GCU vs NMSU Rivalry
Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Rivalry Question Dominates Sunday Mailbag

The good old rivalry question. It seems to be the topic of a lot of hot debates on Twitter. And most of the time, at least around the WAC, it revolves around New Mexico State and Grand Canyon.

“Grand Canyon is trying to manufacture a rivalry with New Mexico State.”

“It’s not a rivalry and never will be”

“They never beat us so it will never be a rivalry.”

And it goes on and on and on. So I would just like to thank Katfans for putting this all on me to explain my answer to this very pointed mailbag question.

When NMSU Leaves the League, Who Will GCU Fans Gravitate To on Social Media as Their Mortal Enemy?

First off, I don’t think GCU fans see New Mexico State as their ‘mortal enemy.’ I do think GCU fans see New Mexico State as the team they want their Lopes to be. Winning championships year after year, going to the NCAA Tournament year after year. And as much as some on Twitter think GCU students are ignorant and just at events to party, they are also smart enough to know that a win over New Mexico State gets them to where they want to go. It rarely happens. But, New Mexico State has set the standard of success in men’s basketball. And GCU fans and students understand that they are the Kings of the WAC. There is no denying that. So, when the Lopes play the Aggies, it is the biggest game of the season for GCU.

I think the narrative that ‘students are paid’ to attend sporting events drives the GCU fan base crazy and they get angry over it. And rightly so. That narrative is usually spewed out by some on Twitter and it’s not true. So, they take offense to that, which makes them not like New Mexico State even more. So I guess to answer your question, whichever fan base decides to run with that narrative when New Mexico State leaves will become the so-called mortal enemy.

It should be noted that 2021-22 was the first year since GCU has been eligible for the WAC Tournament, that the Lopes and Aggies did not play in the WAC Tournament Championship. So, you have two schools that have regularly been 1-2 atop the WAC standings. And who have played in three of the last four WAC tournament title games.

Here is another thought on this. New Mexico State fans should just say ‘Thank You’ and move on with it. GCU wants to be New Mexico State in terms of men’s basketball success. And thus are trying to force things simply because the Aggies are the best. It should be flattering that a school that you have beat 18 times in 23 tries feels so strongly about you.

When SHSU Leaves the League, Is SFA-Tarleton the New Big Rivalry in the WAC’s Texas Flank?

I am trying to determine if KatFans is trying to force a debate here. But, to answer your question, no this is not the new big rivalry once Sam Houston leaves.

Due to recent success, it is more likely that the rivalry between SFA and ACU heats up. Both teams have been to the NCAA Tournament in recent years. And both teams have won conference titles in recent years. There are multiple ties between the two programs. And they were both former Southland Conference mates. Add in that in their first year in the WAC, ACU knocked SFA out of the WAC Tournament and you can see why this series is going to be fun to watch. It’s not forced, either, because there is so much familiarity with one another.

Plus, all roads are pointing to Tarleton trying to entice Conference USA to take on the Texans. So, who knows how much longer Tarleton will be in the WAC?

What Do You Think Needs to Happen for D-I Schools Willing to Travel to the WAC for a Non-Conference Game?

The easy answer is for WAC schools to stop competing at such a high level in non-conference games. It’s such a simple answer. Because SFA beat Duke at Cameron Indoor and went toe-to-toe with Kansas last season among others, nobody wants to play the Jacks.

Utah Valley can’t get Division I teams to come to Orem despite being a Quad II game. Sam Houston, New Mexico State and so forth. Teams just don’t want to take the risk.

The WAC has put in the new résumé seeding system to entice WAC schools to put together a more difficult non-conference schedule. But that can only be achieved if teams can find other Division I opponents who will play them. Add in the fact that of wanting home games and you can see the dilemma. I should add to this the money factor. Some teams in the WAC have more money and therefore can buy more home games than others.

I am not an analytics guy and I may get alot of grief for saying this. But, the NET is hurting college basketball when it comes to scheduling non-conference games. If it’s not a Quad I game, the likelihood of a Power 5 playing a true road game at a mid-major is slim to none.

Along with that, the NET doesn’t really help or benefit the lower mid-major conferences like the WAC. They are still one-bid leagues and thus scheduling as difficult as possible in the non-conference isn’t necessarily beneficial. Yes, the new seeding system changes that a bit. But, even then, at the end of the day, the WAC is still a one-bid league.

So, it is a lose-lose for high majors or even higher mid-majors to play true road games at WAC schools. Teams in the WAC reach out to get those high quality games. But they also don’t want to be on the road the entire first two months of the season. So, that is why you see non-DI opponents. This way, teams ensure themselves of at least one or two home games.

Do Any WAC Teams Have Spots Left to Add Any Significant Pieces Before We Kick Off the Greatness that is NCAA College Basketball Season?

I don’t believe so. SFA may have one. But overall I think rosters are now set. New Mexico State added a pair of forwards recently to its roster. And Seattle got another commitment from a guard two weeks ago. But, other than that, rosters are set as teams start their Fall camps.

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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