Entertaining Saturday Afternoon Creates Tricky Power Rankings

entertaining
Freddy Hicks and Tarleton are 3-1 in WAC play and facing a big road trip this week. Courtesy Tarleton Athletics.
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On Saturday night, I was asked to go with a good friend of mine to the BYU-Saint Mary’s game at the Marriott Center. And let me tell you, it was an ugly game. It was so ugly that I had my phone out and watched the entire second half and overtime of the SFA-Tarleton game. The word entertaining comes to mind.

Now, I know that some fans won’t call it entertaining. If you saw the Twitter timeline following the game, you know what I am talking about. But, it was entertaining. It was a fitting way to end the second week of conference play. At WAC Hoops Digest, I have been saying all season long that conference play was going to be fun. Now, finally, some national media are taking notice.

And, of course, I had to say something.

It has been fun. There is no arguing that. Perhaps the Lamar brass and its fan base might argue that sentiment. But, hopefully this week we will be able to see the Cardinals. What is more intriguing is seeing over the next few weeks how the Texas four compete against the WAC veterans.

ACU goes to Grand Canyon and New Mexico State this week. Is Tarleton for real? We should find out with its road trip to New Mexico State and GCU this week. Plus, on Saturday, we get a WAC game on ESPNU.

With all that being said, let’s get to this week’s power rankings.

1 – New Mexico State

People may scream that I am giving into the mob on Twitter with regard to this ranking. But, after a road win to improve to 3-0 in WAC play, the Aggies are at the top. Teddy Allen is playing like a WAC Player of the Year. Big man Will McNair Jr. is arguably the Most Improved Player in the WAC. And the Aggies are deeper than any team in the conference. The worst part for the WAC is the Aggies haven’t really played up to the preseason potential, yet. Scary thought. Aggies get Tarleton and ACU this week in Las Cruces.

2 – Grand Canyon

It’s a big week for the Lopes. GCU hosts ACU and Tarleton. And Saturday’s game against the Texans is on ESPNU. Holland Woods and Jovan Blacksher Jr. are one of the best combinations in all of college basketball. And Gabe McGlothan is relentless around the rim but is also showing he can step out and hit a 3-pointer. Sean Miller-Moore fills the role left by Oscar Frayer and other role players are rising to the occasion for the 12-2 Lopes.

3 – Utah Valley

Yes, Utah Valley has reigning WAC Player of the Year Fardaws Aimaq. And Aimaq is playing like the Player of the Year. But, pay attention to Connor Harding, Blaze Nield, Tim Fuller and Le’Tre Darthard. These other four starters have stepped up big thus far for the 11-4 Wolverines. Justin Harmon should be back in the next week or two. And Trey Woodbury is getting closer to being cleared for contact. The Wolverines have a difficult road trip this week. Utah Valley takes on Seattle at Climate Pledge Arena on Wednesday before heading to Riverside to take on CBU on Saturday.

4 – Tarleton

Are the Texans for real? Well, they keep ringing the bell in the affirmative. Tarleton led from start to finish on Thursday over Sam Houston. And on Saturday, the Texans overcame a double-digit deficit to beat SFA in an entertaining overtime thriller. Tarleton is 3-1 in WAC play and gets a bigger chance to prove it belongs this week. Montre Gipson has played every minute of every WAC game thus far. Tahj Small had two big games in his return from being out due to COVID. Freddy Hicks is playing at a high level. Keep an eye on the Texans as they go to New Mexico State and GCU this week.

5 – Stephen F. Austin

The Lumberjacks got a big road win on Thursday at ACU. The entertaining win was considered a Quad I win at the time. But, ACU has since dropped out of the top-75 so now it’s a Quad II win. SFA led from start to finish at the Teague Center and was impressive in its first WAC game. On Saturday at Tarleton, it looked like the Lumberjacks were going to roll to another conference win. But, 24 turnovers later, the Jacks left Stephenville wondering what could have been. SFA hosts UTRGV on Tuesday in the rescheduled game from the WAC opener on Dec. 30. The Jacks then head to Huntsville to take on rival Sam Houston on Saturday.

6 – Sam Houston

Savion Flagg is another Player of the Year candidate. And this week, he showed why. Flagg didn’t score a point in the first half of Thursday’s loss to Tarleton. But, Flagg finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. That is how quickly he can score. And on Saturday, Flagg had 25 points and nine rebounds in the Bearkats entertaining and thrilling win at ACU. Sam Houston is quietly 3-1 in WAC play and getting contributions at different times from different players. The Bearkats are at Lamar on Thursday before hosting SFA on Saturday.

7 – Seattle

Seattle returned from its COVID pause with an impressive 93-77 win over Chicago State on Thursday. Darrion Trammell reminded everyone he was the Preseason Player of the Year selection. Trammell went for a game-high 32 points in the win. We still don’t know a ton about this Redhawks squad. But that should change this week when Seattle hosts Utah Valley on Wednesday at Climate Pledge Arena.

8 – Abilene Christian

Some Twitter followers will wonder how I drop ACU to eight after putting them at the top last week. Well, lose a pair of WAC games at home. That’s how. It’s not rocket science. ACU had an opportunity to make a statement this past week and sit atop the WAC standings at 4-0. But, the Wildcats came out flat against a motivated SFA squad on Thursday. And then, couldn’t hold off a pesky Sam Houston squad on Saturday. And now, ACU gets to go on a brutal road trip to Grand Canyon and New Mexico State. It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats fare against two opponents who don’t really know them well.

9 – Chicago State

It finally happened. Yep, Chicago State finally got a conference win. Brandon Betson hit a floater with 1.5 seconds remaining and Chicago State beat California Baptist in an entertaining Saturday afternoon matinee. We have been saying it all season that the Cougars were going to win some conference games. First-year head coach Gerald Gillion has brought life to a program that was hanging by a thread. Led by Betson and freshman guard Jahsean Corbett, the Cougars now have five wins on the season and all against Division I competition.

10 – CBU

CBU will move up in these rankings. No doubt about that. The Lancers came out flat against a motivated Chicago State team on Saturday. And, Freshman of the Year candidate Taran Armstrong was out in the second half due to an illness. Still, the Lancers shot poorly from the field in their first WAC game of the season. And the lack of energy was a bit concerning. CBU hosts Dixie State on Wednesday before hosting Utah Valley on Saturday at the CBU Events Center.

11 – UTRGV

Matt Figger has dealt with a lot of adversity in his first season in South Texas. The Vaqueros aren’t healthy, especially with regard to their big men. Jeff Otchere has missed a good deal of time. Donte Houston Jr. has missed the past two games due to injury. And the Vaqueros have had to play five guards most of WAC play. It is entertaining to see them get up and down the floor at a frenetic pace. But the rebounding issues are causing problems. The Vaqueros are at SFA on Tuesday in a makeup of the WAC opener.

12 – Dixie State

There is a lot to like about Dixie State. Scrappy, intense and they get after it. But, they are just not deep nor do they have a lot of size. The Kolby Lee saga right before the season began is a big part of that. But, Jon Judkins and his staff will hopefully have guard Andre Mulibea back this week. If anything, Judkins is hoping to find some consistency out of his guys. They can compete. But the inconsistency has to be addressed.

13 – Lamar

Hopefully, Lamar is healthy enough to play this week. Injuries, COVID and so forth have derailed Alvin Brooks’ return to Beaumont. Lamar hosts Sam Houston and Chicago State this week. So, hopefully they are able to play those games.

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