Utah Valley
Is it time to start taking Utah Valley and SFA for real? Courtesy UVU Athletics.

Is It Time to Take Utah Valley and SFA for Real?

It is about time to start talking about Utah Valley and SFA a little more in depth.

Why?

Well, the Wolverines have now won 10 straight games after beating up on UTRGV on Saturday. SFA has now won six straight and both are the only 4-0 teams in WAC play.

Are both Utah Valley and SFA for real?

Let’s take a deeper look at both squads.

Utah Valley

The Mark Madsen era at Utah Valley has seen some significant progress. Multiple wins over Power 5 opponents. Back-to-back wins over BYU. A WAC regular season championship.

Madsen has also developed some big men during his time in Orem. Emmanuel Olojakpoke, Fardaws Aimaq and now Aziz Bandaogo.

Along with that, Madsen has had some high-quality guards, as well. Jamison Overton, TJ Washington, Trey Woodbury, Justin Harmon, Le’Tre Darthard, and Blaze Nield come to mind.

And now, the Wolverines are 13-4 overall, 4-0 in WAC play and have won 10 straight. Utah Valley has wins over BYU, Long Beach State, Northern Arizona, Oregon and Sam Houston during the streak.

And in five of the eight wins over Division I opponents, Utah Valley’s margin of victory has been double digits.

The Wolverines have four players averaging double figures. Justin Harmon leads the team at 14.7 points per game. Trey Woodbury is averaging 13.1 points. Le’Tre Darthard is having his best season in the green and white, averaging 11..8 points. And Aziz Bandaogo has filled the void left by Fardaws Aimaq really well. Bandaogo is averaging 11.1 points and 10.3 rebounds.

What people don’t realize, and what Sam Houston learned, is the Wolverines aren’t dependent on just one player. You can try to slow down Justin Harmon or Trey Woodbury. And those two guards will be the feature of most teams’ defensive scout. But, Le’Tre Darthard, Tahj Small, or even Blaze Nield can light it up at any given moment. Tahj Small had a game-high 19 points in Utah Valley’s win over Sam Houston on Dec. 29.

Utah Valley is averaging 5.6 points more per game in 2022-23. And the margin of victory has increased by nearly four points.

The Wolverines were picked to finish seventh in the coaches poll and eighth in the media poll. In the WAC Hoops Digest preseason poll, the Wolverines were picked to finish sixth.

But, while arguably the most humble coach in the league, there is a significant chip on Mark Madsen’s shoulders. The Wolverines are out to prove doubters wrong. And thus far, in 2022-23, Utah Valley has done just that.

The Wolverines are actually about 10 seconds away from being 15-2 overall. A pair of overtime losses at Wake Forest and to Morgan State hurt. But, the Wolverines are playing well, having just swept UT Arlington and UTRGV on the road.

Now, the Wolverines get another chance to prove they are for real. Utah Valley heads to CBU on Wednesday to face a Lancer squad who has won two straight. On top of that, CBU also knocked off the Wolverines in Riverside in 2021-22.

Stephen F. Austin

2022-23 might be Kyle Keller’s best coaching job, yet. Sure, the home losses to Alcorn State and Northwestern State will haunt the Jacks all season long.

But, K-State transfer Montavius Murphy left the team before the season began. Jalil Beaubrun has been out with a broken foot all season. Jaylin Jackson-Posey broke his hand in November. Roti Ware was coming off a season-ending knee injury and has been dealing with calf issues all season. Day Day Hall is playing with a torn labrum that will need surgery in the offseason. Robbie Armbrester has been dealing with plantar fascia. Derrick Tezeno is playing while injured. Latrell Jossell missed some time due to an abdominal strain.

And yet, the Jacks are 12-5 overall and 4-0 in WAC play. In fact, the Jacks have now won 14 straight WAC regular season games. If the math is correct, it has been 350 days since SFA last lost a WAC regular season game.

And now, the Jacks are starting to get healthy. Jaylin Jackson-Posey saw his first action since Nov. 27 on Thursday in a win over New Mexico State. Sure, Jackson-Posey didn’t score a point. But, the sophomore guard had what should have been a SportsCenter Top-10 highlight.

In Saturday’s win over Grand Canyon, Keller was able to get 10-plus minutes out of 10 different players. Remember when the Jacks beat Louisiana Tech on Dec. 14 in Denton? The Jacks had just seven available players.

Perhaps the best part of all the injuries, is Keller was able to give players who wouldn’t have played significant minutes, significant minutes. The injuries allowed Keller to develop depth. Nana Antwi-Boasiako has been the lone big for the Jacks and has played well. AJ Cajuste was thrust into a bigger role. Kyle Hayman got significant minutes.

And, according to Keller, Roti Ware, who might be the best player on the Jacks roster, hasn’t played particularly well all season.

Can you imagine when the Jacks get fully healthy, get even more depth, and key players start playing up to their potential?

SFA has a big road trip this week at Utah Tech on Thursday and at Southern Utah on Saturday. The Jacks can’t get caught looking ahead with a big Jan. 19 road game at rival Sam Houston looming.

 

About the author

Kyle McDonald

Love everything about WAC Hoops so decided I wanted to write more about it and cover this amazing conference that just keeps getting better. Follow us on Twitter @wachoopsdigest for information, game analysis and much more.

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  • It will be some story line if the WAC title game comes down to these two teams one meeting in the final game of the season. Who thought that schedule up?

    Of course if it does, then UVU will have the #1 seed sown up because there’s no way the Jacks can catch them.

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