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NCAA Basketball

Louisiana Tech Quietly Dominating the WAC

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Louisiana Tech is sitting atop the Western Athletic Conference with a 9-0 mark, but you’d never know it. The only thing coming out of Louisiana these days is talk of Super Bowl XLVII.

How is it that a team that’s 18-3 overall and 9-0 in it’s own conference not being talked about at all? Probably because people were talking about another team–Utah State. The Aggies had the WAC Preseason Player of the Year in guard  Preston Medlin and were picked second in the WAC Preseason Men’s Basketball Coaches Poll. Then the injury bug hit and they lost two of their top players, Medlin and forward Kyisean Reed in the same game. Since then, they’ve lost four straight.

Back to the matter at hand, Louisiana Tech. Picked to finish fourth in the conference, they’ve instead decided to take the WAC by storm. They’ve won ten straight and haven’t lost since December 12–to McNeese State. The Cowboys are 8-10.

Guard Raheem Appleby, a preseason first team All-WAC selection, is putting together a solid season scoring for the Bulldogs, averaging 14.3 points per game. They feature an deep bench that keeps players fresh, as nine players average 13+ minutes per game. Their offense isn’t as efficient as their record states and they only shoot 40.8% from the field, which is seventh in the WAC.

They play a little bit of defense as well. The Bulldogs are forcing over  17 turnovers per game. They’re 6th in the country in turnover margin at +5.1 per game.

The WAC is a one-bid league but the chances of an at-large this year if La Tech doesn’t win the conference tournament might be greater than in years past.

Their out of conference schedule isn’t too strong (267th), but they do have some quality wins that don’t jump off the page. They took care of a 17-4 Southern Miss squad that’s in first-place in Conference USA, they won at Arkansas Little-Rock (who’s leading the West Division of the Sun Belt Conference) and most recently held on for a 51-48 win at Utah State on Saturday. They’ve been battle-tested throughout the season as well, proving they can win the close one–they’re 4-0 in game decided by four points or less.

Their three losses have been at McNeese State, at Texas A&M and at Northwestern State.

So maybe Louisiana Tech will start getting the respect they deserve if they can buzz through the second half of the WAC schedule. If they wind up with only three or four losses, blow through the second-half of their WAC slate and lose in the WAC Tournament, can they really be left out of the field of 68.

A trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991, when they won the now defunct American South Conference, would be some going away gift for the Bulldogs, who will make the move to Conference USA next season.