Adversity has a way of bringing groups of people together. That is especially true in sports. And perhaps the 16th team meeting of the season was the magic one for Grand Canyon. The Lopes picked up a pair of wins over the week despite weather-related travel issues. Maybe they were trying to get their head coach off the warm seat people thought he might be on. Whatever it was, GCU, for now, climbed its way out of the cellar.
New Mexico State continues its impressive play as the Aggies swept the Rocky Mountain/Pacific Northwest trip. And the Aggies showed, once again, how deep they are considering Trevelin Queen was limited on Saturday night at Seattle due to a knee injury.
And what has happened with Kansas City? Did the injury to Javan White against UTRGV two weeks ago really have that big of an impact on the Roos? It seems as if it did. Kansas City has lost four straight and it hasn’t been a fun two weeks for the Roos.
So let’s take a look at this week’s WAC Hoops power rankings.
1. New Mexico State
5-0 in WAC play and eight straight wins. Pretty easy to see why the Aggies continue to stay atop the WAC Hoops power rankings. If the Aggies hit the offensive glass like they have in recent years under Chris Jans, this team will be even better. The Aggies used an 18-1 run in the second half to pull away from Utah Valley. And in the second half at Seattle, the Aggies once again outscored their opponents in the second half. It seems to be a trend since WAC play began.
Remember, New Mexico State scored 50 points in the second half of its win at CBU to open WAC play. At Utah Valley, the Aggies did something similar and then again at Seattle. Perhaps it is just a road mentality.
Whatever it is, the Aggies are looking like the Aggies once again. Terrell Brown is shooting the ball better after dealing with a groin injury early in the season. Jabari Rice has been an impact player for Chris Jans. Trevelin Queen continues to be his efficient self. And Ivan Aurrecoechea is putting himself in the conversation for WAC Player of the Year as he is nearly averaging a double-double in WAC play.
2. California Baptist
The Lancers had the week off from conference play. But, CBU was took on non-Division I opponent Bethesda and got in a glorified scrimmage on Friday night. The Lancers scored 96 points in the 26-point win. And CBU, in all reality, should improve to 15-5 overall and 5-1 in WAC play when they host Chicago State and Kansas City this week. CBU will be feeling good when it goes to Utah Valley and Seattle the following week. But for now, all is well in Riverside.
3. CSU Bakersfield
Perhaps it is the fact that this is the last season in the WAC for the Roadrunners. Or, perhaps it is just that Rod Barnes knows how to coach. Whatever it is, CSU Bakersfield is making noise in WAC play. The Roadrunners went on the Midwest trip and beat Kansas City in overtime before winning at Chicago State on Sunday.
And they are getting big performances from different people. On Thursday night Kansas City, it was Justin Edler-Davis. On Sunday at Chicago State, it was Cam Allen and Greg McCall who had big games. The week before it was De’Monte Buckingham that had big games for Barnes and the Roadrunners. Playing with a great deal of confidence, we will see what CSU Bakersfield does this week at home. The Roadrunners host Utah Valley on Thursday and Seattle on Saturday. Tough combination but if CSU Bakersfield is to stay in the running for any kind of championship, sweeping this weekend is huge.
4. Seattle U
Grand Canyon fans might be upset at me but Seattle is the choice at four. The Redhawks really outplayed UTRGV in the second half in a 17-point win over the Vaqueros on Thursday. And, for all intents and purposes, hung with New Mexico State on Saturday. The tough thing is that, outside of Terrell Brown, Seattle didn’t get any other significant contributions in the loss on Saturday. Brown had 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Morgan Means and Delante Jones were in double figures with 10 and 11 points, respectively. However, Means wasn’t efficient as he was 3-12 from the field. Seattle is a good team and will finish in the top four in the league. The experience is there and Jim Hayford has the roster to make noise.
5. Grand Canyon
Yes, adversity has hit the Lopes this season. Everyone had GCU picked to finish second in the WAC this season. And perhaps the Lopes will. But the start wasn’t ideal. A trip to Chicago State helps, though. And although Chicago State shot 56 percent in the second half, a win is a win.
The good news is GCU overcame more adversity by winning at Kansas City on Sunday. Yes, there was a great deal of adversity. The Lopes had to stay in Chicago an extra night due to weather-related issues. If the flight issues weren’t adversarial enough, GCU had to face more adversity related to the weather by busing from St. Louis to Kansas City to play its game on Sunday afternoon.
GCU is in a good spot and we will see if they can overcome the home court struggles. The Lopes host Seattle on Thursday and Utah Valley on Saturday. If Alessandro Lever continues to play at a high level, GCU can stay on track and move up the WAC standings.
6. Utah Valley
According to Utah Valley head coach Mark Madsen, the Wolverines played 35 minutes of really good basketball against New Mexico State on Thursday. Unfortunately, in the five minutes the Wolverines struggled, New Mexico State took advantage and used an 18-1 run to put the game out of reach.
There are glimpses of a really good basketball team in Orem. But the lulls in scoring kill Utah Valley. Luckily for Madsen and the Wolverines, lulls were hard to come by against UTRGV on Saturday afternoon. TJ Washington made the extra pass his coach was hoping for and Isaiah White gave Utah Valley its second WAC victory. The win stopped a three-game losing streak.
Here is the problem for the Wolverines. This week is brutal. Utah Valley has to go to Bakersfield on Thursday and then GCU on Saturday. Considering the Wolverines have struggled to string together wins this season, it would go a long way in salvaging a rough season to this point if Utah Valley can sweep this road trip. Remember, adversity tends to bring teams together.
A road win is going to happen at some point this season for UTRGV. After getting swept by Utah Valley and Seattle this past weekend, the Vaqueros are now 0-9 in true road games and 0-11 away from UTRGV Fieldhouse. UTRGV narrowly missed its first road win of the season when it fell at Utah Valley on Saturday.
Javon Levi, Lesley Varner II and Jordan Jackson are all major players for this team. Once UTRGV breaks the ice with its first road win, watch out for this team as the regular season winds down. They are dangerous and if you get into a run-and-gun-type of game with them, you might be in for a surprise.
8. Kansas City
Two words: Javan White. Perhaps the Roos miss him a lot more than people want to acknowledge. But since White left the game late at UTRGV two weeks ago, the Roos have lost four straight. And, the Swinney Center doesn’t hold its mystique quite as much anymore after a pair of home losses this past weekend.
The Roos get a week to prepare as they travel to CBU for a Saturday night contest. Brandon McKissic, Jordan Giles and Jahshire Hardnett are really going to have to step up if the Roos are to snap this losing streak. If and when White comes back, the Roos will be dangerous. Just ask Utah Valley and Seattle. Adversity is part of growing and Billy Donlon has to get his guys to believe once again.
9. Chicago State
The Cougars covered the spread against Grand Canyon on Thursday. That’s good, right? Chicago State shot 56 percent in the second half of the loss to the Lopes. But the slow starts doom Chicago State, who is already at a disadvantage with regard to resources, recruiting and such. Getting a conference win doesn’t seem likely for the Cougars this year.
The schedule down the stretch for Chicago State isn’t friendly. Chicago State has played four of its six conference games at home already. And Chicago State finishes the regular season play five of its final six games on the road. That’s a lot of adversity for a team who hasn’t won a conference game in almost two years.