Seattle U in the News: Basketball teams set to start WAC tournaments, with NCAA tourney berths at stake

March 9, 2021

The Seattle Times previewed this week's WAC college basketball tournaments from the perspective of the men's and women's teams.

Times sports writer Scott Hanson interviewed basketball coaches Jim Hayford and Suzy Barcomb and wrote this story about the teams' prospects going into the WAC tournaments this week.

Here are some excerpts from the story:

Seattle University men’s basketball coach Jim Hayford has seen enough from his young team to be excited for the future.

“But my challenge to the guys is why wait for the future when you can do something now?” Hayford said.

That is the mindset for both the Seattle U men’s and women’s teams as they play this week in the Western Athletic Conference tournaments in Las Vegas.

It’s a week in which three straight wins means not only the WAC tournament title, but the conference’s berth into the NCAA tournament.

The Seattle U women know what that is like, having accomplished the feat in 2018 and earning the school’s first bid into the Division I NCAA women’s tournament.

The Seattle U men have made 11 NCAA tournament appearances, but the last one came in 1969. The school dropped out of Division I in 1980 for 30 years before returning.

Seattle U, already without a lot of depth, recently lost starting senior guard Aaron Nettles to a fractured thumb and guard Vas Pandza to a foot injury.

“But I am an optimist, and we can beat them all,” Hayford said. “Every one of these games is going to be a tossup.”

It has been an up-and-down season for the Seattle U women (11-13, 6-8 WAC), the No. 5 seed in the tournament. The Redhawks open the WAC tournament in Las Vegas against No. 4 seed New Mexico State (8-11, 6-6 WAC) on Wednesday at 1 p.m. The teams split a pair of games in El Paso, Texas, last month.

“It’s not a question of our defense — we are really locked in defensively — and we’ve got to play with that same energy and passion against New Mexico State,” said Seattle U women’s coach Suzy Barcomb. “We’ve just got to find our offensive groove. If our offense can play as passionately as our defense is right now, we can make a nice little run.”