Tonight is the night when an exciting new season of college hoops tips off. It is basically a college basketball fan’s Christmas morning as games tip off officially nationwide. Women’s basketball in the WAC features high-powered, defensive-minded teams. And some of these teams face a high-quality opponent to open the 2021-22 slate.
Let’s dive into previews of some games featuring WAC schools in order of tip time…
>>All games on ESPN+ unless noted…
Chicago State at Wichita State 11 a.m. MST
Year two of Tiffany Sardin’s tenure starts with a trip to Wichita State of the American Athletic Conference. The Shockers were 6-12 overall and 2-9 in conference play in 2020-21. However, eight of those losses were by 10 points or less. This is a winnable game for the Cougars who play six of seven non-conference games away from the Convocation Center.
Stephen F. Austin at UTSA 4 p.m. MST
Last year’s Southland Conference regular season and tournament champions make their debut on the road. SFA travels west to take on a Roadrunner side that only two wins a year ago. Former Texas coach Karen Aston is tasked with returning UTSA to prominence. Aston starts her San Antonio tenure with a top-10 team in the Collegeinsider.com mid-major rankings.
Western New Mexico at NM State 4 p.m. MST
Brooke Atkinson and company will play their first game in the Pan American Center in over 600 days against a non-DI opponent. For all of ’20-’21, the Aggies lived a nomadic existence playing home games in Arizona at GCU and at a high school in El Paso. It’ll be our first look at an Aggie squad looking for a return to the top of the WAC.
UTRGV at USF 6 p.m. MST
Vaqueros coach Lane Lord wins the award for best opening night game as his side will challenge the #21 Bulls in Tampa. He returns a bunch of experience but the biggest question will be who picks up the scoring slack with Amara Graham departing for GCU. I’m looking forward to seeing Taylor Muff’s return to basketball and how Sara Bershers and company perform against a top 25 team.
Lamar at New Mexico 6 p.m. MST
Aqua Franklin’s squad opens the year against a Lobo side looking to get a sour taste out of their mouths after losing in the Mountain West semifinals to Fresno State and in a WNIT game against CBU. I want to see who steps up as a second scorer behind Micaela Wilson. They’ll play three of their first four games away from Beaumont, including two P5 games.
California Baptist @ UC Riverside 7 p.m. MST
Nothing like a battle for city supremacy to kick off the campaign. CBU leads the series 2-1 since the Lancers became a Division I program. Their only loss was in ’19 to a Highlander squad operating under then interim coach Seraym Bell after John Margaritis offered his resignation as a result of university investigations into his program. Eight days after this one it’ll be a trip to Oregon State of the Pac 12 for the Lancers.
Opening night is a busy one. And there are more opening night games around the WAC. These are just highlight games against Division I opponents in similar situations as WAC schools. Keep your eye on these on opening night as it should be a wild start to the 2021-22 season.