Michael White could have made a really good stump speech for his Louisiana Tech men’s basketball team a week and a half ago.
Back then, the Bulldogs were riding the nation’s longest winning streak at 18 games, ranked No. 25 in The Associated Press’ poll and had a strong case that they belonged in the NCAA Tournament field of 68.
And now? Well, Louisiana Tech (26-5) brings a two-game losing streak into the Western Athletic Conference tournament, which continues with the men’s quarterfinals today at Orleans Arena, and even White doesn’t know where his team stands in the eyes of the selection committee.
“I think if we had success on the road last week we would have a really strong argument,” the Bulldogs’ second-year coach said on Wednesday. “We had an opportunity to have more impact on our destiny, and we didn’t take advantage of it. But we’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves, and we’re not going to blame anyone. Hopefully, we can take full advantage of our opportunity in Las Vegas.”
For most of its existence, the WAC has been a multiple-bid league, sending at least two teams to the NCAA Tournament in 20 of the past 25 years. However, recent history suggests the winner of this week’s tournament will be the conference’s lone representative. Only once in the past five years — 2010 with New Mexico State and Utah State — has the WAC had more than one team in the NCAA tourney.
Top seed Louisiana Tech, which meets No. 9 seed Texas-San Antonio at 6 p.m. today in the quarterfinals, appears to have the best chance of earning an at-large bid. The Bulldogs are No. 46 in the Ratings Percentage Index and 3-2 against the RPI top 60, including a road victory over a solid Southern Mississippi team.
Denver (21-8) has also put itself in the conversation by winning 10 straight, capped by a 78-54 thrashing of Louisiana Tech to earn a share of the WAC regular-season title. The second-seeded Pioneers, who take on No. 7 Texas State at 2:30 p.m. today, are No. 57 in the RPI, No. 28 in the Pomeroy Ratings and No. 48 in the Sagarin Index and have lost once since New Year’s Eve.
“If they want to go back to November to keep us out, OK,” said Denver coach Joe Scott, whose team opened 1-5. “There’s so many numbers to look at, but I like to look at the basketball numbers. Do you take care of the basketball? How do you play on offense? Defense? Everybody knows what a good basketball team does, but nobody ever talks about the basketball part of it.”
White and Scott each pointed out the difficulty in winning on the road in the WAC due to the extensive travel, but they also acknowledged that if their team isn’t cutting down the nets on Saturday night, it could make for a tense Selection Sunday.
“You never know what the committee is basing some of its final decisions upon,” White said. “If we don’t happen to win three games in three days here, I’m sure we’ll be in a group of a handful of teams that sweats it out through Sunday and whose future is in someone else’s hands.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.