There are five games on the slate on Friday night featuring WAC Hoops schools. Multi-team events are beginning all around the country. And two WAC schools tip off their MTE’s on Friday afternoon.
Here are some things to watch for. Can the WAC have another big night as it did on Thursday night? There is another opportunity for a big night on a slate that features only Division I opponents.
Here are things to watch for in each of Friday’s four games.
Tarleton vs. Belmont – Paradise Jam 5:45 p.m. ET ESPN+
How will the Texans handle the reigning Ohio Valley Conference regular season champs? Well, the biggest thing to watch for is if Freddy Hicks, Coreyoun Rushin and Noah McDavid are healthy and playing. Hicks may be a long shot as he has been dealing with a foot injury.
Rushin and McDavid did not play in the Texans win over Kansas Christian a week ago. If all three are out, it may be a long afternoon for the Texans.
Belmont is led by Ben Sheppard and Cade Tyson who are averaging a combined 35.3 points per game. Two others also score in double figures for the Bruins. Drew Friberg and Ja’Kobi Gillespie average 12.7 and 12.0 points per game, respectively.
Tarleton knows how to defend and create chaos. If the Texans can slow down any of those four players mentioned, Tarleton may have a chance in the Virgin Islands to pick up a quality mid-major win. Keep an eye on Shamir Bogues. The shifty guard led Tarleton in steals in 2021-22 and could have a big impact Friday with his defensive capabilities.
Utah Valley vs. Morgan State – Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic 7 p.m. ET
Utah Valley went toe-to-toe with Wake Forest in Winston-Salem on Tuesday. And, in all reality, should have come out of Joel Coliseum with a win. But, unfortunately for the Wolverines, shooting from the perimeter was a big issue. Head coach Mark Madsen said the shooting will come and they will show they are a great shooting team. Well, Friday, the Wolverines have to shoot the ball much better.
Keep an eye on Trey Woodbury. Against Wake Forest, Woodbury was 3-17 from the field and 0-9 from distance. Woodbury is one of the best players on the floor. And on Friday night, needs a breakout game for the Wolverines to get a win in Jamaica.
Also, keep an eye on Tahj Small. The Tarleton transfer hasn’t quite got it going after battling a hand injury most of camp. Small only played 17 minutes against Wake Forest and was 0-7 from the field. So, the 6-5 senior guard is due for a breakout game.
Southern Utah at No. 6 Kansas – 7 p.m. CT ESPN+
Southern Utah has faced three non-Division I opponents over the past week. The average margin of victory has been nearly 55 points. Todd Simon has been able to get some guys some rest. And Simon has been able to get others some minutes. How will that bode on Friday night at Phog Allen Fieldhouse?
WAC Player of the Year candidate Tevian Jones was a little banged up and sat out Monday’s contest. Same with Armoud Anderson and Deng Dut. So, will the T-Birds have their full roster on Friday? That is the big question mark. They may not be 100 percent healthy. But, having Jones on the floor could have a major impact.
Although a win hasn’t come at The Phog, WAC schools have some recent success against KU. Stephen F. Austin went toe-to-toe with the Jayhawks last season. And Tarleton held its own in the first half before running out of gas late. Cam Healy, among others, will have to get it going from the perimeter against a bigger Jayhawk squad. And Jason Spurgin will have to stay out of foul trouble. One name to keep in mind tonight for the T-Birds is Maizen Fausett. You haven’t heard his name a ton. But the lefty from Saratoga Springs, Utah has the ability to score. And if Tevian Jones is less than 100 percent tonight, Fausett could be called on to increase his role offensively.
Nevada at UT Arlington – 7 p.m. CT ESPN+
Well, the Mavericks have a big opportunity at College Park Center on Friday. Utah Tech fell to the Wolfpack. Grand Canyon couldn’t hit water if it fell out of a boat in the second half of its loss at Nevada. Can the Mavericks and head coach Greg Young do something that two other WAC schools couldn’t do?
It’s a white out on Friday night. And the Mavericks are going to need their best performance of the season to get a win over a Mountain West Conference foe. The Mavs are 2-1 in 2022-23 with both wins coming against non-DI competition. UTA scored 100-plus points in both wins. But in the season opener at Oklahoma State, the Mavs trailed by 20-plus points most of the night.
How will they handle Nevada’s pressure? Will they be able to score enough? Sure, four players average double figures. But, against a better defensive team in Oklahoma State Shemar Wilson and Taj Anderson were the only Mavericks in double figures. Will that number increase on Friday? That remains to be seen.
Grambling at Grand Canyon – 7 p.m. MT ESPN+
Here it is, Grand Canyon. A big time home game against a team receiving top-25 votes. Can the Lopes score enough to keep up with Grambling?
Keep and eye on Rayshon Harrison and Noah Baumann. If they shoot it well, GCU will win handily. But, so far, in their first season at GCU, neither has really shown that ability…yet. Harrison is shooting 21.7 percent from the field and Baumann is shooting 27.8 percent. And they have hit a combined two 3-pointers in three games. And this includes a game against a non-Division I opponent.
Jovan Blacksher Jr. will be his usual reliable self. But, can he get some help especially on the offensive end? GCU should be back to full strength as they were without Josh Baker and Kobe Knox last Saturday at Nevada. For GCU it is simply a matter of finding that second and third consistent scorer. Last year, that second scorer was Holland Woods. This year, that role seems to still be up in the air.