Tarleton State and Dixie State finally got in the win column in WAC play. Perhaps even more impressive about these wins is they were both on the road. GCU snapped its 8-game losing streak to New Mexico State in impressive fashion over the weekend. The last time the Lopes beat the Aggies, forward Oscar Frayer was just a freshman.
It was a weekend of firsts and streaks being snapped. Besides snapping an 8-game losing streak to New Mexico State, GCU also snapped the Aggies 31-game conference winning streak. The last time New Mexico State lost a WAC game was Jan. 3, 2019 when the Aggies lost their WAC opener at newcomer CBU. Pretty impressive run for the Aggies.
But, let’s go back to Tarleton State and Dixie State. Both schools were 0-4 in WAC play coming in. Dixie State had actually lost seven straight up to Saturday night. Tarleton State was in a similar spot as the Texans had lost six out its previous seven games.
So, welcome to the WAC to both Tarleton State and Dixie State. It’s been a rough road to get that first conference win. However, both the Texans and Trailblazers are on the board.
Here are your weekly power rankings.
1. Grand Canyon
There is really no need for a long paragraph to explain this ranking. The Lopes swept New Mexico State over the weekend. It’s the first time ever that GCU has beat New Mexico State twice in a season. The Lopes are 12-3 overall and 6-0 in WAC play. GCU has also won eight straight games. Right now, GCU is showing its depth and its ability to protect the paint.
Wichita State transfer Asbjørn Midtgaard has to be a candidate for WAC Player of the Year. Midtgaard is the rim protector and big body down low that the Lopes have never had. The Lopes go to Edinburg this weekend for a big series against UTRGV. Another sweep of a WAC series could solidify the Lopes’ goal of winning the regular season crown.
The Vaqueros were on pause due to COVID issues. But, UTRGV gets a chance to show it’s for real this weekend at Bert Ogden Arena. The Vaqueros host GCU on Friday and Saturday. GCU is 6-0 in WAC play. UTRGV Is 2-0. The Lopes have won eight straight contests and are 12-3 overall. UTRGV has won three straight contests and is 8-3 overall. GCU is 4-0 in road contests. UTRGV is 7-1 at home this season. Can Javon Levi and Co. make a statement this weekend? The Vaqueros have the bigs to match Midtgaard and Alessandro Lever. Plus, UTRGV is one of the most experienced teams in the WAC. Make sure to check out this series this weekend.
3. (Tie) Utah Valley and California Baptist
These back-to-back weekend series make the power rankings a little more difficult. Both the Wolverines and Lancers went 1-1 on the weekend. And my hesitation with putting one above the other is just how things played out on Saturday. Utah Valley looked extremely disinterested in its first WAC loss of the season to Tarleton State. CBU, on the other hand, simply struggled on the defensive end to slow down Dixie State. Here is the thing…both of these teams are capable of knocking off anyone on any given night. Utah Valley is well-rounded with two bigs that are athletic, rebound, and finish around the rim. CBU shoots the lights out from 3-point land but also has one of the best big men in the WAC in Gorjok Gak.
The Wolverines are off this week while CBU goes to New Mexico State. The games will actually take place in El Paso at Eastwood High School.
5. (Tie) Dixie State and Tarleton State
The Trailblazers and the Texans are both on the board in the WAC standings. Montre Gipson had 24 points and Tarleton State led from start to finish at the UCCU Center in Orem on Saturday night. Here is what is even more impressive about the win. Tarleton State really doesn’t have a bonafide big guy in the paint. Utah Valley’s Fardaws Aimaq and Evan Cole form one of the best duos in the WAC down low. But the Texans held Aimaq and Cole to just 17 points combined. Impressive.
Dixie State shot nearly 50 percent in the second half to hold on for the 79-75 win. Cameron Gooden had 22 points in the win while Frank Staine had 14 points and hit some big shots down the stretch. What’s even more impressive is that Dixie State got dominated on the boards (46-29) and still won the game. In fact, CBU led in nearly every stat in the box score. It just goes to show the true grit and warrior mentality that head coach Jon Judkins has instilled in his team.
Tarleton State has the next two weeks off unless it schedules some games in between. Dixie State hosts Seattle this weekend at the Burns Arena.
7. New Mexico State
New Mexico State finally played a WAC series. Unfortunately, the trip back to Phoenix didn’t go the way the Aggies hoped. New Mexico State struggled to shoot the ball, especially in the second half of both games and got swept by GCU. It was the first time in nearly four years GCU beat New Mexico State. Good news for the Aggies is that Jabari Rice and Clayton Henry both returned from injury. New Mexico State got good news on Monday that Marcus Watson is now eligible. There is one big concern for the Aggies. The lack of a true big man. Johnny McCants looks like a million bucks at times. But on Saturday, McCants only attempted one field goal inside the paint. All of his other attempts were from the 3-point line. William McNair is a big body but lacks some experience.
On paper, the Aggies look solid, deep and very talented. And perhaps getting some consistency will help. The Aggies now know who their next opponent is, when the game will be played and so forth. It’s something New Mexico State hasn’t had this season.
The Redhawks haven’t played in three weeks. Seattle’s last game was on Jan. 15 in an overtime loss to Utah Valley. The Redhawks have been on pause due to COVID since that time. With that being said, Seattle is scheduled to head to St. George this weekend to take on Dixie State. Guard play will be huge as Cameron Gooden and Darrion Trammell will go head-to-head. However, this game could come down to who wins the paint. Seattle lacks a true big man. Dixie State counters with Jarod Greene and Hunter Schofield.
9. Chicago State