It is Game Day in the Western Athletic Conference. And the Game Day slate is loaded. Six games will tip-off beginning at 5:30 p.m. MT. And one of those games will be missing a key figure on the sidelines.
Early Thursday, Grand Canyon announced that due to health and safety protocols, head coach Bryce Drew will not coach Thursday night. The Lopes are set to take on Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches in a key game for both teams.
Talk about the game day blues. GCU is 14-2 overall and 5-0 in WAC play. The Lopes have shot over 50 percent from the field in their last three games. In fact, GCU hit 12 3-pointers in both of its last two wins over ACU and Tarleton. Jovan Blacksher Jr. and Holland Woods are one of the best guard tandems in the country. Blacksher Jr. is averaging nearly 17 points per game. And both Woods and Blacksher Jr. do what they can to make their teammates better.
SFA is coming off a win over Lamar on Monday. The Jacks have been inconsistent to start WAC play. But, Gavin Kensmil and Company can make a big statement with a win Thursday. David Kachelries and Latrell Jossell will have their hands full. And for the Jacks, you hope to see Nigel Hawkins back on the floor after missing Monday’s contest. The biggest question mark for SFA is: which Jacks team will show up Thursday? Is it the same one that lost 49-41 at Sam Houston when the Jacks couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat? Or the one that had a big offensive outburst against Lamar on Monday?
Keep and eye on it.
Can Sam Houston Shot Its for Real?
Line – New Mexico State -4, O/U 136
Another squad with a big opportunity on game day is Sam Houston. The Bearkats host New Mexico State Thursday night. At 5-1, the Bearkats have surprised many in the WAC. Sam Houston had just two Division I wins in the non-conference slate before opening WAC play. And Savion Flagg and the Bearkats have shown they know how to win. Flagg is second in the league in scoring at 19.8 points per game and second in rebounding. It is the role players who have come alive in conference play.
Javion May, Jaden Ray, Tristan Ipke and others have all stepped up.
New Mexico State counters with the deepest roster in the WAC. Teddy Allen is a WAC Player of the Year candidate. But, the Aggies feature a bevy of other players that can knock down shots, as well. Jabari Rice, Donnie Tillman, Johnny McCants, Clayton Henry among others. The Aggies aren’t 15-2 overall for no reason.
Redhawks vs. Wildcats in Critical Game for Both
Line – ACU -6, O/U 142
ACU has lost four straight. Seattle has won four straight. Plain and simple. There is a lot at stake at the Teague Center on Thursday. Seattle wants to stay in the hunt for the regular season crown. But, the Redhawks haven’t really played anyone, yet. The win over Utah Valley was impressive. But the Redhawks struggled at California Baptist on Monday and used a big run late to beat Chicago State at the Jones Convocation Center two weeks ago. The other win was against Dixie State. Darrion Trammell, Riley Grigsby, and Cameron Tyson have all been really good for the Redhawks. But, ACU’s defense is no slouch so expect them to slow down at least one of that Big 3.
For the Wildcats, after starting WAC play with two big road wins, the wheels have kind of come off. Sure, last week, against the two best teams in the conference, ACU gave up a lot of points. In fact, the 93 points GCU scored were the most against ACU since, well, we will just let your imagination run wild with that one. But, the Wildcats are back to full strength this week with Airion Simmons returning from COVID protocols. It should be a fun one with tip at 6 p.m. MT on ESPN+.
In the Battle of the Red, Who Will Prevail?
Line – Dixie State -6, O/U 147
It is red vs. red tonight at the Burns Arena in St. George. Lamar travels to Utah to take on the Trailblazers. And for one team, a win is a must if they want to keep pace with the rest of the pack to go to WAC Vegas. For the other, getting another conference win and establishing the footprint in the second year of the transition period would be a step in the right direction.
Dixie State and Lamar are a combined 1-8 in WAC play. Not good. Lamar is winless after losing at Stephen F. Austin on Monday. But the Cardinals have not been fully healthy all season. Thursday night might be the healthiest Lamar has been. For Dixie State, the plan has to be to continue to attack. When Cameron Gooden gets going downhill, he is nearly unstoppable. Add in the play of Hunter Schofield, Isaiah Pope and Frank Staine and Dixie State can be a handful.
It should be a high-scoring, entertaining game at 7 p.m. MT on ESPN+.
California Baptist at Tarleton – 6 p.m. MT on ESPN+. Line: Tarleton -5, O/U 132.5
UTRGV at Utah Valley – 6 p.m. MT on ESPN+. Line: Utah Valley -12.5, O/U 149.5