Rivalry discussions are always fun. Just ask New Mexico State and Grand Canyon fans. And, as it turns out SFA and Sam Houston fans have some interesting thoughts on rivalry discussions, too. When discussing a rivalry, sometimes the apples-to-oranges comparison rings true. Other instances, it doesn’t.
Let’s give an example. On Thursday night, ACU play-by-play voice Grant Boone mentioned that it was a rivalry game between SFA and ACU at the Teague Center. Now, for SFA fans listening, it was almost as though this was blasphemous. Just look through the responses to this tweet.
This ACU announcer: “two incredible rivals”
Are we still doing this? ?♂️
— Isaac Robert (@isaactweeting) January 7, 2022
It is no different than NMSU fans responding to the claim that playing GCU is considered a rivalry game. Now, let me give you the definition of a rival.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there are two definitions given. First: one of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess. Second: one striving for competitive advantage.
So, if both NMSU and GCU are striving to win the WAC, is that not a rivalry per the definition? Same with ACU and SFA. They are trying to obtain something only one can possess: a WAC title and trip to the NCAA tournament.
Now, let’s be clear. NMSU and GCU is not close to NMSU’s true rivals of UTEP and UNM. Never will be either with the Aggies leaving to Conference USA. Nor is ACU and SFA the rivalry that SFA has with Sam Houston. Not even close. We can all agree on that. But, rivalries have to start somewhere. They all have. And just because it hasn’t been as long or as heated as other rivalries, doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a rivalry.
Now, with all that said, there is one rivalry that we can discuss in Saturday’s late of WAC Hoops.
Dixie State at Utah Valley, 2 p.m. MT ESPN+
The Old Hammer Rivalry between Utah Valley and Dixie State will be renewed Saturday afternoon at the UCCU Center. The official record shows the teams are 1-1 against each other. That is true at the Division I level. But these two schools, separated by about four hours, have been competing against each other for years dating back to the JUCO days. Prior to making the jump to Division I in 2003, Utah Valley was a junior college power. The Wolverines competed in the SWAC alongside Dixie, Salt Lake Community College , Snow College, College of Southern Idaho and more.
So, Utah Valley and Dixie played each other twice a year in most sports, competed for conference titles and so forth. So, the Old Hammer Rivalry goes back a long ways. And now it is renewed at the Division I level. In 2020-21, Utah Valley and Dixie State split the season series. The Wolverines won Friday night and the Trailblazers behind a career night from Hunter Schofield won on Saturday night.
On Saturday, fans get to see who takes the advantage as Division I foe. Fardaws Aimaq and company take on Cameron Gooden and a Dixie State squad that struggled in a pair of WAC games last week. Should be a barn-burner of a rivalry game in Orem on Saturday.
California Baptist at Chicago State, 11 a.m. MT. ESPN+
It’s not a rivalry game in every sense of the word. But, it is intriguing nonetheless. CBU hasn’t played in nearly two weeks. Its first WAC game against Seattle a week ago was postponed to Jan. 17. So, perhaps there will be rust. But, the last time we said that about a Chicago State opponent, Seattle went for 93 points against the Cougars. Could the same be in store on Saturday at the Jones Convocation Center? Freshman guard Taran Armstrong has been a stat-sheet stuffer for the Lancers. But, the play of UMBC transfer Dan Akin has been something to watch for CBU, as well.
The biggest problem for Chicago State is playing without fouling and managing the runs. Chicago State is just not good at either, right now. The youth shows its head at times. Although there is talent, there are still mistakes being made. And for a Chicago State team where the line is already thin, those mistakes prove very costly.
Grand Canyon at Lamar – Cancelled
On Friday afternoon, the WAC announced the game between Grand Canyon and Lamar was cancelled. It will not be made up thus giving Grand Canyon a win by forfeit. It is the second straight game Lamar has chosen not to play thus leading to a forfeit.
— Lamar Men's Hoops (@LamarMBB) January 7, 2022
Sam Houston at ACU, 5 p.m. MT ESPN+
Some might call this game a rivalry. Some might not. But, it is an intriguing matchup nonetheless. Sam Houston won the Southland Conference regular season crown last season. ACU won the Southland Conference Tournament and went to the NCAA Tournament. Sam Houston boasts one of the best players in the league in Savion Flagg. ACU boasts arguably the best defense in the league. So what will give on Saturday night at the Teague Center? ACU lost for the first time in a year and a half at the Teague Center on Thursday night. A slow start for the Wildcats was too much to overcome in the loss to SFA.
Sam Houston was in a similar situation at Tarleton on Thursday night. Savion Flagg didn’t score a point in the first half against the Texans. And without his scoring, Tarleton took advantage on its way to a double digit win. These two are familiar with one another. But both play a very different style of basketball. Should be fun to watch on ESPN+.
New Mexico State at UTRGV, 6 p.m. MT ESPN+
There isn’t much to write about for this contest. New Mexico State has the size and the experience and simply put…the better players. Not to mention Chris Jans is arguably one of the best mid-major coaches in America. UTRGV is lacking size as rim protector Jeff Otchere is still out. Freshman big man Donte Houston Jr. is out. So, basically the game plan for the Vaqueros is a five out look and get up and down the floor.
We haven’t really seen New Mexico State play an up-tempo type of game. The lone time it did was in a rivalry game against New Mexico in which the Aggies lost. But, with Teddy Allen, Jabari Rice, Nate Pryor and Johnny McCants who runs the floor really well for a big man, the Aggies should have no problem in Edinburg.
Stephen F. Austin at Tarleton, 6 p.m. MT ESPN+
Outside of the rivalry game between Utah Valley and Dixie State, this game might be the best of the night. And what a way to cap off a busy Saturday of WAC Hoops. SFA is coming off a big win at ACU on Thursday. Tarleton got its mojo back with a double digit win over Sam Houston. Neither team has a ton of size. SFA has Gavin Kensmil who is in the Player of the Year discussion. Tarleton counters with some pesky guards who defend but can also light it up offensively. Montre Gipson and Tahj Small had a combined 46 points on Thursday night.
Keep an eye on Freddy Hicks on Saturday night. If Hicks has the same type of game he did in the WAC opener at Dixie State a week ago, Tarleton could come away with a big win. And keep an eye on how SFA shoots it from deep. Tarleton loves to defend the perimeter. Wisdom Gym will be rocking on Saturday night on ESPN+