Las Vegas was the meeting place of the WAC on Oct. 15 for the 2013 conference media day. Coaches from all over the conference met to make predictions about the season and represent their school at the Orleans Arena, where the conference tournament will be held in March.
Of the nine teams that make up the conference, six are new. New Mexico State and Idaho are longtime members and Seattle has a year in the league under its belt. UVU, UC Bakersfield, Chicago State, Texas Pan-American, Kansas City and Grand Canyon University are all newcomers, each excited to make its mark on the conference.
Of course, every coach explained how excited he is to start the season. For the new teams in the conference it may have been more nerves than excitement. The new members have never been in this position before and now most of them have the NCAA tournament to play for. Grand Canyon is on a four-year provisional period that doesn’t allow them to play in the postseason.
Reigning conference tournament champ New Mexico State was picked to finish first. The prediction does not come as a shocker for the team who has several big men (brothers Sim and Tanveer Bhullar stand seven-foot-five and seven-foot-three respectively) and guard Daniel Mullings was named preseason WAC player of the year.
Idaho was picked to finish second, and like the Aggies, the Vandals have a great mix of returning players and new blood to make a run at the conference title. Forward Stephen Madison and guard Connor Hill both averaged over 12 points a game last year.
One of the biggest surprises of the preseason polls was the prediction that Bakersfield will finish third. The Roadrunners have a very athletic team and are hoping to have the quickness and experience that will lead to a solid first year. Isaiah Grayson and Brandon Barnes are talented guards that will be relied upon. The Roadrunners also have a familiar name on their roster – Tyrell Corbin – son of Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin
UVU did find some favor in the polls and were picked to finish in the middle of the pack after the three previously mentioned schools. That prediction seems to be good enough for head coach Dick Hunsaker.
“I think that’s a very fair assessment of our team, maybe even a little bit high,” Hunsaker said.
The Wolverines have had much success without being attached to an automatic qualifying conference. Building on that success will help the team go above the mid-level WAC finish it is expected to achieve in its first year.
“What we have achieved at Utah Valley without the automatic qualifying has been my biggest achievement,” Hunsaker said. “It’s everyone’s dream to play in the tournament and to ask them to come here and not have that is really hard, but having the automatic bid is something that has helped recruiting.”
The Wolverines also have Ben Aird and Holton Hunsaker to help mold the younger players in becoming a great team, proven by their selections to the All-WAC teams
The coaches of the conference were in agreement that although they don’t put much thought into the outcome of the preseason polls, they agree with how they were made. New Mexico State looks to be the front-runner of the conference and rightfully so. They are returning many players that have a lot of experience. Anything after the Aggies is a tossup, and any team could sneak into the second spot and have a strong conference tournament. Only the season will tell if the predictions are accurate or not.