New Mexico State's Ian Baker, who  scored in double-digits in 13 of 14 conference games. was named WAC Player of the Year. (Photo courtesy Jeremy Hawkes)

MARK MADNESS | Mark Adams previews the WAC Tournament

It's tournament time!

With all eyes on the conference tournaments this week, here's a look at the top contenders for the WAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Favorite

CSU BAKERSFIELD

  • Key question: Can CSUB repeat as WAC champions? Who will be able to figure out head coach Rod Barnes' nationally-ranked Roadrunner defense?
  • Go-to guys: Double-figure scorers Jaylin Airington (14.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game) and Matt Smith (10.8 ppg and 6.1 rpg). Damiyne Durham (13.2) also averages double figures in scoring (13.2).
  • Record: 21-7, 12-2 WAC (No. 1 seed).
  • WAC Tournament opener: Friday vs. Thursday's Seattle-Utah Valley winner.
  • NCAA ranks: No. 3 in field-goal defense (37.3%), No. 7 in turnovers forced (16.8), No. 13 in scoring defense (62.2) and No. 14 in steals (8.4).
  • WAC ranks: No. 1 scoring defense (62.2), field-goal defense (37.3%), steals (8.4) and blocked shots (4.0BPG); No. 2 in scoring margin (9.0), field-goal shooting (44.8%), rebound margin (4.8 and turnover margin (1.9).

Contenders

NEW MEXICO STATE

  • Key question: Will double-figure scorers Ian Baker (16.7) Braxton Huggins (13.6) and Eli Chuha (12.4) lead the Aggies to their fifth NCAA appearance in the last six years?
  • Go-to guy: Baker, the WAC Player of the Year, ranking second in WAC play in assists (5.14) and assist/turnover ratio (2.48); fourth in free-throw shooting (82.8%), fifth in scoring (17.3) and minutes (34.64), ninth in 3-pointers (1.79) and 12th in rebounding (4.9).
  • Record: 25-5, 11-2 WAC(No. 2 seed).
  • WAC Tournament opener: Thursday vs. No. 7 seed Chicago State.
  • Wins vs. Power 5 & Big East: Beat Arizona State, 81-70.
  • NCAA ranks: No. 5 in 3-point shooting (29.4%) and No. 14 in rebound margin (7.2).
  • WAC ranks: No. 1 in scoring offense (79.7), scoring margin (11.5), field-goal shooting (46.7%), 3-point defense (29.4%), rebound margin (7.2) and assist/turnover ratio (1.1).

UMKC

  • Key question: Can someone counter the three ball efficiency and the on court senior leadership of go-to guys LaVell Boyd (18.0 ppg) and Kyle Stewart (11.1 ppg)?
  • Record: 16-15, 8-6 WAC (No. 3 seed).
  • WAC Tournament opener: Thursday vs. No. 6 seed UTRGV.
  • WAC ranks: No. 1 in 3-point shooting (37.2%); No. 2 in free-throw shooting (71.6% and 3-pointers made (9.1).

Grand Canyon (21-9, 10-3 WAC) is transitioning to NCAA Division and not eligible for postseason play until 2017.

Other NCAA leaders

  • Individual: Antonio Green, UTRGV — No. 5 in 3-pointers made (3.55).

Projected automatic bid

CSU BAKERSFIELD


Mark Adams is ASN's lead basketball analyst. Follow him on Twitter at @EnthusiAdams.

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