WAC Tournament: Grand Canyon vs Utah Valley Preview
Grand Canyon vs Utah Valley Preview
Two teams who can present challenges to whoever they potentially face in the NCAA Tournament will be fighting for their postseason lives in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament on Friday night.
It’s been rock chalk in the tournament so far, with the four top-seeds all advancing to the semifinal round. The No.2 seed Utah Valley (24-8, 12-4) will be slight favorites when they take the floor against the No.3 seed Grand Canyon (19-12, 10-6) who has been on the doorstep of their first every NCAA Tournament berth the last five+ seasons.
Since head coach Dan Majerle took over the program and they moved from Div.II to Div.I he has gone 122-70 (64 percent winning percentage) in six seasons, but zero NCAA Tournament berths.
Thanks in part to junior Carlos Johnson‘s career-high 31-point game, GCU advanced with an 84-75 first-round win against Seattle at Orleans Arena.
“The one thing I don’t have to is worry about is our guys not being ready,” Majerle said of Friday’s game. “They’ll be ready. These guys have tremendous energy, tremendous will. They fight. They’ll run through a wall for me.”
Johnson played with the aggression to break walls but the control to go 29 minutes without a turnover Thursday night.
“It means a lot, going through the battles we went through to get to where we’re at now,” Johnson said. “We had a little down slump but this is what we want right here. It takes three games and we’re going to take them one game at a time and chip away to get to the ‘ship.”
“I thought our guys really dug down deep and did a great job of defending and really concentrating,” Majerle said. “And then offensively, they did an unbelievable job.”
Conner Toolson scored a game-high 21 points and Richard Harward knocked down a go-ahead free throw with two minutes remaining to help lift Utah Valley to a 71-64 win over No. 7 Kansas City on Thursday night.
With the win, Utah Valley (24-8) breaks the school record for wins in a season with 24, surpassing the record of 23 wins set last season.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” said Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope. “This is the definition of what March is supposed to be. These games just come down to guts. There’s nothing pretty about them. It’s just both teams slugging it out. We couldn’t be more excited to get the win and move on to Friday’s semifinal.”
The team’s split the season series at one game a piece, each winning on their home court.
Grand Canyon 71 Utah Valley 60
Utah Valley 82 Grand Canyon 70
What will happen tonight? The rubber match figures to bring a lot of excitement to Vegas…
LINE: -2 Utah Valley
Dan’s Bet: +2 Grand Canyon
Score Prediction: Grand Canyon 70 Utah Valley 69