The New Mexico State Aggies have been the Kings of the WAC over the last 8-9 years. Outside of 2020-21 and 2015-16, the Aggies have been to the NCAA Tournament every year since 2012-13. Well, take away the 2019-20 season when the NCAA Tournament was canceled.
CSU Bakersfield and Grand Canyon are the only other teams to represent the WAC at the NCAA Tournament in that time. And Utah Valley and Grand Canyon are the only teams to win the regular season other than New Mexico State in that time, as well.
So, the target is quite large on the backs of the Aggies. And, as the preseason favorites to win the WAC again, the Aggies have lived up to the hype. Outside of three weird losses, two of which were blowouts, the Aggies have stayed the course. Right now, the win over Davidson at the Myrtle Beach Classic in November is looking better and better. At the time, the Aggies had arguably the best road win at Washington State in December.
And now, after sweeping a three-game home stand, the Aggies are in sole possession of first place in the WAC standings.
So, as we present this week’s power rankings, all is right in the world again.
1 – New Mexico State Aggies
Teddy Allen is on a tear. Jabari Rice has become a shut down guard defensively. The Aggie are deeper than any team in the WAC. And, according to head coach Chris Jans, the Aggies have the most size since Jans came to Las Cruces. At 19-3 overall and 9-1 in WAC play, the Aggies are showing why they were the favorites to win it all in 2021-22. New Mexico State is coming off a three-game sweep of its home stand. And if the Aggies can sweep the Rocky Mountain road trip this week, they will solidify that chase for the regular season crown even more.
2 – Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
If you haven’t been paying attention, you may have missed that SFA has won three straight games. And the two wins this weekend were in dominant fashion. The average margin of victory this weekend was 24.0 points. With Nigel Hawkins back in the lineup, the Jacks have looked pretty darn good recently. The Jacks are averaging 80.0 points per game in their last three. Gavin Kensmil continues to dominate. But three freshman in Latrell Jossell, Day Day Hall and Jaylin Jackson-Posey are all giving Kyle Keller some really good minutes. The Jacks should get wins four and five in a row as they face Chicago State twice in the next week.
3 – Sam Houston Bearkats
The loss to Utah Valley was a bit of a head scratcher. The Bearkats simply don’t lose at Johnson Coliseum. But, for whatever reason, the Bearkats couldn’t finish down the stretch in a one-point loss to the Wolverines. But, at 9-3 in WAC play, Sam Houston is still in the mix for that bye into the semifinals of the WAC Tournament. The biggest question for Sam Houston is can they win on the road? Four of the final six conference games are away from Huntsville. Keep an eye on that.
4 – Grand Canyon Lopes
Jovan Blacksher Jr. and Holland Woods are really good. Taeshon Cherry and Gabe McGlothan are solid. Sean Miller-Moore can post up and finish in the paint. But, there is a glaring issue with the GCU bigs. They struggle offensively. Sure, they can rebound and defend and are big bodies. But, the offensive game just isn’t there right now. And that can hurt the Lopes in a big way. It nearly did on Saturday against CBU. And in the three-game losing streak, the size issue was a factor. If GCU can get the bigs up to speed offensively, this team could be dangerous. But, for now, it is a tall order to fix if the Lopes are to make a run at WAC Vegas.
5 – Utah Valley Wolverines
The win over Sam Houston on Saturday was gutsy. Fardaws Aimaq put the Wolverines on his back down the stretch in the one-point win. But, the loss at SFA was frustrating, to say the least. The Wolverines still don’t have that guard to finish off games or make a play when it is needed. This is where Utah Valley misses Trey Woodbury the most. But, while it isn’t always pretty, this team outworks teams and competes at a high level. The big test is this week when the Wolverines host Grand Canyon on Thursday and New Mexico State on Saturday.
6 – Seattle U Redhawks
The weekend trip was really unfriendly to the Redhawks. Seattle was never really in either game against Grand Canyon and New Mexico State. Riley Grigsby struggled offensively all weekend. And when New Mexico State shut down Cameron Tyson and Grigsby, the Redhawks really had no answers. This team is skilled and can get hot at any given moment. But other role players like Kobe Williamson, Emeka Udenyi, Vas Pandža and others have to contribute more offensively if the Redhawks are to win the WAC.
7 – Abilene Christian Wildcats
So, start WAC play 2-0. Then, lose five straight. And now win five straight. That seems like a recipe for success. At least in the case of ACU, it works. Airion Simmons is the reigning WAC Player of the Week after having 33 points in a win over UTRGV on Saturday. The Wildcats head to Tarleton on Saturday looking to make it six straight wins.
8 – Tarleton Texans
Tarleton won its lone game of the week against Chicago State. The Texans actually had to fight off the Cougars down the stretch as Freddy Hicks made four straight free throws to seal the win. With nothing to lose from here on out, the Texans could finish 2021-22 with a winning record. Tarleton hosts Abilene Christian on Saturday.
9 – California Baptist Lancers
So close. Yet, so far. That seems to be the theme for CBU. At Grand Canyon on Saturday, the Lancers couldn’t finish down the stretch. And that seems to be another theme for CBU this season. Just look at the Chicago State, Dixie State, Seattle U and GCU games. It is amazing what a few possessions can do to a team. But, Taran Armstrong is back for the Lancers and this CBU team has shown it can compete with everyone in the WAC. Now it is just a matter of finishing games. The Lancers host Lamar and UTRGV this week looking to get back in the win column.
10 – Dixie State Trailblazers
It wasn’t a pretty weekend for the Trailblazers. A 24-point loss at Sam Houston and a 29-point loss at Stephen F. Austin is not what Dixie State had in mind. And things don’t get any easier as New Mexico State and Grand Canyon come to town this week.
11 – UTRGV Vaqueros
The Vaqueros had a good win on Wednesday on a night they honored former head coach Lew Hill in the one-year anniversary of his passing. Marek Nelson had a big night with 30 points and 10 rebounds. And then the Vaqueros couldn’t keep up with ACU on Saturday. One win could seal the deal for the Vaqueros to participate in WAC Vegas. But, the West Coast road trip will be a difficult one.
12 – Chicago State Cougars
Brandon Betson had a chance to win the game against Tarleton on Saturday. But his layup attempt fell short and the Cougars fell short in Stephenville. The final month of the season doesn’t bode well for the Cougars. Two games against SFA. A home game against Sam Houston. Plus, Grand Canyon and New Mexico State come to the Jones Convocation Center. And a West Coast road trip to end the regular season. With two wins, the Cougars are in WAC Vegas as of now. One more conference win could solidify that position.
13 – Lamar Cardinals
At 0-11 in WAC play, the season has been a bust. But, two or perhaps three wins in the final seven, could make it a successful one, in a sense. The Cardinals have dealt with injuries all season. Alvin Brooks hasn’t had a full roster since becoming the head coach. It’s just been a mess. But, perhaps a strong finish to the season and a trip to Las Vegas could heal some of those wounds.