Another day, another exciting time to be a WAC hoops fan. Tuesday night gave us a little hope that the WAC is better than it showed in the month of November. Four out of five teams won and the fifth team nearly made it a perfect night. If the ball bounces a different way, the WAC can claim it went 5-0. But, it wasn’t to be.
Now, Tuesday night features four WAC teams in action. Three of the games are against in-state foes. One of the games is a crosstown rivalry that is expected to draw a huge crowd. And another game is against a Power 6 opponent.
Let’s take a look at Wednesday night’s matchups.
Kansas City at Iowa State – 6:00 p.m. MT
Kansas City has won three of its last four games. It sits at the top of the weekly WAC Hoops power rankings. The Roos are tied for the best record among WAC teams. Their reward? A trip to Ames, IA to take on the Cyclones. And it will be a tall order to expect Kansas City to pull off the upset. Iowa State is a 18.5-point favorite and has a KenPom ranking of 40. By and large, the Cyclones are the toughest opponent on the Kansas City schedule to date. It is also the lone game on the WAC hoops schedule that is not an in-state game.
The Roos still play Kansas on Dec. 14 but that is another story. Billy Donlon has the Roos playing well and while the Roos played well at Oklahoma State on Nov. 9, the trip to Ames might be a bit more difficult. Iowa State has four players that average in double figures led by Tyrese Haliburton at 15.7 points per game. But, on the flip side, Iowa State only has six players averaging 17 minutes per game or more. Lack of depth? Perhaps. So a key for Kansas City will be to push the pace and get some Cyclones in foul trouble.
Both teams shoot right around 45 percent from the field. The difference is that the Cyclones score points. Iowa State averages 83 points per games while Kansas City averages 71. Something has to give tonight.
Either way, tonight is an opportunity for Kansas City to show it is legit. The Roos won’t necessarily win the game. But, keeping it competitive can go a long way in continuing to build confidence.
Chicago State at SIU-Edwardsville – 6:30 p.m. MT
Somewhere on Twitter today, someone asked the question about what team you cheer for regardless of the circumstances and such. That team is Chicago State. The struggles the Cougars deal with each season are just not fun to watch. But you can’t help but not cheer for them. And on Wednesday night they face another set of Cougars in SIU-Edwardsville.
To be honest, this is a very winnable game for Chicago State. Although, the last time Chicago State traveled to the eastern part of the state, it wasn’t a pretty site. But SIUE is 2-6 on the season and have lost four straight. Don’t expect this to be a high-scoring affair. Chicago State averages 67.9 points while SIUE averages 59.4. Not really barn-burner type numbers.
Let’s look at it this way…this is a game that Chicago State MUST win. The Cougars don’t have a Division I win this season. This is a game that Lance Irvin and the Cougars need in a bad way. Question is, will the Cougars show up? Last time a game was spoken of that Chicago State needed to win, the Cougars lost by 54 points at Eastern Illinois. Considering this is another in-state game, there is no excuse for Chicago State not to show up.
This game is also on ESPN+ so that should give Chicago State even more reason to play well.
Weber State at Utah Valley – 7 p.m. MT
It’s being marketed as “The Force Night” at the UCCU Center on Wednesday night. And Wednesday night’s in-state matchup between the Wolverines and Wildcats will break a 6-6 series tie. It is also the first time Utah Valley has played at home in nearly two weeks. Through the six of its first nine games of the season, Utah Valley has traveled over 9,500 miles through the air.
Perhaps that has taken its toll on the Wolverines. Utah Valley is 4-5 and has lost two straight games including an ugly 92-61 loss at Colorado State on Sunday. Injuries have shortened the bench for first-year head coach Mark Madsen. Starting forward Isaiah White has been sidelined with a sprained MCL. Center Brandon Morley missed time due to a deep bone bruise suffered against Kentucky. And Utah Valley has lacked consistency.
Perhaps it will be a home-sweet-home type of thing on Wednesday night. And, considering Weber State hasn’t been its normal self, sitting at 1-5, it’s a winnable game for the Wolverines.
This in-state battle can be seen on the WAC Digital Network or UVUtv.
UC Riverside at California Baptist – 8 p.m. MT
The hashtag BeatUCR is out in full force among the CBU social media platforms and for good measure. UC Riverside and CBU are separated by 7 miles so bragging rights for the city of Riverside are on the line Wednesday night at the CBU Events Center. The Lancers are coming off of back-to-back home losses to Georgia State and South Dakota. So, getting that home court advantage back is key on Wednesday night.
Milan Acquaah earned WAC Player of the Week honors after a career-high 37-point night against South Dakota. But, the Lancers have to continue to be more than just Acquaah. Ferron Flavors Jr., De’jon Davis, and Brandon Boyd all have to step up and play big roles for the Lancers.
UC Riverside comes in at 6-2 on the season but the Highlanders only average around 64 points per game. That should play right into CBU’s hands as the Lancers average just around 80 points per game. If CBU scores 70 points, there is no reason the Lancers shouldn’t win.
And considering that CBU head coach Rick Croy and staff and players handed out over 500 donuts last night in the Donut Delivery, there is no reason the CBU Events Center shouldn’t be packed for this crosstown rivalry game.
For those that want to watch this game, it will be streamed on ESPN+.
In-state games and crosstown rivalries are fun. The best part is that they are against teams from other conferences. So, it is essential for WAC teams to win these in-state games and help fend off the early-season struggles.