Scott Cross saw firsthand a year ago what a No. 1 seed means in a conference tournament.The Mavericks entered last year’s Southland Conference tournament as the top seed after going 15-1 in conference play and becoming the odds-on favorite to make their second NCAA Tournament appearance. Then they ran into a fourth-seeded McNeese State buzzsaw that drained 11 3-pointers and smoked the Mavericks 92-72, sending them to the NIT, a consolation prize.“It all comes down to who’s ready to play that day,” Cross said. “McNeese State was better than us that day and they beat us.”Tonight, in UTA’s only turn through the Western Athletic Conference tournament, the Mavericks hope to play that McNeese State spoiler role when they play Utah State at 10:30 p.m.The winner likely faces Louisiana Tech, who looks a lot like UTA did last year having rolled through conference play and sealing the top seed.“We have to be the hardest-playing, most passionate team out there for three straight days,” Cross said. “I think we can do that, but you don’t know until you actually get out on the court.”Having beaten the Aggies twice already this season, the Mavericks have shown it possible to get the job done. Injury-plagued Utah State lost their top three players as the season progressed, dashing their hopes of living up to their preseason billing. However, they won their last two games heading into the tournament, which is more than UTA can say.The Mavericks locked up the No. 4 seed with their 15-point senior night win over the Aggies, but failed to get any higher after losing to Denver and New Mexico State.You know what you’re getting with UTA. Cross’ team plays with a defensive intensity that makes life difficult on opposing players. They’ve held teams to a 38.2 shooting percentage, but they’ve been beaten by teams that consistently make outside jumpers and 3-pointers.When the Mavericks fall behind, they haven’t shown enough scoring prowess to fight back into the game until Saturday’s 69-66 loss to New Mexico State, when they rallied from a 15-point deficit to take a late lead.Kevin Butler leads UTA with 10.7 points per game and was named to the All-WAC third team, the only Maverick to receive an postseason honor. He’ll get the start along with UTA’s other three seniors Cameron Catlett, Karol Gruszecki and Jordan Reves.“It’s their last go-round, so we’re going to let them get first crack at it because we know they’ll play hard and give everything they’ve got,” Cross said.