Winning games is going to impact whether you move up or down in the WAC Power Rankings. GCU, UTRGV and Seattle all started the second half of WAC play with road wins. And, the reward is a significant move in the WAC Power Rankings. People might question these rankings. Yes, California Baptist is 17-7 overall and 7-3 in WAC play. But, the Lancers also lost their third home game of WAC play on Saturday night. So, for what it’s worth, understand that these WAC Power Rankings change from week to week.
The only constants thus far are that New Mexico State continues to sit atop the rankings. And, Chicago State continues to sit at the bottom of the rankings. I don’t expect those two things to change anytime soon.
But, what is changing, is the middle of the pack in the WAC. UTRGV, GCU and Seattle made big statements this past weekend. Kansas City continues to be a head-scratcher as does CSU Bakersfield. And Utah Valley struggles to finish games. Of the six conference losses for the Wolverines, four have been by 5 points or less.
Let’s look at this week’s WAC Power Rankings.
1. New Mexico State
On Thursday at Chicago State, Ivan Aurrecoechea had just 6 points in the Aggies’ win. On Saturday, Aurrecoechea had a team-high 23 points against Kansas City in a win over the Roos. The Aggies just continue to win and Aurrecoechea is a big part of it. Jabari Rice is also playing a big role and despite what critics say about the team being vulnerable, no WAC team has yet to show that. New Mexico State has won 13 straight and hasn’t lost to a WAC team since January, 2019. Despite all the injuries, New Mexico State just continues to win. The success shows just how good of a coach Chris Jans is. If New Mexico State wins its next three games, the Aggies will assure themselves of at least a share of the regular season title. The thing people need to realize about this team is they don’t care who scores. They care more about winning games. They leave egos at the door and go to work. That is a recipe for success and New Mexico State continues to show it is king of the WAC.
2. Grand Canyon
The Lopes played perhaps their best offensive game under Dan Majerle. GCU shot 61 percent and scored 103 points. Yes, the Lopes also gave up 98 points so it wasn’t a good defensive game. Carlos Johnson earned WAC Player of the Week honors for scoring 25 points on 6-6 shooting. No other Lope took more than 10 shot attempts in the win. If GCU can consistently hit shots, they will be dangerous. Problem is consistency. Against New Mexico State, the Lopes scored just 52 points. And the Lopes have only scored 70-plus points four times in nine WAC games.
Terrell Brown is the real deal. Morgan Means finally caught fire and hit the game-winner in overtime at Utah Valley and Seattle got a big road win to start the second half of WAC play. The Redhawks have an experienced roster. Myles Carter is a rim protector. Riley Grigsby is a big body that creates matchup problems. And other role players like Delante Jones, Mattia Da Campo and Aaron Nettles can create problems for opponents. This upcoming weekend will tell us a lot. Seattle is at New Mexico State on Thursday and at UTRGV on Saturday. It is the most difficult road trip of the season, by far. And it could have big implications for the Redhawks seed in the WAC Tournament.
Have we told you to keep your eye on this UTRGV team? Well, if we haven’t, here is your warning. UTRGV made the biggest move in this week’s power rankings.
The Vaqueros swept the midwest trip with a dominating win over Kansas City. Lesley Varner II broke the 1,000-point plateau on Thursday night against Kansas City. And Varner followed that up with a game-high 23 points on Saturday in a win over Chicago State. The Vaqueros have won three straight and now go home to host Seattle and Utah Valley. According to KenPom, the Vaqueros are favored in both games this weekend. A pair of wins puts the Vaqueros in the running for that 2-seed for WAC Vegas. Keep an eye on this team as the regular season winds down.
5. California Baptist
People will argue that the Lancers dropped too far. Perhaps they did. But in order to move up or stay put in the power rankings, you have to win games. And, out of the top-4 teams, California Baptist is the only one who lost this week. Despite hitting 19 3-pointers, the Lancers had no answer for the Lopes on Saturday night in a sold out CBU Events Center. CBU has ten days off until its next WAC game. Yes, the Lancers host non-Division I opponent Westcliff on Thursday. But, the Lancers make the midwest trip looking to get back on track when they travel to Kansas City on Feb. 19 and Chicago State on Feb. 22.
6. CSU Bakersfield
In its lone game of the week, the Roadrunners lost at California Baptist in the Battle of California. The Roadrunners have lost four straight since opening WAC play at 4-1. But, the Roadrunners have a chance to get back on the winning track when they host Chicago State on Thursday and Kansas City on Saturday. The Roadrunners have to find offense somewhere. In three of the four losses, CSU Bakersfield has failed to score 70 points. That isn’t a recipe for success and thus why the Roadrunners continue to move down in these power rankings.
7. Kansas City
The Roos had a chance to open WAC play on a high note. Instead, Kansas City laid an egg with home losses to UTRGV and New Mexico State. Perhaps the most embarrassing part of those losses is how they lost. Against UTRGV, Kansas City was outplayed and out-hustled by the Vaqueros. Against New Mexico State, the Roos had a halftime lead before ultimately falling 67-61. One week the Roos move way up in these power rankings. Another week, they move down to where they currently are. This is a difficult team to understand. But, the Roos may be stuck in this same position next week after a trip to Grand Canyon and CSU Bakersfield this week.
8. Utah Valley
Like it was stated above, four of the six losses in WAC play have been by 5 points or less. Utah Valley could easily be 7-2 in WAC play right now. But, the Wolverines are having a difficult time finishing games. Just like on Saturday, UVU had the ball with 19 seconds to play and had to settle for two challenged 3-point attempts. The Wolverines lost in overtime to Seattle on a play that perhaps the Wolverines should have attempted on their final possession of regulation. Instead of settling for the 3-point attempt, attack the rim. Morgan Means did that for Seattle and won the game for the Redhawks. Mark Madsen has his team competing. Now it is just a matter of finishing games or putting teams away. But, a road trip to the Southwest isn’t necessarily what is needed at this time. Perhaps the Wolverines can pull off an upset win or get a big road win. We have seen the Wolverines play well on the road. But to move up, the Wolverines need to win some games.
9. Chicago State
The Cougars played perhaps their best half of basketball on Saturday. Chicago State went into the locker room with a 31-21 lead over UTRGV. But, in the second half, UTRGV outscored the Cougars 54-33 en route to the 11-point win. It might have been the only chance Chicago State has of winning a conference game this season.