact that the Bearcats are headed for the NCAA tournament with head coach Mick Cronin out of commission is incredibly impressive. They have issues scoring the ball, but they can be a nightmare to try and run offense against.
  • Tulsa: There’s a reason that Tulsa finished second in the conference this season, but there’s also a reason that they’re still on the NCAA tournament bubble. This group can beat teams, but most of their damage in the league this season came against the AAC’s bottom-feeders. They’ll ride Shaquille Harrison and Jordan Woodard as far as possible.

Sleeper: UConn

Let’s go beyond the fact that the Huskies have built a name for themselves as a tournament team the last few years, or that Ryan Boatright is the most talented player in the conference and surrounded by two potential stars — Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis — who are coming into their own. This event will take place in Hartford and will be packed with UConn fans. They’re home games. Can the Huskies capitalize?

American Player of the Year: Nic Moore, SMU

Moore wasn’t even supposed to be the starting point guard for the Mustangs this season. He was recruited over, relegated to playing off the ball with the addition of Emmanuel Mudiay. But with Mudiay heading to China, and the academic issues that forced Markus Kennedy, Keith Frazier and Justin Martin to miss time, Moore was this team’s rock, the reason they won the conference title.

American Coach of the Year: Frank Haith, Tulsa

Who had the Golden Hurricane playing for the outright American title on the final day of the regular season? Anyone? Bueller? Haith gets his fair share of criticism as a coach — some fair, some not — but there’s no denying the job that he did with this team in their first season in the conference.

First Team All-AAC:

  • Moore
  • Ryan Boatright, UConn: The Huskies did not have a great deal of success this season, but it wasn’t because Boatright didn’t put up big numbers. He’s not Shabazz Napier, but he’s still a terrific talent.
  • Austin Nichols, Memphis: Nichols battled an ankle injury for much of the last month of the season, but he was the Tigers’ best player and arguably the best defender in the league.
  • James Woodard, Tulsa: Woodward was the leader for the Golden Hurricane as they surprised everyone and finished second in the conference in the regular season.
  • Will Cummings, Temple: The Owls were one of the league’s biggest surprises, and Cummings was a major reason why.

Second Team All-AAC:

  • Markus Kennedy, SMU
  • Shaquille Harrison, Tulsa
  • Daniel Hamilton, UConn
  • Octavious Ellis, Cincinnai
  • Louis Dabney, Tulane

Defining moment of the season: Emmanuel Mudiay’s trip to China

With Emmanuel Mudiay, SMU had a chance to be a legitimate Final Four contender. With their front line and a back court featuring Nic Moore and Mudiay, Larry Brown would have been in his element. As it turned out, Moore won Player of the Year and SMU won the league, but they’re ceiling as a team was greatly reduced.

CBT Prediction: UConn makes an improbably run through the tournament and wins the automatic bid by beating SMU.

SEC Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Willie Cauley-Stein (Getty Images)
Leave a comment
source: Getty Images
(Getty Images)

Kentucky vs. The Field has been a popular debate among college basketball for much of the season, but first, the Wildcats have to get out of the SEC Tournament. At 31-0, John Calipari’s team is the heavy favorite to win the auto bid and it will be interesting to see if Kentucky continues its trend of playing well in big games on national television.

As long as Kentucky stays healthy and fully engaged, there’s no reason they shouldn’t win in Nashville.

Arkansas is the only other top-25 team in the SEC and the Razorbacks are coming off of a late loss against LSU as they’ve faltered a bit down the stretch. But the Razorbacks feature the SEC’s Player of the Year in sophomore Bobby Portis and he’s been fantastic during SEC play.

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology

From there, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M are still fighting for NCAA Tournament bids and/or better seeding. The Aggies and Tigers, in particular, could use a win or two to help get them into the field of 68 while Georgia and Ole Miss could use some wins to get out of the near double-digit seeding range they currently sit.

Some other dangerous teams lurk in the lower seeds as Vanderbilt is playing much better late in the season after some close losses and Florida has enough talent to at least put a scare into Kentucky if they play in the quarterfinals and the Wildcats have an off-night.



MORE:’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

When: March 11-15

Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville

Final: March 15, 12 p.m. (ESPN)

Favorite: Kentucky

Like there was any doubt? The Wildcats have rolled to a perfect 31-0 record before heading to Nashville to begin the postseason and it seems as though Kentucky plays even better when the game has national significance. Defensively, Kentucky can be as dominant as any team in the country, and offensively, they have so many different weapons and ways to get shots that they’re tough to stop.

And if they lose?: Arkansas

The Razorbacks benefited from only facing Kentucky once in the SEC and they’re the only team in the conference to be consistently featured in the top 25 during league play. Led by third-team All-American Bobby Portis, the Razorbacks have been more consistent away from home this season and can intimidate teams with their athleticism on both ends of the floor. But can Mike Anderson’s team bounce back from a 3-2 end of the conference season that also included some narrow wins?

Other Contenders

  • Georgia: Besides being swept by South Carolina and losing to Auburn at home, the Bulldogs have been rather strong in SEC play and have only lost to the conference’s top-four teams outside of that. Plus, Mark Fox’s team has actually given Kentucky a real test this season.
  • LSU: The road win at Arkansas to end the season was a big one and sophomore Jarell Martin is playing tremendous down the stretch. The Tigers are certainly talented enough to make a run in the postseason if Jordan Mickey is healthy and playing at full speed.

Sleeper: Vanderbilt

The Commodores are surging down the stretch and the experienced pieces are finally gelling with the freshmen. Sophomore big man Damian Jones has generated some early NBA buzz while freshman guard Riley LaChance is one of the most underrated freshman among power conferences in the country. As a team, Vanderbilt shoots 39 percent from 3-point range, and if they get hot, they can be tough to stop.

SEC Player of the Year: Bobby Portis, Arkansas

A third-team All-American, Portis was the most important individual player on any team in the SEC this season. Averaging 17.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game on good shooting splits (56% FG, 42% 3Pt, 74% FT), the 6-foot-11 sophomore scored in double figures in all but one game this season as the Razorbacks’ go-to guy. In SEC play Portis played even better, as he averaged 18.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while also blocking 2.8 shots a game in league play.

SEC Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Kentucky

Kentucky has answered every question about its use of one-and-done players and the platoon system this season by dominating opponents and playing mostly selfless basketball. Calipari is a huge reason why. The head coach has gotten nine McDonald’s All-Americans to put aside ego for the greater good of the bigger picture (a national title) and the result has been one of the best college basketball teams in recent memory.

First-Team All-SEC:

  • Portis
  • Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky – An first-team All-American, the junior center is the country’s best defensive player, covering an incredible amount of ground on the perimeter while also protecting the rim as well as anyone in the nation.
  • Karl Anthony-Towns, Kentucky – The potential top-3 pick in the NBA Draft has played his best ball down the stretch. The freshman center only plays an average of 20 minutes a game but has at least 12 points in eight of his last 11 games.
  • Josh Richardson, Tennessee – It’s hard to imagine how bad Tennessee basketball would have been this season without Josh Richardson. The senior used a great 2014 NCAA Tournament as momentum for a tremendous senior year.
  • Jarell Martin, LSU – Coin flip between Martin and sophomore teammate Jordan Mickey based on numbers. Mickey has many more blocks, but Martin has been huge down the stretch, including 27 points in a road win at Arkansas that might have saved LSU’s season.

Second Team All-SEC:

  • Jordan Mickey, LSU
  • Danuel House, Texas A&M
  • Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
  • Stefan Moody, Ole Miss
  • Devin Booker Kentucky

CBT Prediction: Kentucky stays unbeaten entering the NCAA Tournament and beats Georgia for the title.