Division I
UTRGV is set to take on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the first segment of the South Texas Showdown on Thursday night. Courtesy UTRGV Athletics.

MBB: Full Night of Division I Games…Finally

It is Throwback Thursday. And that means a full night of games against Division I opponents for WAC schools. Yes, you read that correctly. Four games on the men’s side and each one is against a Division I opponent.

It’s basically the WAC vs. Pac-12 on Thursday night. With the fourth game a rivalry game in the South Texas Showdown.

Can the WAC do what the SWAC did to the Pac-12?

Thus far, the WAC is 0-2 against the Pac-12 in 2022-23. Tarleton lost at Arizona State on opening night. And on Monday, Utah Tech struggled in the second half in a 78-67 loss at Washington.

So, let’s take a look at each game on the slate for Thursday night.

UTRGV at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 7 p.m. CT – South Texas Showdown

Line per MyBookie: A&M-CC -11, O/U 148

The South Texas Showdown has become quite the ball game. UTRGV and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi battling it out for South Texas bragging rights. And the Islanders have won four of the last six matchups between the two teams. This includes sweeping the Showdown in 2021-22.

There was a stretch where UTRGV won four straight in the 2017 games and 2018 games.

The last time UTRGV went to Corpus Christ, the Islanders handed the Vaqueros a 75-69 loss. A&M-CC used a big second half, outscoring UTRGV by 13, to earn the season sweep in the Showdown.

Both teams are coming off a win over non-Division I opponents on Monday. UTRGV beat St. Francis Illinois 77-51 while A&M-CC beat Trinity 91-73.

Can Justin Johnson and the size of UTRGV slow down A&M-CC and Isaac Mushila who is averaging 18.7 points for the Islanders?

This is the first Division I opponent for UTRGV since losing at Kansas State to open the 2022-23 season. And it’s a rivalry game. Tip off is slated for 7 p.m. CT on ESPN+.

Utah Tech at Arizona, 7 p.m. MT – Pac-12 Network

Line per MyBookie: Arizona -28, O/U 163.5

I won’t sugar coat this…if this game is within 10 in the second half, I would call that a win.

With that being said, it would not surprise me to see Utah Tech be competitive against the 14th-ranked Wildcats at the McKale Center in Tucson.

Utah Tech has a veteran squad led by Cam Gooden and Frank Staine. Idaho transfer Tanner Christensen has been solid and is coming off a 26-point night at Washington on Monday night. Isaiah Pope and Noa Gonsalves have been solid so far.

Cam Gooden leads Utah Tech into the desert to take on No. 14 Arizona on Thursday night. Courtesy Utah Tech Athletics.

The key is how well Dancell Leter plays for Utah Tech. Leter averaged 10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Trailblazers in 2021-22 and started all 31 games.

But, the start to the 2022-23 season has been a struggle. Leter is averaging just 5.7 points and 2.7 rebounds thus far. All while shooting a little under 32 percent from the field. If Leter can knock down some shots, Utah Tech will be competitive on Thursday night.

Arizona is 2-0 thus far and averaging 106 points per game in a pair of wins over Nicholls State and Southern. Azoulis Tubelis is averaging a team-high 20.0 points per game and shooting 76 percent from the field.

Utah Tech is going to have tough time with a very athletic and talented Wildcat squad.

Sam Houston at Utah, 7 p.m. MT – Pac-12 Network

Line per MyBookie: Utah -10, O/U 131

About 10 days ago, Lamar Wilkerson hit the shot heard around the country. It was in a true road game against a Power 6 opponent.

On Thursday night, on his birthday, can Wilkerson hit another big shot, this time in Salt Lake City?

It’s Lamar Wilkerson’s birthday and he’s hoping for a late birthday present when Sam Houston take on Utah on Thursday night. Courtesy Sam Houston Athletics.

Since the season-opening win over Oklahoma on Nov. 7, Sam Houston has played two non-Division I opponents and found some offensive rhythm in both contests.

Thursday night at the Huntsman Center against the Runnin’ Utes of Utah, offense may be a little more difficult to come by. The Utes are giving up just 50 points per game in their first three games of the 2022-23 season. Now, with that being said, Utah has played Long Island, CSU Bakersfield and Idaho State. Not one of those teams are known for being an offensive juggernaut. So, take that stat with a grain of salt.

But, in its season opener against a Division I opponent, Sam Houston wasn’t really locked in offensively until about midway through the second half. We know the Bearkats can defend and be physical. That is the mantra of a Jason Hooten squad. The big question is: can they score and keep up with the Utes?

Lamar Wilkerson will have to knock down shots. Qua Grant will have to be dynamic. Kaosi Ezeagu will have to stay out of foul trouble because Utah has some skilled bigs. Keep an eye on Javion May and Donte Powers. Both of these veteran guards have to score a little more on Thursday night if the Bearkats are to pull off another upset.

California Baptist at Washington, 8 p.m. PT – Pac-12 Network

Line per MyBookie: Washington -8, O/U 134

Here is it for the Lancers. One of CBU’s three true road games on the non-conference slate. And while the 2-1 Lancers have been solid defensively, the offense has yet to click. Whether that is due to new faces, maybe playing a little tight, something has to change in order for the Lancers to get a win over a Power 6 opponent.

Taran Armstrong has been consistently solid so far in 2022-23. The WAC Freshman of the Year is averaging 12.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and a little over four assists per contest. Since returning to the lineup in game two against NJIT, Joe Quintana has led the Lancers in scoring at 13.5 points. Utah transfer Riley Battin has also been really good averaging 11.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.

But, someone other than the three mentioned above has to step up. A trio of Australians in Reed Nottage, Hunter Goodrick and Tre Armstrong all have that potential to break out. New Hampshire transfer Blondeau Tchoukuiegno has potential, as well.

Riley Battin face a familiar opponent when CBU heads north to take on Washington. Courtesy CBU Athletics.

If the Lancers are looking to live up to the hype train, Thursday night would go a long way in accomplishing that. Washington beat fellow WAC school Utah Tech on Monday. But the Huskies had to play from behind most of the game. CBU has to get off to a good start and then be able to play with a lead.

Remember, road wins hold a little more weight especially in terms of the new WAC Vegas seeding system. And for a squad that is eligible for the NCAA Tournament, CBU could use an impressive road win.

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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