New Twists At The WAC Tourney

For the first time, the WAC basketball tournament will be held at a neutral site – at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Coaches had been clamoring for years to be rid of the host school system that provided a huge advantage for the home team. That seemed even more important as the WAC drifted toward being a one-bid league.

Another change, equally significant, has been ushered in, with not only some of the top teams receiving byes, but the first- and second-place teams getting a double bye, which means instant placement in the semi finals.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that this system was championed primarily by Utah State coach Stew Morrill. The Aggies have been consistently at the top since joining the WAC.

I’m OK with rewarding season-long success, but a double bye in an eight-team tournament seems excessive. If you are seeded five through eight, you have to win four games in four days to win the tournament. If you are the second seed, two wins and you’re headed to the dance.

Another oddity in this year’s tourney is that the first two days (Wednesday and Thursday) will have the men play in the afternoon and the women at night. The men draw much better, so having them play on weekday afternoons seems likely to hurt ticket sales.

Some are surmising that Title IX is responsible, but I’m thinking television is behind this one.

* BYU guard Jimmer Fredette is inspiring a new lexicon in college basketball, as in Jimmer-mania and “you got jimmered.”

He may be the favorite for player of the year as the nation’s leading scorer.

Also being mentioned are Ohio State’s freshman post player Jared Sullinger and University of Connecticut high-scoring guard Kemba Walker.

But sneaking up on all of them is Duke guard Nolan Smith. After taking over the point from the injured Kyrie Irving, Smith is poised to become the first player in ACC history to lead the conference in both scoring and assists.

And he plays defense! Don’t count out the Blue Devils in March Madness.

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