WAC Weekly: Spring has Sprung
The sounds of the ball meeting the glove and the crack of the bat are here, while the sounds of the ball hitting the court are quickly fading away. WAC spring sports have officially sprung and winter sports are on their way out with a bit of madness to ensue this March.
In this WAC Weekly, we’ll touch on baseball and softball finally springing into action, men’s and women’s basketball prepping for WAC Vegas play, and UVU wrestling heading into the Big 12 wrestling tournament.
Stop if you’ve heard this one before: New Mexico State is the WAC regular season champion. I bet you stopped already, but continue reading now. The Aggies have gone 16-0 for the first time ever for a WAC team in regular season play. Should they be the odds on favorite in WAC Vegas? Yes. Will they be? Who knows, it’s March.
If there is one team who could give the Aggies some trouble in the conference tournament, it may be Seattle University. The Redhawks have a WAC Player of the Year candidate in junior guard Terrell Brown. Though one player can’t win you a game, SU will be the most rested after their final two regular season games were canceled due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the state of Washington.
Look for the Aggies to potentially repeat as WAC tournament champions, but not without some competition along the way.
There was a bit of surprise for the women’s WAC regular season champion, as the University of Missouri-Kansas City took home the crown after defeating Utah Valley on Thursday, March 5 one game before their season finale. The preseason favorite, NMSU, is currently in fifth heading into Saturday’s finale, while perhaps the biggest surprise was UVU finishing in second after their finale was canceled due to fears of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Though UMKC won the regular season title, don’t expect them to be the favorite during WAC Vegas. The standings shifted often throughout the regular season with all top-5 seeds being in first place at one point or another during the regular season.
Look for any of those top-5 seeds to be a threat throughout the tournament. The best bet for a team to pull off an upset or two could just be UVU, watch out for the Wolverines.
The hottest team off the bat has been NMSU with an early record of 12-1, having won nine of their last 10 games, including four straight. The most disappointing team so far has been Northern Colorado, who has lost eight straight and has a record of 2-9.
While the Aggies have the best record so far, the team that can make some noise by season’s end is Grand Canyon University. The ‘Lopes were the preseason favorites and already have big wins over Oklahoma State and Oregon.
Look out for a battle between the Aggies and ‘Lopes throughout the regular season. While one has already heated up, the other just hasn’t quite got hot yet.
If you saw the preseason projections and looked at the current standings, you wouldn’t believe that UVU is in first place right now. But, the Wolverines currently sit atop the standings and deservingly so.
Though UVU has played the second-least amount of games early on this season, they’ve been both dominant and resilient so far. With a coaching change in late December, to having no time to recruit and having hardly any time to practice outside during the offseason due to weather, what the Wolverines are doing so far is very impressive.
Can UVU keep up the hot start? We will have to wait and see, but they definitely have both the pitching and hitting to do so.
Look for the preseason favorite who currently sits in fourth, SU, to give them a run throughout the season.
UVU wrestling is getting ready for the Big 12 championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the BOK Center from March 7-8. After having their first-ever Big 12 champion a season ago in Demetrius Romero at 165-pounds and sending a record six grapplers to nationals, they’ll look to build off of that — and they have the potential to do so.
This year heading into the championships, UVU has four returning NCAA qualifiers and four currently ranked wrestlers. Those four former NCAA qualifiers have the greatest chances, with sophomore Tate Orndorff in the heavyweight class, seniors Tanner Orndorff at 197-pounds and Kimball Bastian at 174-pounds, and junior Taylor LaMont at 133-pounds.
The UVU grappler with the best chance this weekend is Tate Orndorff as he is pre-seeded at No. 1 in his weight class, and currently ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation for his weight. UVU will have a total of 10 wrestlers competing at the championships, with the four mentioned getting pre-seeded within the top-6 in each of their weight classes, respectively.
Although Tate Orndorff is more than likely the favorite, each UVU wrestler this weekend will have a great chance at wrestling for a potential Big 12 championship and a potential NCAA qualifying berth.
What’s to Come?
By the time the next WAC Weekly comes about, basketball will nearly be done, baseball and softball will be gearing up for WAC play, and UVU wrestling will know how many NCAA qualifiers they will be sending to nationals.
So, enjoy basketball while it lasts, be ready for baseball and softball to continue to heat up and look for UVU wrestling to come out victorious.
Photo by Hunter Hall
*Updated as of March 8, 2020