Fans learned that bold predictions do come true. Just see the bold prediction put out about Chicago State. Tuesday night and Wednesday night came and went in a flurry of activity. Exciting finishes, breakout performances, and perhaps some surprise finishes were all prevalent in the season openers for WAC teams.
We learned Cam Tyson is going to be a really good fit for Seattle. UVU is going to struggle without its leading scorer. One thing we learned that may be a surprise is SFA, at this moment, might not be as deep as we thought. There are so many things we learned from the season openers that we won’t list them all here. We will focus on five things that really stuck out.
1 – New Mexico State is For Real
If you didn’t have the opportunity to check out the Aggies on Tuesday night, you won’t understand this. New Mexico State didn’t shoot it real well in their first game at the Pan American Center in over 600 days. However, it didn’t matter. The Aggies found a way to win. Teddy Allen hit a corner 3-pointer with a little over a minute to play to seal the win. Allen had a team-high 14 points on 6-18 shooting. Not as efficient as Chris Jans would have liked.
But, Jans has to be happy with the defensive effort. The Aggies held UC Irvine to 34 percent from the field and just 51 points. New Mexico State had six blocks and four steals in the contest. And big man Will McNair had his best game as an Aggie. McNair had 10 points and 8 rebounds, most of that coming in the first half to keep the Aggies in the game. For reference, Johnny McCants only had four points in the contest. That should tell you how for real the Aggies are that they walked away with an 11-point win over a very good UC Irvine squad on Tuesday night.
2 – Woodbury’s Injury is Huge Loss for Utah Valley
The news came out around tip off that Utah Valley guard Trey Woodbury is out for an undetermined time due to a knee injury. Devastating news for a Utah Valley program looking to potentially repeat as WAC regular season champs. Woodbury was a preseason All-WAC second team selection and set to have a monster year. The guard from Las Vegas averaged a team-high 15.6 points in 2020-21 and was going to be the focal point of the Wolverine offense in 2021-22.
However, a knee injury sustained in practice a week before the season opener has put all that in question. No time frame has been given for his return although Utah Valley is optimistic Woodbury will be back for conference play in January.
Without Woodbury on Tuesday night, the Utah Valley offense struggled. The Wolverines hit just three 3-pointers in the contest and scored 56 points in the 20-point loss at Boise State. Fardaws Aimaq had 15 points and Justin Harmon had 14 points for the Wolverines. But, the offense looked sluggish, and at times on their heals. In fact, at one point in the second half, the Wolverines committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions leading to run outs for the Broncos. The big key for Utah Valley is who can step up and fill the void left by Trey Woodbury. BYU transfer Connor Harding has the ability but struggled in his debut with the Wolverines. Harding finished with five points and eight turnovers.
3 – Is There a Depth Issue for Stephen F. Austin?
Maybe it was simply first game jitters. But one thing that I think we learned about the Lumberjacks is the depth may be an issue. Gavin Kensmil, Roti Ware, Calvin Solomon and David Kachelries will be just fine. And perhaps when Nigel Hawkins returns, it will give head coach Kyle Keller another scoring threat. But after those four or five, who will step up? Latrell Jossell struggled a bit and that was something Keller was concerned about at WAC media days in October. And against a non-DI opponent, the goal is usually to run out to a big lead and give some other guys experience. That just didn’t happen on Tuesday night in Nacogdoches.
Four starters played upward of 30 minutes. Four others who saw the floor played 12-17 minutes at a time. And while you may say that shows depth that bench players played that many minutes, think about this: SFA won the game by nine points. Against a non-DI opponent. No bench player had more than six points in the contest. Jossell and Nana Antwi-Boasiako each had six points off the bench for the Lumberjacks. Keep an eye on the depth of the Lumberjacks as the season moves forward.
4 – Cam Tyson Will Fit in Just Fine in the Pacific Northwest
Everyone said the signing of Houston transfer Cam Tyson would be huge for Seattle U. And on Wednesday night, we learned that statement was accurate. Tyson had 17 points on the night and none bigger than a 3-pointer with no time remaining to give Seattle the 69-66 win over Alcorn State at the Redhawk Center.
CAMERON TYSON FOR THE WIN!!! pic.twitter.com/zLCaIg6Yzv
— Seattle U Men's Basketball (@seattleumbb) November 11, 2021
Tyson was 6-15 from the field and 5-13 from beyond the arc. Don’t sleep on this Seattle team. They have weapons all over the floor and along with teammates Darrion Trammell and Riley Grigsby, Tyson makes this trio even more formidable.
5 – Chicago State Starts the Season 1-0
The Gerald Gillion-era in the Windy City got off to a great start. Sure, it was against the newest member of the Division I ranks in St. Thomas. Sure, Chicago State at times looked like Chicago State. But, and while I know the success may be for a short time, one thing we learned is that Chicago State will play until the final horn blows. In their season-opening win, the Cougars never fell apart even when they trailed late. Coreyoun Rushin hit some big buckets late as well as some big free throws. Newcomer Brandon Betson is an offensive threat and showed why he should have the ball in his hands. And at times the Cougars showed a defensive prowess that we haven’t really seen.
The Cougars have another opportunity at home on Friday against SIU-Edwardsville. If Chicago State can execute and communicate on defense, there is no reason this Cougars squad can’t be 2-0 at week’s end.