It’s officially week two of WAC basketball, and we’ve got a good series going down in Seattle this weekend. There’s a lot of buzz around the conference with the expansion of the WAC being announced today. But, let’s turn our attention back to some basketball for the weekend!
Seattle is finally getting conference play underway. On the flip side, Utah Valley is looking to get off to a hot, 4-0 start in conference play. It would be Utah Valley’s best start since the 2013-14 Wolverines team, which started 7-0. In addition, Kyle McDonald and I are fortunate enough to be able to be in Seattle covering this series. We’d like to give a special thanks to Seattle U Associate AD Sarah Finney who is allowing us to come out to these two games.
Last weekend, Utah Valley managed to open up conference play with a sweep over California Baptist. Utah Valley was led by Mercer transfer Fardaws Aimaq who averaged 17.5 points per game and pulled down 15 rebounds per game. Aimaq has arguably been the MVP for the Wolverines this season and continues to get better and better.
Seattle wrapped up its non-conference schedule a week ago with a convincing win over Saint Martin’s. Seattle junior Riley Grigsby led all scorers with 24 points. Grigsby leads the WAC in scoring at 18.6 points per game and has played fantastic for coach Jim Hayford. Standout junior college transfer guard Darrion Trammell has been an impact player for the Redhawks this season. He can a do little bit of everything. Trammell can shoot, pass, rebound, and plays great defense. He’s a player to watch in the WAC Player of the Year discussion.
Last week was a battle of the guards for Utah Valley. This week it’s going to be the battle between the big guys to keep an eye on. Here are some key points to keep in mind between these two teams as we enter the second weekend of WAC hoops.
New Conference format
I talked about the new format last week, and it will be a talking point throughout the rest of the season. The format for conference play this season is different and is going to be difficult. This is Seattle’s first encounter with the back to back format; Utah Valley has already been through it once.
Seattle head coach Jim Hayford isn’t too worried about it though.
“Friday Saturday basketball, that’s the Ivy League model,” Hayford said. “It’s what they’ve done forever so the students miss as little class as possible. My 10 years as a Division III coach at Whitworth, we were in a Friday Saturday league. It’s something I’m really familiar with.
“I’m more of the opinion that it doesn’t matter. Let’s just play basketball. Play it when you can play it. I think the more you coach the more you realize that’s what it’s about.”
It will be interesting to keep an eye on how this format may affect Seattle. Utah Valley has a feel of how the format works and the effects it can have.
Battle of the bigs
This is where the series could be won or lost. We know what’s to be expected from the guards of both teams. It will be fun to watch guys like Seattle’s Riley Grigsby and Utah Valley’s Jamison Overton go head-to-head. But, it’s the matchup between Fardaws Aimaq and Evan Cole and Emeka Udenyi and Jarred Pearre.
Size is an issue here for Seattle. Aimaq is 6’11 and Cole is 6’10. Udenyi is 6’6 and Pearre is 6’8. Utah Valley holds significantly more size in the post than Seattle. Going up against the leader of rebounds per game in the nation in Aimaq makes it that much more tougher Udenyi and Pearre.
If Utah Valley can take advantage of the size differential and let Cole and Aimaq work, that will do a lot for the Wolverines this weekend. However, if Pearre and Udenyi are up to the task and can hang around with the Utah Valley’s duo, they’ll give Seattle a good chance to down the Wolverines.
Can Seattle cool Utah Valley’s hot start?
There’s no denying that the Wolverines got off to a great start last weekend in conference play. You could argue that California Baptist wasn’t at full strength, mostly being without head coach Rick Croy. Hosting the Lancers certainly helped as well, but at the end of it all Utah Valley picked up an impressive sweep over what I think is a sneaky good Cal Baptist team.
In the last two weeks, Seattle has only played one game, and that was last weekend against Saint Martin’s. Seattle has actually likely been the most fortunate school in the conference in playing a non-conference schedule. The Redhawks have played 12 games, and have seen not a game canceled or postponed. Seattle has a lot game experience that a lot of teams lack.
So, which will prevail? Utah Valley’s terrific start to conference or Seattle’s game experience? There’s only one way to find out folks!
You can catch both games this weekend on ESPN+. Tipoff is set for 6:00pm PST for both games.