women's hoops mailbag
The Lady Jacks are the defending WAC champions. Is there anyone that can knock them off? Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Schedules, Newcomers, and More in Women’s Hoops Mailbag

It’s the last full week of August so why not have it go out with a bang? Seven teams previews have been posted on the WAC Hoops Digest website. And we have six more to go. In the midst of these previews, we have asked the fans to send in their questions. And this is the first women’s hoops mailbag.

The weekly mailbags on the men’s side of things have generated a lot of interactions. So, we wanted to create one generated toward women’s basketball in the Western Athletic Conference. There is a lot of depth in a league that adds Southern Utah and UT-Arlington. Heck, UTA is coming off an NCAA Tourney appearance where they nearly knocked off Iowa State in the first round.

Thank you to the fans that sent in their questions. They have been top notch as submitted on Twitter so let’s jump right in to this women’s hoops mailbag.

How Does the Conference Stack Up Against Other Mid-Majors?

To answer this question I went and pulled the women’s basketball net rankings from the end of last season. Those rankings place the WAC 17th among mid-major conferences.

The Southland is last in conference NET for women’s basketball. Below the WAC are, in order, the MAAC, America East, Southern, Big South, Northeast, SWAC and MEAC. Above the WAC from bottom to top are the Patriot League, ASUN, Horizon, Sunbelt, Ohio Valley, Big Sky, Big West, Colonial Athletic Association, Ivy League, Summit League, Mountain West, CUSA, Mid-American, Missouri Valley, Atlantic 10, and WCC.

That is with how we looked at the end of last year before dropping Chicago State and adding Southern Utah and UTA. I expect the WAC to be higher up those rankings come this year, especially with the conference office’s emphasis on higher quality non-conference games.

women's hoops mailbag

How Do the Non-Conference Games Look for Each Team?

I’m going to answer the last question early as it ties to number one.

We’re definitely starting to see non-conference schedules slowly drip out there. UT-Arlington and California Baptist are the only schools to release their non-conference schedules so far.

From what is known so far the WAC will play about 15 games against Power 6 opponents. I expect that number to go up are schedules are released.

Here are some notable games against Power 6 opponents thus far.

*CBU v Arizona at the USD Tournament over Thanksgiving & v USC on Nov 30th at Galen Center
*UTA against OU (11/20), Kansas (11/16), Baylor (12/7) & Arizona (12/21…a home game for the Mavericks)
*SUU @ Oregon, @ Colorado and @ Utah
*GCU will play Arizona State at home (with date pending)
*Seattle will do the Oregon trip and play both the Ducks and Beavers
*Sam Houston State will play TCU along with Texas Tech.

When it comes to mid-major vs. mid-major there are some pretty good matchups too. Southern Utah will play New Mexico and Gonzaga. CBU hosts a Long Beach State team that lost in the Big West and WNIT first rounds. The Lancers also host Northern Arizona who reached the Big Sky finals before falling.

UTA also has North Texas, Houston, Cincinnati, Texas Southern, Toledo and former WAC member Lamar on its slate.

With ACU’s New Arena, Rank Top Facilities in the WAC

In all honesty, I’ve only been to GCU Arena and the CBU Events Center. So I’m not sure how to evaluate arenas I haven’t visited personally. What I will say is that they did a very good job with the revamp of Moody. And I hope I get the opportunity to take in a game there this season.

Can Anyone Challenge SFA for the WAC Title?

There’s a nice list of teams that I feel can challenge SFA or at least make themselves relevant in the race by playing spoiler.

It starts with GCU and Molly Miller’s defense which showed the Lady Jacks could be held under control for a half in Phoenix.

However, once Mark Kellogg’s team started hitting shots the Lopes just couldn’t keep up. Miller and staff have added enough size and offensive firepower that they’ll again contend. The Lopes are led by Aaliyah Collins, Sydney Palma, Olivia Lane and Evan Zars.

I expect big things from UT-Arlington who returns WAC Player of the Year candidate Star Jacobs. UTA also adds Jireh Washington from Arkansas State who averaged better than 14 points per game last season.

Southern Utah led by Cherita Daugherty and an impressive group of post players including Lizzie Williamson and Megan Jensen should be in the race.

Abilene Christian and CBU look like they have enough firepower offensively to keep up, but need to show improvement defensively.

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How Will Newcomers UT-Arlington and SUU Favor in First Season in the WAC?

The simple answer to this women’s hoops mailbag question is that both programs will contend for both regular season and tournament titles. They both return a lot and made nice additions in the transfer portal.

Which Teams Are on the Rise and Which Teams Will Struggle?

On the struggle list will be UTRGV, UVU, and Seattle. Utah Valley lost three starters plus its first player off the bench in Megan Jensen. Gone are Josie Williams, Maria Carvalho, and Madison Grange. That means four of Utah Valley’s top-5 scorers from a 16-win squad are gone. That’s a tall order for Dan Nielson and his staff.

For UTRGV, it is a similar situation. Taylor Muff and Sara Bershers are both gone. Brooke Jessen left for ACU. Kacee Kyle and Jena’ Williams are back for Lane Lord, though.

And Seattle is just in a youth movement right now after losing seven of its top-8 players from the 2021-22 season.

On the rise, is Sam Houston and New Mexico State. Don’t know enough about Tarleton to place them. But the Texans did up the win total in conference from year one. So based on that, I’d say on the rise for the Texans.

What’s the Current Coaches’ Rationale Behind Relying So Heavily on 4-Year Transfers?

I really like this women’s hoops mailbag question and believe there’s more pressure to win now on teams vs building for the future. As a result programs are taking veterans and relying on that experience to take them to where they want to get to. It’s just a different mindset over taking players that coaches might need to wait a couple of years on to develop.

You’re not only seeing this in basketball but in all sports. This makes it really tough on the current high school classes who have seen their opportunities dwindle. Part of that too is related to the extra COVID year players were granted as a result of the cancellation of the 2020 postseason in basketball.

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