Every sports fan remembers the fateful day last spring that shut down the NBA season and ground daily life to a halt for nearly every American. First came the news that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the “novel coronavirus” minutes before the Jazz were set to play the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
The Jazz-Thunder matchup was postponed shortly thereafter and fellow Jazzman Donovan Mitchell tested positive for COVID-19 early the following morning. Within the span of a few hours, the NBA announced the suspension of the 2019-20 season — a stark harbinger of things to come.
While the Utah Jazz made headlines, they weren’t the only basketball team to find themselves stranded in a hotel room on the night of March 11, 2020. Both Utah Valley’s men’s and women’s basketball teams were in Las Vegas competing in the 2020 Hercules Tires WAC Basketball Tournament. The women lost to Seattle U just moments before the collegiate basketball season was upended in what would be the final WAC game of the season.
Now, nearly a year to the day later, the conference is scheduled to convene in Las Vegas for the 2021 Hercules Tires WAC Basketball Tournament from March 10-13. This year’s tournament will hopefully be one of a kind. Three programs won’t be competing at all — Dixie State and Tarleton State will be ineligible because they are less than a year into converting from Division II to Division I and Chicago State shut down their men’s basketball program after playing only nine games.
The conference hopes to limit the drama this year to that which takes place between tip-off and the final buzzer, but as we know all too well, you can’t count on anything in 2021.
Last season, the WAC had eight postseason teams for both men’s and women’s basketball, making for a simple postseason bracket. With the aforementioned absences, the women’s bracket will consist of seven teams with the No. 1 seed granted a BYE in the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals will take place on March 10, followed by the semifinals on March 12 and the finals on March 13.
On the men’s side, the bracket is even more complicated with only six teams in competition. The top two seeds will get a BYE from the quarterfinals which start on March 11. The semifinals will take place on March 12 ending with the finals on March 13.
The winner of each tournament will receive the WAC’s automatic qualifying bid for the NCAA tournament. California Baptist is still in the midst of a transition to full Division I status and is currently ineligible for the postseason. Should the Lancers win either tournament, the automatic bid will go to the team that finishes in second place.
Given the number of canceled/postponed games and the discrepancies between the number of games each team will have played, seeding will be based on each team’s winning percentage and number of games played.
Where to Watch
The tournament will be held at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas for the 11th season in a row. The arena can hold up to 9,500 fans but capacity will likely be limited to ensure proper safety and social distancing protocols. Orleans Arena is also scheduled to host the West Coast Conference Tournament from March 4-9, 2021.
Bridger Beal-Cvetko is a junior at Utah Valley University where he is studying journalism. He has been with The Review since 2019, where he has covered the UVU men’s basketball team and the softball team before becoming the Sports/Valley Life Editor. Bridger also covers the BYU football and basketball teams as a writing and producing intern for ESPN 960 Sports on KOVO 960 and espn960sports.com. Aside from sports, Bridger is an ardent cinephile, and writes reviews and commentary on films for his personal website.