The third week of WAC play has come and gone. And it was a mini-separation Saturday that created some chaos. Streaks were snapped. One team remained winless in league play. Another team got a big road win to remain unbeaten in WAC play.
Another team showed that as long as it scores 70-plus points, it will be okay. We had the 3-pointer from Barstow that led to a road win. And a Cedar City sweep that has T-Bird Nation on a high right now.
With that said, let’s get to some thoughts on the third week of WAC play.
Southern Utah is a Contender
The addition of Southern Utah was a good one. Todd Simon’s crew is one of the winningest basketball programs on the West Coast over the past two seasons. And the T-Birds haven’t missed a beat through the third week of WAC play.
Sure, there was the mishap in Stephenville two weeks ago. But, the T-Birds responded at home with a pair of wins over Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. Maizen Fausett should get consideration for WAC Player of the Week honors. In the two wins, Fausett averaged 20.5 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 76 percent from the field. In the win over SFA, Fausett had 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Along with that, Todd Simon has five 1,000-point scorers led by Tevian Jones. And in the win over SFA, the T-Birds showed they can play defense, as well.
At 13-6 overall and 5-1 in WAC play, there has been no drop off in the first season in the WAC.
Southern Utah hosts New Mexico State on Thursday before heading to Seattle on Saturday.
— SUU Men's Basketball (@SUUBasketball) January 14, 2023
Chris Victor is Turning Into An Elite Coach
Taking the reins as the interim head coach three days before a season after a troubling situation isn’t easy for anyone. But, Seattle U head coach Chris Victor found himself in that situation. And all Victor did was lead Seattle U to 23 wins, a share of the WAC regular season title and the program’s best season in nearly 50 years. Did I mention he had the interim tag removed a few days before the Redhawks won the regular season title?
In year two, Victor has kept the train rolling. Seattle U is 14-4 overall, 5-0 in WAC play, winners of six straight, and just picked up a Quad 1 win at Utah Valley on Saturday. Did I mention the Redhawks are the only unbeaten team in WAC play?
A lot of people had written off Seattle U. The non-conference schedule wasn’t the greatest. And in the big games, Seattle U got beat up pretty bad. But, all the Redhawks have done since losing back-to-back games to start the Diamond Head Classic is win.
At times it hasn’t been pretty. But, Riley Grigsby and Cam Tyson are locked in right now. Grigsby averaged 23 points and 8.5 rebounds in a pair of wins this week. And Cam Tyson continues to light it up from the perimeter.
But, it is Chris Victor who is keeping the Redhawks as a well-oiled machine. The Redhawks are deep once again. However, injuries have thrown things a bit out of whack. Paris Dawson has missed the last four games and only played five minutes in the Redhawks WAC opener.
Vaz Pandža and Viktor Rajković have also missed time.
So, the job that Victor has done in a year and half as head coach is putting him in elite company.
Seattle U hosts Tarleton and Southern Utah this week, looking to stay unbeaten in WAC play.
— Seattle U Men's Basketball (@seattleumbb) January 16, 2023
Chendall Weaver is WAC Freshman of the Year Leader
There was a question at the beginning of the season about freshman around the league. Who was going to stand out? UT Arlington true freshman Chendall Weaver is one of the freshman mentioned as one to keep an eye on in 2022-23.
Well, Weaver has lived up to the hype. Weaver is averaging 9.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in WAC play. And in the Mavericks win at New Mexico State on Saturday, Weaver played 38 minutes, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds.
With UTRGV freshman guard Adanté Holiman sidelined with a calf injury, Weaver’s name is sticking out. The 6-3 guard has started 12 games for Greg Young and is averaging 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Mavs. Perhaps the reason Weaver plays 26.1 minutes per game is because he takes care of the basketball. Weaver has committed just 19 turnovers in 19 games.
So, playing significant minutes, more than any other freshman in the league, Chendall Weaver is the leading candidate for WAC Freshman of the Year.
ACU, New Mexico State Struggles are Real
WAC play has not been friendly to the two teams who played in the WAC Tournament Championship last season.
First, Abilene Christian is 1-4 in WAC play. Second, the Wildcats are forcing 18.9 turnovers per game, yet still losing ball games. In the loss to UTRGV, ACU forced 26 turnovers. Yet, the Wildcats lost 103-87 in Edinburg. B
And life doesn’t get any easier for the Wildcats. First, ACU travels to Orem to face Utah Valley on Wednesday. And then, ACU returns home to face UT Arlington on Saturday.
The good news is that ACU plays rather well against Utah Valley. Airion Simmons and Cam Steele usually have their best games against the Wolverines. Plus, ACU won in Orem last season.
But still, ACU is in a struggle. Lack of consistent scorers outside of Manny Allen. Perhaps a lack of size, as well. Ali Dibba has been better in WAC play. But, Dibba is not a perimeter shooter, which can cause problems.
We will see if ACU can get back on track this week.
For New Mexico State, the wheels are coming off. 0-6 in WAC play. Four WAC home losses. And a fan base that is irate at how quickly things have changed in Las Cruces. What’s worse is the fact that the Aggies could be 0-8 in WAC play after this week. New Mexico State heads to Southern Utah and Utah Tech this week. And if that isn’t concerning, the Aggies head back to Utah to face Utah Valley on Jan. 28.
Consistency, continuity, playing as a team, and too much hero ball are creating problems. It is strange to say that the Aggies are in real danger of not qualifying for WAC Vegas.
Sure, there is still a month and a half to see if the Aggies can right the ship. But, as of now, things are not looking good in Las Cruces. Maybe I will eat my words. But, the truth must be spoken into existence.