We’re officially halfway to WAC Vegas, folks! Since we’re officially to the mid-season point of conference play, lets celebrate with some report cards, shall we? Now, we all know New Mexico State is well on their way to running away with the regular season title, again. California Baptist is right there in 2nd and could make a strong push. Unfortunately, they will have to sit out WAC Vegas this season due to NCAA rules. This means that there is currently a 4-way tie for the 2nd seed going into the conference tournament along with a tie for 6th place.
There have been some surprises and certainly some disappointments thus far in conference play. With all that said, let’s dive into our mid-season report card. And, just for the record, these grades are based on the first eight games of WAC play for each team.
California Baptist: A-
Kicking off the mid-season report card is the Lancers of California Baptist! The Lancers are currently in 2nd place in the WAC with a record of 6-2. Coach Rick Croy and his team were tabbed to finish 5th in the WAC standings. Similar to last season when they were projected to finish 8th, Croy is well on his way to “overachieving” with his Lancers yet again. Milan Acquaah is finding himself in the Player of the Year conversation again, too. It’s unfortunate the Lancers are still ineligible for WAC Vegas this season, as I feel they have potential to make some noise in the tournament. They will be a fun team to keep an eye on next season potentially with Milan Acquaah back for his senior year.
Chicago State: D-
With limited resources and recruiting, head coach Lance Irvin is doing everything he can with the Cougars. They went winless in conference play last season, and could very well be heading for that same fate this season. I give major props to Irvin though, who is really trying to make something happen for the Cougars.
CSU Bakersfield: B
I’ve always believed that you can never count out Rod Barnes, and that is holding true up to the mid-way point of conference play. With California Baptist ineligible, the Roadrunners are in the log jam of teams tied for 2nd. Although a record of 4-4 isn’t pretty, they are still right there. We’ll see what Barnes and company can do in the 2nd half of WAC play with this being the Roadrunners last season in the WAC.
Grand Canyon: C-
The Lopes find themselves with the most disappointing grade in this mid-season report card. Although the Lopes are one of four teams tied for 2nd, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Picked to finish 2nd in the preseason coaches poll, they currently find themselves sitting at 4-4 in WAC play. It hasn’t been exactly smooth sailing for the Lopes up to this point in conference play. No Oscar Frayer has hurt, but this is still a talented team with Alessandro Lever and Carlos Johnson. Let’s see if Dan Majerle can make some adjustments with the Lopes heading into the 2nd half of conference play.
New Mexico State: A
To the surprise of absolutely noone, New Mexico State has our best mid-season grade. The Aggies have done everything right in the first half of conference play. Ivan Aurrecoechea is emerging as a potential dark horse candidate for Player of the Year honors. The only real threat to this team’s ceiling is injuries. If Trevelin Queen isn’t healthy for WAC Vegas, that significantly hurts the Aggies. The regular season title is the Aggies to lose at this point. However, if the Aggies aren’t healthy, WAC Vegas could potentially be wide open. We’ll have to wait and see.
Seattle U: C+
Now, I know that Seattle is in that cluster of teams tied for 2nd, but that 4-4 record isn’t pretty.
The Redhawks have been in some really close contests, losing to UMKC in triple OT and dropping a tight one in Phoenix to GCU. Guard Terrell Brown is making a strong case for Player of the Year. This is supposed to be the Redhawks year, but if they can’t figure out how to win those close games, it could be another disappointing season for head coach Jim Hayford and the Redhawks. If the Redhawks turn it around, they should find themselves going into WAC Vegas with a top-3 seed.
The ‘Roos are the real surprise here in the mid-season report card. First-year head coach Billy Donlon has exceeded all expectations up to the midway point of conference play. It has been a team effort for the ‘Roos as they have six players that all roughly average 9.7 points per game. Although they aren’t a flashy team, they are a very tough team to beat and have proved they can hang with the big boys. And, although Donlon probably won’t win Coach of the Year honors, he should certainly be considered with the job he has done so far in Kansas City.
The Vaqueros started out conference play strong, winning their first two games. They then lost their next four games in what was a tough stretch for the Vaqueros. UTRGV got back into the win column with a gut-check win against Bakersfield. With a terrific backcourt of Javon Levi and Jordan Jackson, can head coach Lew Hill turn the ship around heading into the second half of WAC play and find the team that was predicted to finish 4th?
Utah Valley: C
Rounding out the mid-season grades is the Utah Valley Wolverines. Now, It pains me to give my Wolverines a grade this low. However, I have to call it how it is. It has been tough for first-year head coach Mark Madsen. The Wolverines have been inconsistent midway through conference play so for the Wolverines it’s about finding balance. If Brandon Averette can turn things around, that would be a huge boost to this team. Madsen doesn’t have an easy job to do in Orem, but there is a lot of potential that the Wolverines can begin to build from.
WAC hoops fans, what are your thoughts on these mid-season grades? Did I grade your team too high? Too low? Just perfect? Let me know! Give me a follow on twitter @T_Creer54.