Sunday Mailbag
Deshawndre Washington had a double-double in his first taste of the I-10 Rivalry on Saturday night. Courtesy New Mexico State Athletics.

NMSU, GCU, Yellowstone and More in Sunday Mailbag

It is Sunday. And that means another WAC Hoops Sunday Mailbag. It also means the new season of everyone’s favorite family returns. Yes, John, Beth, Jamie, Kayce, Rip, Monica and so forth return. Season 5 of Yellowstone premiers on the Paramount Network.

And it comes at an interesting time. We are now six days into the 2022-23 college basketball season. There have been blowout wins over non-Division I opponents. The WAC has a Power 6 win on its resume. And we have had some really surprising, albeit, disappointing performances. I mean the first question in this Sunday mailbag is legit the best question in the mailbag.

So, while you’re watching the Duttons do their thing, make sure you share your thoughts on the questions in this week’s Sunday mailbag.

Will the Aggies and GCU Ever Win Another Game?

Such a great question. I mean, seriously, what better way to start this Sunday mailbag?

The short answer is: of course both will win another game.

However, the long answer is that both teams have work to do to be the dominant teams many thought they would be. GCU has some very serious offensive struggles right now. Sure, Jovan Blacksher Jr. has been dynamite as expected. But, Rayshon Harrison and Noah Baumann were brought in for a purpose. To score and provide another shooter from the perimeter. Neither has lived up to that role so far in 2022-23. Baumann is 2-12 from distance through three games. Harrison is shooting 21.7 percent from the field and has yet to hit a 3-pointer. In Saturday’s loss at Nevada, the duo combined to go 0-9 from the 3-point line. That won’t cut it. Perhaps the Lopes will get things going on Friday when they host Grambling. They have to because the teams they will face at the Hall of Fame Classic are no pushovers.

For the Aggies, they will be just fine. They lost by three despite committing 20 turnovers and shooting just 25 percent from the 3-point line. And that was in front of a near-packed Don Haskins Center. In a rivalry game. Yes, the Aggies were careless with the ball…ALOT. But, even then, despite UTEP being more physical and pushing tempo, the Aggies hung around. New roster, new head coach. And yet, NMSU outscored UTEP in the second half. New Mexico State has a week to prepare for another rivalry game, this time against in-state rival New Mexico.

Do You Think the Utah Teams Will Continue to Play Well?

It is extremely hard to measure whether a team is playing well or not this early on. For the sake of this Sunday Mailbag, I will give my best answer.

Are there positives to take away from a loss? Sure. And Utah Valley, Southern Utah and Utah Tech had a few positives from their road losses on opening night. But, playing non-DI opponents is not a gauge for how good a team is. What concerns me, at least in the case of Utah Valley and Utah Tech, is the struggle to bury an opponent.

The Wolverines had a 15-point lead early in the second half against Northern Arizona. And yet, it ended up being a 4-point win for the Wolverines.

Utah Tech led by 13 with 1:57 to play. And the final score was 69-63.

In the case of Southern Utah, playing three non-DI opponents at home has been good to get some newcomers and younger guys some minutes. We won’t know a lot about the T-Birds until Friday when they head to Lawrence to face the national champs.

All three are good teams. And winning 50-50 games is a big measuring stick. The problem is, all three are going to have to be road warriors because all three play alot of non-conference road games.

Has Lamar Wilkerson Put Himself on Your Radar with the Week He’s Had?

My tweet following the shot heard around the world on Monday night should suffice as the answer to this question.

Where Else on the OOC Road, Tourney Sked Could the Kats Find Wins?

Looking at the Bearkats schedule, I am going to predict, at minimum, seven more wins. At least that I have legit confidence in. Obviously, three of those are the remaining non-DI games against LeTourneau, Dallas Christian and Arlington Baptist. I believe the way the Bearkats defend should lead to victories in a pair of games in the Fort Myers Tip-off against Northern Illinois and either LIU or South Dakota. And then wins over Lousiana-Monroe and Texas State.

My concern with the road game at Utah on Thursday is Sam Houston’s lack of size. Kaosi Ezeagu is solid. But, 7-footer Branden Carlson may create a problem for the Bearkats. However, Oklahoma had size, too. And we all know what happened there. The thing with Jason Hooten-coached teams is they play defense. And because of that, they can be in every game. It’s a matter if they can score. We saw when the lid finally opened in the second half against the Sooners what happened. If Sam Houston can hang around at the Huntsman Center on Thursday, an upset could be brewing. But, that’s a big IF.

What Has Been Your Biggest Surprise in the First Week of WAC Hoops?

That the GCU offense has been really, REALLY bad in three halves against Division I opponents. I am not counting the win over the non-Division I opponent. Just focusing on the performances against Division I teams. And outside of a big second half in the comeback win over Montana State, the GCU offense just hasn’t been good. Jovan Blacksher Jr. has been dynamite. But, when Blacksher Jr. has more points (16), than the other four starters combined (13) in a game, that is NOT good.

For all the hype the Lopes got in the preseason, week one has left a lot to be desired. Rayshon Harrison and Noah Baumann are both shooting less than 30 percent from the field. And both have combined to hit just two 3-pointers this season thus far. Jovan Blacksher Jr. is the only Lope in double figures. And at Nevada on Saturday, the Lopes hit just one field goal over the final 7-plus minutes in a double digit loss.

GCU has a week off before hosting Grambling on Friday. So, it’s back to the drawing board for the Lopes to get things figured out on the offensive end.

Do You Think John Dutton Will Remain Governor Throughout the Entire Season?

YES! I do. At least, I am hoping he does. But, Taylor Sheridan has a way of throwing a curveball just when you think you have things all figured out. I am so pumped Season 5 debuts tonight. This is an amazing series. Some might not like the family-first mentality. But, it is something that everyone should take into consideration. Just my two cents.

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.

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