Hey everybody! It’s me, TC, and I am so happy to be back again writing for WAC Hoops Digest. To say that these last few months have been crazy is an understatement. It felt like yesterday that I was excited and ready to be covering the WAC tournament. Unfortunately, that opportunity never came, as I woke up Thursday morning to the news that everyone else did. That news being, of course, that there would be no tournament. It stung. I was so excited to provide coverage and interact with those of you who were also in Vegas. Anyways, enough of the boohoo, lets talk basketball.
This off-season has been quite eventful for everyone. Bryce Drew takes over at Grand Canyon. Billy Gillespie is running the show at Tarleton State. A few transfers have elected to take their talents to power five schools. You know, the usual news in the midst of a global pandemic. The most notable news though is that Kansas City and California State Bakersfield are officially out of the conference. However, With those two gone, we are excited to welcome in Dixie State and Tarleton State.
With everything that’s happened, there have been some winners (I’m looking at you New Mexico State) and there are some in complete rebuild mode. This article didn’t refer to rebuilding for nothing, and there are two teams that stand out of the WAC the most. Those teams are California Baptist and Utah Valley.
Last season, the Lancers had a solid core of players that led the team to second place finish in the WAC. That core consisted of Milan Acquaah, Ferron Flavors jr., De’jon Davis, and Brandon Boyd. Unfortunately, the Lancers have lost three of those four guys, with the possibility of losing a fourth. Davis and Boyd have both graduated, and Flavors Jr. elected to transfer to Oklahoma State for his final year of eligibility. To add salt to the wound, they lose bench contributor Bul Kuol and starting center Zach Pirog. Pirog graduated, and Kuol is heading to Detroit for his senior season. There is hope though, Lancers fans. Acquaah is currently a wildcard. There is a chance he returns, and there is also a chance he pursues an opportunity to play professional basketball. There could very well be some more bad news for them if Acquaah leaves
Losing five of your best players hurts a lot, and it will hurt a whole lot more if Acquaah chooses to forgo his senior year. Piece it all together, and that’s why the Lancers are our biggest loser. Rick Croy has a tough job ahead to rebuild his squad. Fortunately, he has a couple of pieces in place to do so. Tre Armstrong and Glenn Morison both return after playing in 30 games last season. Russell Barlow, a 6’11 TCU transfer, will be eligible starting next season.
Croy has done a terrific job in his first two seasons since joining the WAC. And to be honest, the Lancers have some incoming graduate transfers that will make an immediate impact. Saint Mary’s transfer Elijah Thomas and Florida transfer Gorjok Gak along with Barlow should keep the Lancers competitive. It will be interesting to see how the Lancers do next season and going forward.
2020-21 will finally be Mark Madsen’s team at Utah Valley. With Brandon Averette, TJ Washington and Isaiah White all departing, there are no more Mark Pope holdovers in Orem. And it has been a busy offseason for Madsen and his staff. The Wolverines welcome in 10 new players for the 2020-21 season. Technically, it is 11 as Mercer transfer Fardaws Aimaq is eligible after sitting a year due to transfer rules.
The Wolverines return just two players from the 2019-20 season in Trey Woodbury and Jamison Overton. Utah Valley lost 80 percent of its scoring but Madsen brings in a solid recruiting class. Georgia Tech grad transfer Evan Cole highlights the group. Madsen also signed four junior college players who should have immediate impacts.
2020-21 may be a bit of a struggle for the Wolverines who feature just two upperclassmen in Cole and Overton. But, that might be good news for Madsen and company. It gives the Wolverines some time to develop chemistry and build a culture. Under Mark Pope, it seemed like there was a win now mentality as he brought in a lot of graduate transfers and upperclassmen. But, with his first full recruiting class, it seems Madsen is building for the future rather than just winning immediately.
If you want to listen to Madsen talk about his recruiting class, just click this link. The second-year head coach is really excited about his Wolverines.
What do you think, WAC fans? Who else might have as big of an offseason rebuild as California Baptist and Utah Valley? Tweet at us and let us know what you think. Stay safe and stay healthy everyone.