Time flies, doesn’t it? One week ago, I was traveling back to New York City from Bar Harbor, Maine. If you have never been to ‘Bah Hahbah’ as some call it, I highly recommend it. Side Street Cafe is the place to be. Just ask Sam Houston Assistant Chris Mudge. I also highly recommend the Blueberry soda for those of you who don’t drink alcohol.
Anyway, prior to my vacation to celebrate my 8th anniversary, I mentioned that I would be hitting things hard come June 1. Well, that day is upon us. As I sit and write this on May 31, it just amazes me that the Spring has flown by. Does anyone else feel this way?
I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday we were watching Teddy Allen go off for 37 points to lead New Mexico State to its first NCAA Tournament win in 30 years? Perhaps it was just yesterday that Abilene Christian was making a run to the CBI semifinals? Time has just flown by since March. I still feel like I am in recovery from covering 18 games in 5 days. I think I got it right on the first try this time, Bill Harty!
Do you remember the press conference where I made a fool of myself in front of Mark Kellogg after his SFA squad won their semifinal game? Never assume the Lady Jacks haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament the previous year. What about Trey Woodbury shocking the basketball world and suiting up for Utah Valley in the WAC Tournament? I remember Chicago State broadcaster Sam Brief with the big eyes asking me if he was going to play before the Cougars and Wolverines played that Tuesday night in the Michelob Ultra Arena.
So many storylines came out of that WAC Tournament. What about the amazing atmosphere for the GCU-New Mexico State semifinal game? That might be the largest crowd we have seen for a game at the WAC Tournament in some time. And the game was just as electric. Holland Woods single-handedly kept GCU in the ball game. Teddy Allen and Jabari Rice did their thing. Chance McMillian and Mario McKinney Jr. came off the bench to spark their respective teams.
Let’s not forget Abilene Christian and what it did at the WAC Tourney. Brette Tanner and the Wildcats came from behind to beat Utah Valley on Wednesday. Then, had wins over two of the three regular season co-champions to get to the Championship Game. And in can you didn’t notice, former coach Joe Golding was sitting behind the bench for ACU’s semifinal win over Seattle U. Winning four games in four days is tough. ACU almost, almost did the unthinkable. What more would you expect from a team that went to the NCAA Tourney and beat Texas the year before?
Let’s talk about the SFA Lady Jacks. Under Mark Kellogg, the Lady Jacks have won 23-plus games in all but one season. In Kellogg’s first season in 2015-16, the Lady Jacks finished 18-12. In their first season in the WAC, all the Lady Jacks did was win the regular season title rather easily and then shoot themselves to a WAC Tournament title. Behind Stephanie Visscher, WAC Tourney MVP Zya Nugent and the rest of the Lady Jacks, SFA went to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. In four of the last five seasons, the Lady Jacks have gone to either the NCAA Tournament or the WNIT. The one year they didn’t go to a national postseason tourney was the COVID year when the postseason was cancelled. Sustained success. Ask Mark Kellogg about it. It’s impressive.
Listen, I could go on and on about some of the great stories from around the WAC in 2021-22. There are so many to tell. And as we get further into the Summer and workouts start to ramp up in the fall, we will get more into those stories. There are three new teams joining the WAC for the 2022-23 season. UT-Arlington, Southern Utah, and Incarnate Word. Yes,, we know some have strong feelings about Incarnate Word. I get it. But let that not take away from the fact that KenPom has the WAC ranked 14th in his preseason conference rankings. Acknowledge the fact that SUU and newly re-branded Utah Tech are going to start a rivalry that has been a long time in the making.
Yes, we had Teddy Allen, Holland Woods, Fardaws Aimaq, Darrion Trammell, Gavin Kensmil, Savion Flagg among others in 2021-22. We were spoiled. But, now there are other names to pay attention to. Joe Pleasant makes his return to ACU. Trey Woodbury is healthy and ready to lead Utah Valley. Jovan Blacksher Jr. returns for GCU. WAC Freshman of the Year Taran Armstrong returns for a loaded CBU team. New head coach Greg Heiar brought in three of the JUCO top-30 recruits in his first recruiting class at New Mexico State. Sam Houston got deeper on the guard line and got the size that that they were missing a season ago. Utah Tech returns nearly everyone. UTA, UTRGV, Seattle have all been aggressive on the recruiting trail.
On the women’s side, we had Amara Graham, Ane Olaeta, Stephanie Visscher and others. But we also have some big names returning. Utah Valley’s Josie Williams returns. Chicago State’s Aaliyah Collins is now in Phoenix and will play for Molly Miller and the Lopes. WAC Tournament MVP Zya Nugent is back for SFA.
DO NOT SLEEP on the 2022-23 season.
The Straight Outta WAC podcast returns this week, too. Derryl Trujillo and I look forward to discussing WAC Hoops in June. And we will have other guests on throughout the Summer and into the Fall. It is an exciting time to be a fan of WAC Hoops. If WAC schools can schedule well and win some of those unexpected games, perhaps, like baseball, the WAC could be a 2-bid league. Major shoutout to GCU and New Mexico State baseball. GCU for winning games they weren’t supposed to in the non-conference slate. And New Mexico State for making an impressive run to a WAC Tournament title. Good luck this weekend in your regionals.
Send us your questions. Share with us your thoughts. We all know that New Mexico State has the best recruiting class and will win the WAC going away in 2022-23, right? Just kidding, Aggie fans. I haven’t written an article in a few months so I just had to throw it out there. I love my followers and love the banter that comes out of our debates.
We appreciate all the interactions, followers and commentary. Keep it coming as we get going with more coverage heading into November.