Utah Valley is playing with house money at this weekend’s Western Athletic Conference tournament in Las Vegas.
In their first year of membership, the Wolverines have already won the regular-season championship.
1 p.m. » No. 1 Utah Valley vs. No. 8 Texas-Pan American
3:30 p.m. » No. 4 Kansas City vs. No. 5 Idaho
7 p.m. » No. 3 Chicago State vs. No. 6 Cal State-Bakersfield
9:30 p.m. » No. 2 New Mexico State vs. No. 7 Seattle
7 p.m. » Semifinal 1
9:30 p.m. » Semifinal 2
8 p.m. » Championship
* All times MDT
Because the WAC is a one-bid league, however, Utah Valley must keep winning to reach the NCAA Tournament.
"This is a group of kids that did not come here for the Western Athletic Conference," coach Dick Hunsaker said. "They came here to compete — because they love to play — and that’s what we’re going to do.
"Whatever occurs — whatever happens — we’re going to enjoy the ride and enjoy the opportunity that Utah Valley University has afforded our athletes."
The Wolverines have four seniors on the roster, led by point guard Holton Hunsaker and center Ben Aird. When they arrived, playing their way into the NCAA Tournament was only a dream because the school gained provisional Division I status in 2009.
"This is a bonus for us," said Hunsaker, son of the coach. "When we signed, we came to Utah Valley because we loved basketball and wanted to get better and knew that we could do that under my dad and his program."
Asked about his expectations for the upcoming WAC tournament, Hunsaker smiled and said, "We’re excited about it. We love playing basketball. Like I said, anything that happens now — accolades our team receives outside of just winning games — is extra."
Top-seeded Utah Valley opens the tournament Thursday at 1 p.m. against No. 8 Texas-Pan American at the Orleans Arena.
The Wolverines own a pair of victories over the Broncs this season, although they rallied from a nine-point deficit to score a 45-42 home win on March 1.
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