Strong
GCU is off to a 4-0 start in WAC play as the Lopes prepare to host New Mexico State this coming weekend at the GCU Arena. Courtesy GCU Athletics.
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GCU Holds Strong Atop Weekly WAC Power Rankings

GCU center Asbj├┤rn Midtgaard is strong. Simply put. At 7-feet, 270 pounds, the Wichita State transfer has made a huge difference for the Lopes. Midtgaard and the Lopes sit atop the WAC standings at 4-0 after a weekend sweep at Dixie State. And remember, in these power rankings, conference wins matter. 

It was kind of a disappointing weekend, to be honest. Only one conference series happened in the GCU-Dixie State series. Utah Valley started off strong against St. John’s but turnovers were a killer in an 18-point loss. California Baptist picked up a pair of wins. The Lancers blew out non-DI opponent San Diego Christian on Wednesday. And Gorjok Gak had a monster night for the Lancers in a 21-point win over Long Beach State on Saturday.

New Mexico State was still on pause when the weekend began. However, the Aggies were able to practice in the Pan Am Center for the first time this season on Saturday night. And, according to a tweet, the Aggies play Western New Mexico on Monday night at the Haskins Center in El Paso. 

UTRGV, Seattle and Tarleton State were all off this weekend. The Vaqueros were supposed to travel to Stephenville to face the Texans. But, UTRGV went on a 7-day pause due to COVID. Seattle had a positive test on the Saturday prior to the encore against Utah Valley and have been on pause since. 

It’s almost as though only the strong will survive this 2020-21 season. 

Here are your weekly power rankings.

1. Grand Canyon

4-0 in WAC play. Simple as that. And while some will argue that both series sweeps have come against the newcomers so it’s nothing to write home about, I will tend to disagree. Do you remember the last time the WAC added a new member and what that new member did in its first WAC game? 

Well, GCU is having none of that. Yes, the games at Tarleton State were brutal and the Lopes had to grind out wins. On Friday at Dixie State, it was a similar situation. But, Midtgaard and teammate Gabe McGlothan were strong on the offensive boards and Jovan Blacksher Jr. and Mikey Dixon were strong down the stretch. 

The momentum carried over into Saturday as the Lopes jumped out to a big lead early and never let up in a 35-point blowout of the Trailblazers. 

This weekend will tell us if this GCU team is for real. The Lopes host New Mexico State at the GCU Arena. 

2. UTRGV

Yes, the Vaqueros didn’t play this weekend due to COVID. And perhaps it came at the right time. The Vaqueros aren’t scheduled to play anyone until Feb. 5-6 when they host GCU at the Bert Ogden Arena. 

Javon Levi and Jeff Otchere are back on the floor after dealing with injuries. Sean Rhea has been playing extremely well and the Vaqueros are really one of the deepest teams in the WAC. Not only deep, but experienced, as well. Read what I said in last week’s power rankings about this team. 

3. Utah Valley

It wasn’t such a strong showing in the Big Apple for Utah Valley on Saturday. 22 turnovers wasn’t what the Wolverines had in mind. To make matters worse, big man Fardaws Aimaq sprained his ankle late in the second half and is day-to-day at this point. 

Let’s give a little credit, though. What team is willing to travel clear across the country to play a Power 6 opponent on short notice in the middle of conference play? Mark Madsen says it will make his team better in the long run. 

One thing that might be a cause for concern is the lack of scoring off the bench. Having Evan Cole, Jamison Overton, Trey Woodbury, and Aimaq all play 35-plus minutes per game can add up toward the end of the season. Someone needs to step up. If Jordan Brinson, Tim Fuller or Le’Tre Darthard among others can add some offense off the bench, this Utah Valley team is dangerous. We already know they are extremely strong among their top-four players. 

4. California Baptist

Gorjok Gak is putting up some monster numbers. On Saturday, Gak had 26 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocks in the Lancers’ win over Long Beach State. Thus far, Gak is averaging 13.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. 

Considering we know the Lancers can shoot it from deep, having a big man who can dominate a game is crucial. The Lancers are shooting nearly 40 percent from deep. And CBU is the highest scoring team in the WAC at 83.7 points per game. Point guard Ty Rowell is having a strong return from an ACL injury that forced him to miss the majority of the 2019-20 season. Rowell is averaging a team-high 14.8 points and 5.1 assists. 

The Lancers host Dixie State this weekend, looking for their fifth straight win. 

5. Seattle

Seattle was on pause this weekend instead of traveling to Stephenville to take on Tarleton State. After dropping their conference opener in epic fashion to Utah Valley, Seattle went on pause due to a positive COVID test on Saturday morning. We will have to see if the Redhawks will find someone to play this weekend. The Redhawks were supposed to play Chicago State but the Cougars suspended their season prior to conference play beginning. 

Riley Grigsby and Darrion Trammell are in the mix for WAC Player of the Year honors. For Seattle, it’s a matter of getting consistency out of other role players. Aaron Nettles, Emeka Udenyi, and others have to step up if Seattle is to have success in conference play.

6. New Mexico State

Yes, the Aggies are going to take the floor. Finally. It has been a long 2020-21 season. Last week, it was announced New Mexico State could return to its home state to practice at the Pan Am Center. Now, on Monday, the Aggies will finally get a game in before traveling back to Phoenix to take on GCU over the weekend. Keep an eye on the defending champs who added a point guard to the mix during this crazy time. Gerald Doakes joined the Aggies in January and is a 6-2 guard and a 3-star recruit who is eligible immediately. 

Let’s see what kind of chip the Aggies play with this week. It is the first time since prior to the New Year that the Aggies have played any games.

7. (Tie) Dixie State & Tarleton State

Strong starts for both Dixie State and Tarleton State in their first year in the WAC have been hard to come by. Both teams are 0-4 in WAC play. Tarleton State has been a little more competitive while Dixie State has been blown out in two of its four conference games. 

Here is the crazy thing: in at least one game of each series, both teams have had a strong showing. Tarleton State nearly knocked off GCU in its WAC opener. Dixie State nearly knocked off both UTRGV in its WAC opener and nearly knocked off GCU in the first game this past weekend. Close but just not enough. The Texans travel to Orem to take on Utah Valley while Dixie State travels to Riverside to take on CBU. 

Don’t be surprised if both teams return home after being swept once again. 

9. Chicago State

Season suspended at the end of December. 

 

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