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WAC Tournament Bracket: Is a CSUB-NMSU final inevitable?

Is there a Las Vegas dark horse?

NCAA Basketball: Cal. State - Bakersfield at Brigham Young Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The final week of the WAC regular season had little drama. The only thing left unsettled was Utah Valley and Seattle jostling for the four seed, and that’s hardly compelling stuff.

Will the run-up to the WAC Tournament final be more of the same?

A rematch of last season’s CSU Bakersfield-New Mexico State championship seems unavoidable. The regular season champion Roadrunners and their elite defense finished the season on a 10-1 run. This included a Feb. 9 home win over NMSU that snapped a 20-game Aggie winning streak.

And the fact that streak got that long speaks to the challenge that is playing Ian Baker and NMSU. Though the Aggies went just 3-2 after that loss, they did stabilize with consecutive wins to end the regular season.

The elephant in the room, or not in the room, is Grand Canyon.

The Lopes went 11-3 in regular season play, and beat both CSUB and NMSU over the last month to finish the season on a seven-game winning streak. Dewayne Russell seems like the exact player to spin some championship week magic, but GCU is in the final year of its Division I transition and will not be in the tournament.

That leaves the most intriguing pre-final question: can any other WAC team seize the dark horse role?

No. 3 UMKC had its best season under Kareem Richardson, despite an ugly December that included losses on and off the court. Former WAC POY Martez Harrison was dismissed from the program, but the Roos rallied behind LaVell Boyd and a senior-heavy team, and take (and make) a lot of three pointers.

No. 4 UVU has underachieved on the whole, but is much more talented than its record indicates and owns wins at NMSU and BYU. For its part, No. 5 Seattle plays a tricky zone that is a contrast from the rest of the league.

No. 7 UTRGV has a pair of exciting guards in Nick Dixon and Antonio Green, but only won league games against Chicago State. The Cougars round out the field as the No. 7 seed.