Rankings are always an interesting debate. And this week, some media pundits released some mid-major rankings. College Insider released its mid-major rankings. And on Friday, the Field of 68 released its mid-major top-25 rankings. And the Field of 68 rankings confirmed something we already know. The WAC is going to be really good in 2022-23.
Along with that, there was a tweet posted late Friday night regarding Utah Valley athletics. And that tweet could have a significant impact on the Wolverines. We will get to that.
And while this is a basketball website, it’s hard to ignore some of the things going on in Fall sports. For instance, there is a massive volleyball match in Orem this afternoon. The New Mexico State women’s soccer team has won back-to-back matches to advance to the WAC title match on Sunday. And the Utah Valley women’s soccer team came back from a 2-0 deficit to earn its spot in the WAC title match.
So, let’s get to the news around the WAC.
Multiple WAC Teams in Mid-Major Rankings
Someone has been saying the WAC is going to be really good in 2022-23. Along with that, someone has also been saying the WAC is very deep.
Well, this week, it’s almost like these other media outlets have jumped on the bandwagon.
On the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25, Grand Canyon comes in at No. 11. The preseason favorite for both the coaches and the media is garnering a lot of hype. With preseason WAC Player of the Year Jovan Blacksher Jr. back and the addition of Presbyterian guard Rayshon Harrison, there is a lot of excitement in Phoenix.
New Mexico State comes in at No. 22 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 poll. The Aggies have a new head coach and a new set of Aggies that will take the court in 2022-23. New Mexico State is already dangerous. But, the Aggies could get even more dangerous if/when Xavier Pinson and Kim Aiken become eligible.
In the CollegeInsider.com Women’s Mid-Major Top-25, two WAC schools are listed. WAC defending champ Stephen F. Austin comes in at No. 15. And newcomer UT Arlington comes in at No. 24. The Lady Mavs won the Sun Belt Conference tournament in 2021-22 before joining the WAC in 2022-23. Starr Jacobs returns for the Lady Mavs as the Preseason WAC Player of the Year. SFA returns Aiyanna Johnson and Avery Brittingham among others.
Field of 68 Even Higher on WAC
On another media platform, five WAC schools were in the Mid-Major Top-25. Field of 68 contributor Sean Paul has GCU at 9, New Mexico State at 12, California Baptist at 24, and SFA and ACU tied at 25. Pretty wild.
Well, not really. If you have been following WAC Hoops Digest, you would know that the WAC is extremely deep in 2022-23. And very good. Most teams return 5-7 key guys, plus some key returners from injuries. And the coaching around the league is just off-the-chart good.
First mid major poll is out! Here’s the rankings:
13. @SIU_Basketball https://t.co/nmwFv2hVql pic.twitter.com/OwCZnUFZwm
— Sean Paul (@SeanPaulCBB) November 4, 2022
Utah Valley Gets News That Will Impact Student-Athletes
As a Utah Valley alum, I had to do a double check when I saw a certain tweet late Friday night. It’s ironic that it was put out as the Utah Valley women’s soccer team was making its comeback in the WAC semifinals.
We are pleased to announce the launch of Wolverine Way, the official collective of Utah Valley University Athletics. We are looking forward to working closely with UVU's student-athletes, sponsors, athletic department, and administration. #gouvu @GoUVU pic.twitter.com/sGhBLVQJq4
— Wolverine Way (@wolverine_way) November 4, 2022
Wolverine Way is the official NIL collective of Utah Valley University. Per the website, Wolverine Way, is a new comprehensive Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) collective to assist UVU student-athletes & sponsors maximize a variety of NIL opportunities.
Considering Utah Valley just announced it will build a $20 million soccer stadium, this news comes at an opportune time. The UVU men’s soccer team, under former RSL star Kyle Beckerman, just clinched a spot in the WAC tournament on Friday night. Utah Valley’s women’s volleyball team is in contention for a regular season title. And the UVU women’s soccer team is one win away from winning a WAC title and going to the NCAA Tournament.
As the biggest school in the state of Utah, and No. 2 in Utah for ‘Best Bang for Your Buck’ per Washington Monthly, this is big time news for the Wolverines.
Other Fall Sports Heating Up
This is a basketball site. No denying that. But, it is hard to ignore what is going on in some of the Fall sports around the WAC. Part of this is a little bias toward Utah Valley. But, part of it is the fact that these sports don’t get talked about enough.
Saturday afternoon at the Lockhart Arena, a HUGE volleyball match tips off. Utah Valley at 9-1 in WAC play and 16-7 record overall hosts UTRGV who is 10-1 in WAC play and 21-5 overall. The Wolverines have won nine straight. UTRGV is coming off back-to-back wins. Whoever wins in Orem on Saturday has the upper hand on the regular season crown. UVU, as a team, currently leads the WAC in blocks/set with 2.57 and services aces with 1.73 per set.
UTRGV will counter with Sarah Cruz who leads the WAC with 4.46 kills per set and has 419 kills on the year. Emiliano Luanna leads the WAC in assists by averaging 10.71 per set.
The New Mexico State women’s soccer team has won back-to-back matches to advance to their first-ever WAC title match on Sunday. On Wednesday, the Aggies outlasted California Baptist in overtime, 1-0. And on Friday, the Aggies knocked off 2-seed Seattle, 1-0.
Now, the Aggies will face 1-seed Utah Valley, who is coming off a dramatic win of its own on Friday night. Trailing Grand Canyon 2-0 in the second half, Faith Webber got the Wolverines on the board in the 64th minute. And about 20 minutes later, Jenna Shepherd scored her first goal of the season to tie the match at 2.
And in the 108th minute, Faith Webber scored her second goal of the match, ultimately the game-winner to help the Wolverines advance.
Utah Valley is looking to sweep regular season and tournament titles. And New Mexico State is looking for its first-ever WAC women’s soccer tournament title. Lot of dramatics at Championship Field in Seattle on Sunday afternoon.
On the men’s side, there were some dramatics at Clyde Field on Friday night. Utah Valley needed a tie or a win to clinch its spot in the WAC Tournament. Trailing 1-0 to California Baptist, Nico Torres scored his first goal of the season in the 75th minute. And 13 minutes later in the 88th minute, Mark Andros put Utah Valley ahead. With the win, Utah Valley clinched its spot in the WAC Tournament.
Final | @UVUmsoc 2, California Baptist 1
The Wolverines come from behind to score two goals in the 2nd half to clinch a spot in next week's WAC Men's Soccer Championship! pic.twitter.com/VSXY68NowX
— The Western Athletic Conference (@WACsports) November 5, 2022
If Air Force beats Grand Canyon in the regular season finale, Utah Valley would be the 4-seed. If Grand Canyon wins or ends in a draw, the Lopes would be the 4-seed and Utah Valley would be the 5-seed.