Power rankings are always fun to put together. Especially when conference play begins. Sure, it is just two weeks into conference play. But, it has been a fun two weeks. There is no denying that. From dunks that are on Sportscenter to triple overtime thrillers, there has been exciting moments in WAC Hoops. Add in some unlikely wins, some unlikely struggles and some unlikely heroes and WAC Hoops has been worth the price of admission over the past two weeks.
The power rankings change from week-to-week. In this week’s edition, one team makes the jump from the bottom of the pack to the top-4. Another takes a major stumble and is in pretty bad company. Although, that bad company will be separated come Thursday night.
Road wins have been hard to come by for most teams. Just ask Kansas City, Utah Valley, and Chicago State. But, California Baptist hasn’t had too difficult a time winning on the road. The Lancers made a small statement with back-to-back impressive road wins this past week.
New Mexico State and UTRGV go on one of the more difficult road trips this week. The Aggies and Vaqueros go to Utah Valley and Seattle. UTRGV hasn’t won a road game all season. And New Mexico State is just looking to stay atop the WAC standings.
So, let’s take a look at this week’s WAC Hoops Power Rankings.
1. New Mexico State
This is a no-brainer. New Mexico State continues to hold the top spot after sweeping the weekend. The Aggies dominated Chicago State on Thursday night. And, had to hold off a pesky Kansas City team that was playing without center Javan White. Terrell Brown finally had a breakout game, which could have a huge impact on the Aggies if he stays hot. Trevelin Queen continues to play at a high level. And, perhaps the surprise has been Jabari Rice. The reigning WAC Player of the Week has been a steady rock all season for the Aggies. Head coach Chris Jans was really high on his redshirt sophomore guard in the fall and that confidence is paying off.
The Aggies go to Utah Valley on Thursday and Seattle on Saturday. Not the easiest road trip but one the Aggies should take care of business.
2. California Baptist
Back-to-back road wins over CSU Bakersfield and Grand Canyon have the Lancers sitting in the two-spot this week. The win at Grand Canyon on Saturday was the first win at GCU since 1964. Crazy, right? But when Brandon Boyd put the spin move on with 10 seconds remaining, it solidified CBU’s spot in the WAC Hoops Power Rankings. Here is the crazy thing. All the hype was about Milan Acquaah in the preseason. And, while Acquaah is having a really solid season, it has been Boyd, Ferron Flavors Jr., Zach Pirog, De’Jon Davis and others that have really had positive impact on CBU’s success this season. The Lancers are a complete team. It is just unfortunate that CBU can’t play in the WAC Tournament as they still have two more years left for postseason eligibility.
A 33-point victory over Utah Valley? Yes, you read that right. Seattle put the clamps down on the Wolverines en route to an 83-50 win on Saturday night. Jim Hayford has his team dialed in and this week is a big one for the Redhawks. With UTRGV and New Mexico State coming to town, Seattle has a chance to make a statement. Had it not been for Jahshire Hardnett’s heroics in the WAC opener between Kansas City and Seattle, the Redhawks would be undefeated in conference play. But, at 2-1, and with a ton of experience, and a potential WAC Player of the Year candidate in Terrell Brown, Seattle is dangerous and should not be taken lightly.
Let’s just get this out of the way. I called it that UTRGV would come out of this past weekend with a pair of wins. And the Vaqueros held up their end of the bargain. Despite falling behind by double digits early, UTRGV really controlled the majority of the game against Kansas City on Thursday night. Jordan Jackson, Lesley Varner II and Javon Levi all had monster games. Jackson’s dunk over Zion Williams was the Dunk of the Night on Sportscenter. And perhaps it was the dunk of the year. UTRGV followed that up with a dominating win over Chicago State. Are the Vaqueros for real? We will see. UTRGV is winless on the road this season. And a trip to the Pacific Northwest on Thursday will be difficult. But, it is an opportunity for Lew Hill’s guys to show they are for real.
Check out Jordan Jackson’s Dunk. Coming in as sportcenter Top Dunk of the night.
— UTRGV Men’s Basketball (@UTRGVmbb) January 11, 2020
5. Kansas City
Yes, Thursday night at UTRGV was not pretty. The Roos got out-rebounded, and really out-played. Add in the fact that big man Javan White went down and it was just a very rough night. But, perhaps the loss of White added to the loss at UTRGV sparked something in the Roos. Playing without White and with key players in foul trouble the majority of the night, Kansas City nearly knocked off New Mexico State in Las Cruces. It was a 54-54 ballgame with just over seven minutes to play. New Mexico State used a 9-0 run over the next three minutes to take a 63-54 lead with 4:27 to play. But Kansas City never went away. Rob Whitfield scored five straight points and Marvin Nesbitt Jr. stole an Aggie inbounds pass with a second remaining but couldn’t get the jumper to go. Either way, Kansas City is a good basketball team. First-year head coach Billy Donlon has his team playing at a high level and buying into the culture change he has brought to Kansas City.
6. CSU Bakersfield
It is kind of strange that one team has only played two conference games, but that is what the Roadrunners have done. In the lone game of the weekend, the Runners fell at home to CBU in the Battle of California. CBU went on an 11-0 run midway through the first half to take the lead and never really looked back. With a week off to prepare for a road trip to the Midwest, the Roadrunners have their work cut out for them. Taze Moore and De’Monte Buckingham have to continue to play at a high level. But Rod Barnes needs more out of Shawn Stith, Czar Perry and Cam Allen among others. The Roadrunners are capable of winning games in crazy ways. Perhaps they come out of the Midwest trip doing just that.
7. Utah Valley
It’s probably not a good sign that you have a week to prepare for a game and then lose that game by 33 points. Here is how bad it was on Saturday night in Phoenix. The Wolverines didn’t hit the 40-point mark until the 3:45 mark of the second half. Yes, 36 minutes passed before Utah Valley hit 40 points. At one point through the first half, the Wolverines had more turnovers than points. Sure, Utah Valley was playing without starter Casdon Jardine. But, that is still no excuse to lay an egg when you have a week to prepare. Perhaps the Wolverines can make some noise this week to move up in the power rankings.
The Wolverines are back home for a pair of games against New Mexico State and UTRGV. And if the Wolverines want to turn things around on what has become a rough season, this week might be a good time.
8. Grand Canyon
The only reason this isn’t a tie with Chicago State is because the Lopes have been competitive in their two WAC losses. But, this is now where GCU fans envisioned their team in the weekly power rankings. It’s hard not to put GCU this low. The Lopes got off to a slow start against CBU on Saturday and couldn’t finish the comeback, resulting in the fifth home loss of the season. If you have the best atmosphere in college basketball, home losses should not happen. But team chemistry, hero ball and a lot of isolation have impacted what was expected to be a really good GCU team. 16 team meetings hasn’t done the trick. There is a lot more in the tank with this GCU squad. Question is: will they do anything with it? That remains to be seen.
9. Chicago State
This is a young team that is just trying to figure itself out. There are some good players as has been the case for many Chicago State teams. But, the Cougars just don’t have the horses to match up well with anyone. I made the bold prediction that Chicago State would have at least two conference wins this season but that most likely won’t happen. Lance Irvin does a valiant job trying to get his team to compete. But, with the lack of resources and lack of support, it is hard to field a competitive team. And that is why they are at the bottom of the power rankings.