weekly mailbag
Don't count out Utah Valley who returns nearly everyone in 2022-23. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Mid-Major Matchups, Preseason Polls, and More in Weekly Mailbag

Let me start off by apologizing that the weekly mailbag did not come out on Sunday evening. We had to watch our two nephews this weekend. And let me tell you, a 4-year and a 5-year old pair of cousins were going at it all weekend. So much fun.

But, there are some interesting questions for this week’s WAC Hoops mailbag. Mid-major matchups are something I am really excited in the non-conference slate. Especially ones against in-state opponents. There are the age old ‘dark horse’ questions. And along with that, some shared some preseason polls from other writers. Those were quite interesting to look at. And then there was a question about the toughest conference schedule. This is a doozy of a question. But I have a specific answer for it.

So, let’s get to the questions presented for the weekly mailbag.

What Mid-Major vs. Mid-Major Matchups Involving WAC Teams Excite You?

Where do you want me to begin? Right out of the gate we get Utah Valley at Utah State. WAC vs. MWC. Nov. 7 at the Smith Spectrum in Logan. Wolverines haven’t beaten the Aggies in 13 tries. And, per the 2021-22 NET, it could be considered a Quad I opportunity, too. Did I mention it was an in-state game?

Utah Tech at Nevada on opening night is another one. Trailblazers are eligible for the WAC Tournament in 2022-23. And Nevada hasn’t looked as formidable in recent years. Long Beach State at CBU to tip off the 2022-23 season as well as Montana State at GCU.

Both are season openers. Long Beach State is the reigning Big West regular season champ. Montana State is going to be a favorite to win the Big Sky. These are winnable games for both CBU and GCU and they are home games.

SUU at New Mexico is another one to tip off the 2022-23 season.

Other games I really like are Sam Houston at Missouri State, the UTEP and UNM series for New Mexico State, the UT-Arlington-North Texas matchup. And there are so many more than I can’t list all of them here. I like Seattle U’s potential matchups at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. Start off with Utah State and then will get either SMU or Iona followed by either Hawaii, Washington State, George Washington or Pepperdine on Christmas Day.

Tarleton has UCF and Wichita State once again. Utah Valley plays BYU. Utah Tech has Weber State and Utah State. I mean there are so many opportunities for the WAC to show it is an upper-echelon mid-major basketball conference in 2022-23.

Which 2 Teams are Cutting Down the Nets in the Orleans Next March?

My guy Tyler! Great question.

And I honestly don’t know if I can make a solid prediction. On the men’s side, I feel like there are nine teams that will be in the mix. People will think I am crazy. But that is how deep the WAC is in 2022-23. It is all about the seed. Plain and simple. The top-4 seeds have to win three games in three days while the bottom-8 seeds have to win four games in five days. So I can’t/won’t make a prediction at this point. Too many questions surrounding the men’s side of WAC Hoops.

On the women’s side, I really like UT-Arlington. Shereka Wright has something brewing and they just went to the NCAA Tournament in 2021-22. Starr Jacobs is a bona fide Player of the Year candidate. I love what SFA has done with the sustained success so it’s hard to count out Mark Kellogg and the Ladyjacks. But Zya Nugent’s injury is a big hit on the Ladyjacks desire to return to the big dance. GCU head coach Molly Miller has an extremely talented roster. But the Lopes have the difficult task of beating UTA and SFA. And I am not sure they will. The women’s side will be fun to watch.

What Do You Think of Barttorvik’s Preseason Poll?

Well, a couple of things this weekly mailbag answer.

First, the poll has Southern Utah’s projected record as 10-20. I am not sure where that projection comes from. The T-Birds return two 1,000-point scorers, a WAC POY candidate, add a 1,000-point scorer, and return three starters plus their Sixth Man. In the preview link, the author didn’t even have Tevian Jones listed on the SUU roster.

Second, again, in the SFA roster, there is no mention of Roti Ware who will be a starter for the Jacks in 2022-23. And third, how do you project a record on teams who haven’t released their full schedules yet? And the fourth thing, Lamar isn’t even in the WAC. They made the decision to leave for the Southland Conference back in July.

It’s fun to talk about WAC Hoops. And kudos to platforms and writers for taking a look at the WAC. It’s always good to get more people paying attention.

Who Do You Think Has the Toughest Conference Schedule Based on When They Play, Where, One Day of Prep, etc.?

Easy weekly mailbag answer – Utah Valley and Stephen F. Austin. Plain and simple.

Nobody else in the WAC has TWO three-game road trips on their schedule. Utah Valley has a 3-game bender to UT-Arlington, UTRGV, and California Baptist Jan. 5, Jan. 7 and Jan. 11. Then the Wolverines go to Seattle U on Feb. 18, at Tarleton Feb. 23 and at ACU on Feb. 25. And the Wolverines don’t have a 3-game home stretch during WAC play. Add in a six-game stretch at CBU, home vs. Seattle U and ACU, at GCU, at SUU, and home vs. New Mexico State. Brutal.

SFA is similar. The Jacks have two three-game benders over a 30-day stretch. At Utah Tech on Jan. 12, at SUU Jan. 14 and at Sam Houston on Jan. 19. Home for a pair of games vs. UTRGV and Seattle U. And then back on the road at New Mexico State Feb. 2, at GCU Feb. 4 and at UTRGV Feb. 11. And like Utah Valley, SFA has no 3-game home stretch during the regular season.

I will say that I think Sam Houston and SUU have the toughest opening weekend travel. SUU has to go to New Mexico State for a Dec. 29 contest. Then find a way to get back to Cedar City on Dec. 30 for a New Year’s Eve contest on Saturday. All the while, SUU’s Dec. 31 opponent UTRGV just has to make a 45-minute drive North to Cedar City after playing at Utah Tech. Sam Houston has to fly to Orem, one of four trips to the state of Utah, play Utah Valley, then fly to El Paso to head to Las Cruces to take on New Mexico State. Pretty wild travel.

Other teams have travel issues on opening weekend, too. But getting into and out of El Paso is no easy task.

Which Schools Out There Could the WAC Convince to Join the Conference in the Coming Years?

Good question in this weekly mailbag. Let’s go with the assumption that it needs to be a football school. Which brings us to the question of who fits the geography the best? I am not sure if they have yet, but the WAC should be reaching out to Northern Arizona to gauge their potential interest. Although Flagstaff is a difficult place to get to, NAU fits the geography of the league. NAU has football. And then you create a travel partner with GCU. With SUU now in the WAC, NAU is kind of an outlier in the Big Sky Conference. Considering the WAC lost two football schools when Lamar and UIW went back to the Southland, adding a football school is essential.

it is crazy to think that two years ago, the WAC was looking at re-establishing itself in terms of a football conference. Now, they are down to five schools with football, two of which aren’t out of the transition phase yet. And I don’t think it is crazy to think that one of those transition schools may be on its way out at the end of the 4-year period.

As for the answer to your question, NAU is a geographical fit and has football. It would make sense. But, is NAU willing to leave the stability football-wise of the Big Sky? Probably not.

Who You Got Winning the Conference?

Please see my weekly mailbag response to Tyler’s question above in regard to this.

Which Teams Do You See as a Dark Horse?

I don’t necessarily think there is a dark horse in the WAC in 2022-23. 10 of 13 teams return multiple key players. Nine of 13 teams should be in the mix for the regular season crown. If you are going to make me throw out some names, here they are.

Teams better not overlook Southern Utah, Utah Valley or Sam Houston. I will leave it at that.

Which Team Will be the Most Improved and Which Team Most Likely to Dip/Drop From Last Year?

California Baptist will be the most improved. They are deep, have one of the best point guards in the league, and added five Division I transfers to a deep roster.

The team most likely to dip/drop from last year…this is tough. I don’t know if it will be much of a dip from last season, but I will go with Seattle U. The Redhawks had 23 wins in 2021-22 and finished 14-4 in WAC play for their first-ever WAC regular season title. Yes, the Redhawks return four starters including Cameron Tyson and Riley Grigsby. But, losing Darrion Trammell is a BIG loss. Plus the Redhawks don’t have 19 home games in 2022-23.

But, let me be clear – it WILL NOT be a SIGNIFICANT drop. The Redhawks will light teams up and could very easily win the league again.

Will You Expand Your Horizons and Cover CUSA Next Year?

First off, let me just start this weekly mailbag answer by saying THANK YOU to everyone who has followed WHD since it began in September, 2019. Thank you for the support, interactions and corrections. For the debates and discussions. It is wonderful. And it is always a good thing to talk WAC Hoops.

With that being said, as much as I would love to, I just don’t have the resources right now to do that. And there is discussions about adding coverage for other sports around the WAC that would take up more time. Just wanted to be honest about that.



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.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to WAC Hoops Digest

Enter your email address to subscribe to WAC Hoops Digest so you never miss a beat.

Click Here to Get Your NBA Gear

Enjoy Las Vegas

Buy and Sell Your Tickets with StubHub

Get Your MLB Gear at the MLB Shop

Book with Expedia.com

Book a Stay with Hotels.com