Welcome to Saturday!
Yep, one of the best days of the week as a college basketball fan. And it is a busy Saturday around the WAC. The highlight game is in Nacogdoches where a battle of the two unbeaten teams takes place. There is a head coach taking on his Alma Mater. Can the defending champs finally get a league win? How do a pair of teams respond after some difficult losses?
There are just so many things to get to on this busy Saturday of WAC Hoops.
So, let’s get to it.
Grand Canyon at SFA – 2 p.m. CT ESPN+
This is the biggest game of the Saturday slate. There is no denying that. SFA is 3-0 in WAC play. GCU is 2-0 in WAC play. Both are coming off wins earlier in the week. SFA beat up on the defending champs while GCU got a massive Quad 1 road win at Sam Houston.
Both are dealing with injuries. SFA is finally getting healthy as the Jacks got Jaylin Jackson-Posey back on Wednesday night. But, it’s a little different for the Lopes. Jovan Blacksher Jr. went down hard in the first half in Huntsville. And the reports are indicating it may be a significant knee injury.
Despite the injuries, both teams have players who have stepped up consistently all season. For SFA, Day Day Hall and Latrell Jossell have been key to the start of WAC play. On the other side, Rayshon Harrison has been the most consistent Lope throughout the past month and had 28 points in the win over Sam Houston.
Both teams like to defend so this might be a slug fest. Keep an eye on the rebounding margins. That is going to play a huge part in the first game of the Saturday slate.
Separation Saturday is what some have referred to this first Saturday of January. One team will still be undefeated in WAC play.
Seattle U at UT Arlington – 2 p.m. CT ESPN+
It was almost disaster on Thursday night in Edinburg for the Seattle U Redhawks. But, once Justin Johnson’s 3-pointer rimmed out, head coach Chris Victor was able to let out a breath of fresh air. The Redhawks improved to 2-0 in WAC play as they head to College Park Center for a Saturday showdown with UT Arlington.
Unfortunately for the Mavs, Thursday night’s result was a little different. The Mavs led just one time on Thursday night. Shemar Wilson’s jumper with 18:41 to play in the first half gave UTA a 4-2 lead. But, that was the only lead in a loss to Utah Valley.
So, with a pair of close wins to start league play, how will Seattle handle newcomer UT Arlington on Saturday at College Park Center? The Mavs can defend, rebound and are physical. Shemar Wilson is one of the best rebounders in the country, especially on the offensive glass.
Cam Tyson is one of the best scorers in the country and can light it up from the perimeter. This is a game of experience vs. youth. The Mavs are still looking for their first league win on the 2022-23 season. And the Mavs are looking for their first home win against a Division I opponent this season.
Tarleton at Sam Houston – 4:30 p.m. CT ESPN+
This is an interesting game. Sam Houston Jason Hooten will have a lot of family in town to watch the Bearkats take on Tarleton on Saturday afternoon. The big reason why is because Hooten is facing his Alma Mater. Yes, Jason Hooten played two years at Tarleton and graduated as a Texan.
So, there will be some emotion at Johnson Coliseum on Saturday.
But, that might be more because the Bearkats are coming off a Thursday night loss they gave away to GCU. The Bearkats were 19-31 from the free throw line in the loss. And, the Bearkats gave away a 9-point lead in the second half.
Tarleton is coming off a win over Southern Utah in which an unlikely hero gave the Texans a boost. Garry Clark came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points in the win at Wisdom Gym. It was a huge boost considering Jakorie Smith and Freddy Hicks are still out with injuries.
In a game of familiar friends, will Billy Clyde lead the Texans to a big road win? Or will Jason Hooten and the Bearkats get back on the winning track?
Southern Utah at Abilene Christian – 6 p.m. CT ESPN+
In its first game in the state of Texas as members of the WAC, Southern Utah fell a bit short. Tevian Jones was held to just nine points in the road loss at Tarleton on Thursday. Now, the T-Birds make the short trip from Stephenville to Abilene to take on ACU and a Wildcats squad that has had a week to prepare.
How will the T-Birds handle the chaos the Wildcats create with their defense? Can ACU score enough to keep up with the T-Birds? This is the third road game in four WAC games for the T-Birds. SUU played at New Mexico State, home against UTRGV and now at Tarleton and at ACU.
The Wildcats have looked real comfortable in the newly renovated Moody Coliseum. And ACU tends to play a style that Southern Utah hasn’t really seen before.
Something will have to give on Saturday afternoon in West Texas.
Utah Valley at UTRGV – 6:30 p.m. CT ESPN+
Utah Valley has won nine straight games coming into Saturday. The Wolverines were a perfect 8-0 in December and have started off WAC play with three straight wins. And Mark Madsen made a change on Thursday night’s win over UT Arlington. Justin Harmon came off the bench for the first time all season. And Harmon delivered with a game-high 21 points in the 72-64 road win.
UTRGV Is led by Justin Johnson and Will Johnston. The dynamic guard duo is averaging a combined 36.9 points per game. Both can attack the rim but light it up from the perimeter.
Utah Valley counters with Harmon, Le’Tre Darthard and Trey Woodbury.
The battle of the guards at UTRGV Fieldhouse on Saturday will be fun to watch. UTRGV is looking for its first conference win. And Utah Valley is looking for another road win to stay atop the WAC resume system seeding standings.
California Baptist at New Mexico State – 8 p.m. CT ESPN+
It finally happened in Riverside on Thursday night. The CBU Lancers scored in bunches in the second half in a 72-58 win over Utah Tech. It is something many have been waiting for out of a Lancer squad that has struggled offensively all season. Scotty Washington had a game-high 17 points off the bench with most of those coming in the second half.
Now, can it continue on the road against a team that is desperate for a win? That is the big question.
However, a bigger question is: which New Mexico State team do we see on Saturday night? Is it the one that got a road win over Duquesne and beat up on rival UTEP? Or is it the Aggie squad that has looked uninspired thus far in WAC play? Aggie fans are desperately seeking a win. And perhaps the mindset for the Aggie basketball team has to be the same. Losing four straight to open WAC play is not what you want to see if you are the defending champs.
CBU is looking to get its first-ever win in Las Cruces. New Mexico State is looking to avoid an 0-4 start to league play. Both are intriguing storylines for two teams that had a lot of hype coming into 2022-23.