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Taran Armstrong and California Baptist are the featured answer of one of our mailbag questions. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Shooting, Expansion, Most Improved Highlight Sunday Mailbag

It is another Sunday afternoon which means another WAC Hoops mailbag. Hopefully certain fan bases are recovering just fine from a pair of tough losses in Week 0 of the college football season. Perhaps I should have stayed in the movie theatre with my 5-year-old so that SFA wouldn’t have fallen completely apart. Maybe the New Mexico State social media account shouldn’t have mocked the lightning delay rival UTEP faced before its season opener against North Texas. Perhaps, perhaps and more perhaps.

It seems to be the name of the game right now.

Whatever it is, college sports are in full swing for the 2022-23 season. And college basketball is 71 days from opening day. With that being said, questions are getting a bit more detailed. From gambling questions to improved squads to top 3-point shooting. It is all in this week’s WAC Hoops Mailbag.

Who Are the Men’s Basketball That Are Going To Have Trouble Scoring Early?

This is the type of betting question I have been waiting on. Okay, not really but I will try and take a swing at it. If I am being honest, California Baptist, Grand Canyon, and Abilene Christian will be those teams that WON’T have trouble scoring early. It is just a product of the system. And the way that New Mexico State head coach Greg Heiar wants to play should put the Aggies in that same category. Sam Houston with its guards might be one to stay away from in regard to scoring early. But, if they get hot from the perimeter, they can put up points in a hurry. Seattle is similar. Some games it takes a minute for things to heat up and others Cameron Tyson comes out firing.

California Baptist likes to get up and down the floor and play with significant pace. Grand Canyon gets out and runs quite a bit and can score in transition at a rapid pace. Abilene Christian forces so many turnovers that they get quite a bit of extra possessions plus they bring back one of their leading scorers from the 2020-21 squad that knocked off Texas in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s much different for the likes of a Stephen F. Austin, Utah Valley, Seattle, and UTRGV. There is just a different style of play. Mark Madsen loves to make second half adjustments. Kyle Kellers squad at SFA loves to get after it defensively so it’s more of a grind-it-out-game for the Jacks. And UTRGV has a lot of questions with its entirely new roster outside of Justin Johnson.

Utah Tech, UT-Arlington and Southern Utah are wildcards. All three squads have really good guard play and players that can score. But, it is about game flow and matchups for these squads in how they will attack from tip off.

Is the WAC Looking to Expand?

This is a tough mailbag question to answer.

I don’t know if the WAC is actively looking to expand. But, I will say this: administrators at the WAC are constantly surveying the conference landscape and keeping doors open to deal with changes that come. With Sam Houston and New Mexico State leaving following the 2023 season, that will leave the WAC with 11 teams. Not a bad number. But the conference would most likely want to be at an even number in 10 or 12.

If So, Who Are Some Potential Schools That Would Be a Great Fit for WAC Hoops?

Northern Arizona is one the WAC could consider. Location is central to GCU, Utah Tech, Southern Utah and Utah Valley. Sure, Flagstaff isn’t the easiest to get to. But for geographical purposes, it would make sense. The Lumberjacks sponsor FCS football in the Big Sky Conference. And multiple WAC schools are already playing NAU in their non-conference schedules this season.

Weber State might be another but the fact that WAC football isn’t necessarily stable within its own conference may raise red flags. The Big Sky Conference has stability in football and the Wildcats are comfortable in their current place.

I am not sure the WAC wants to go the rout of a transition school again. At least for now if they don’t have to. And I feel that the WAC is looking for a school with a football program that can join the conference. There is already an unbalanced number of schools that have football and those that don’t. So, it would make sense to add a school with football.

Who (Individual) Will Have the Highest 3-point Percentage?

This is a good mailbag question. The names to keep an eye on here are Jovan Blacksher Jr. (GCU), Joe Quintana (CBU), Cameron Tyson (Seattle U), Cam Healy (SUU), Le’Tre Darthard (UVU), and Latrell Jossell (SFA) among others.

Second tier names are Airion Simmons (ACU), Justin Johnson (UTRGV), Kyle Feit (NMSU), Tre Armstrong (CBU), and Kyron Gibson (UTA).

Which Team Will Make Biggest Improvement from Last Season?

This is an easy mailbag answer. California Baptist. By Far.

The Lancers return the WAC Freshman of the Year plus four others who played significant minutes in 2021-22. Add in the five Division I transfers including a 7-footer and a sharpshooter. The Lancers are in their first season of eligibility for the NCAA Tournament and they have really gone all in. Riley Battin comes over from Utah. Joe Quintana comes over from Loyola Marymount. CBU also gets 7-foot center Timothy Ighoefe.

Reed Nottage is back. Tre Armstrong is back. Malik Wade, Juhlawnei Stone, and redshirt freshman Scotty Washington are back. This team is deep and talented and will make a huge jump from an 18-16 squad that finished 7-11 in WAC play.

When Will Travel Logistics Be Completed So We Have Basketball Schedules?

Per sources at the WAC, they were working through things still as of Wednesday. What those things are, I am not quite sure as they didn’t specify. With 13 schools, figuring out dates and times can be a process. I would assume either this week or right after Labor Day the schedule will be out. As always, make sure you to follow WAC Hoops Digest on Twitter so you don’t miss any updates on schedule news.

Good question for the mailbag. From talking with athletic directors around the league, they are bullish on the WAC and very excited about the future. They believe in the vision of the WAC and believe that it is just getting started. I haven’t really asked coaches about league expansion so I can’t answer that. But some are excited about where the conference is going.

Others are a little hesitant just because there are some unknowns with how things will go upon certain departures. The biggest concern, at least from the vibe I get, is the concern between schools with football and non-football schools. That and the schools that have the money to buy home games and those that have to travel the majority of the non-conference slate. Some are concerned that there will be a power struggle going forward.

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