I said it before and I will say it again: conference wins make a difference in the weekly power rankings. That is a bit of a disclaimer as I know some will wonder how I put certain teams in front of others. Yes, it is true that GCU won a pair of games this past weekend. And yes, it is true that the Lopes were on the Sportscenter Top-10 twice. But it is also true that the opponent was a non-DI school. And GCU did exactly what they should have done against that inferior opponent.
Ask yourself this question: is a road win over a conference opponent better than dominating a non-DI opponent? Some will answer yes. Some will answer no. And that’s okay. But for my weekly column on these power rankings, beating DI opponents is more impressive than beating non-DI opponents. Simple as that.
So, with that disclaimer out there, let’s get to this week’s power rankings.
1. Utah Valley
For just the second time since the 2013-14 season, Utah Valley finally won in the Pacific Northwest. If you missed it, check out this article from Tyler about the epic thriller on Friday night. Trey Woodbury buried a 3-pointer with 5 seconds to play to give the Wolverines a 93-92 overtime win. It is just a shame that the encore was cancelled on Saturday due to COVID protocols within the Seattle program.
Here is the lowdown. Fardaws Aimaq and Evan Cole both had double-doubles against Seattle. It is the second time in as many games UVU has had two players record double-doubles. Aimaq and Cole pulled down 25 of UVU’s 45 rebounds. And both combined for 41 points on the night.
If that wasn’t enough, Jamison Overton continues to impress as he finished with 21 points and Trey Woodbury added 20 points. It wasn’t pretty but Utah Valley finally won a close game and did it in a place they usually struggle to win. Yes, GCU fans will say that Asbjørn Midtgaard and Alessandro Lever are the best big men combo in the WAC. But, both Aimaq and Cole have put the conference on notice that they are dominant in their own right.
At 8-3, UTRGV is tied for the best record in the WAC with GCU. But, like the disclaimer says, conference wins take precedence. And UTRGV got a pair of those in a sweep over Dixie State this past weekend in the conference openers for both teams.
In fact, the Vaqueros welcomed Dixie State to the WAC in brutal fashion. Brutal as in a 33-point beatdown. Dixie State didn’t even break the 50-point mark. Four Vaqueros were in double figures led by Sean Rhea with 16. Javon Levi returned from injury and had 12 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals.
Did I mention that Jeff Otchere had 6 blocks and 6 rebounds in just 14 minutes on the floor?
Saturday was a bit closer as Dixie State shot the ball much better. But, UTRGV is just so deep that it didn’t make a difference what the Trailblazers did.
Those reading this might think I am crazy. But UTRGV has the potential to win the WAC. Yes, I said it. Let the backlash begin.
3. Grand Canyon
The wins over Bethesda were impressive albeit expected. The highlight-reel dunks were fun to watch. And sitting at 8-3 overall, tied for best record in the WAC, GCU seems legit. The Lopes have a pair of big men in Asbjørn Midtgaard and Alessandro Lever who make life miserable for opponents. On the outside, Sean Miller-Moore and Javon Blacksher Jr. are starting to gel. Oscar Frayer has moments as well as some exciting blocks to his resume.
And Bryce Drew is one of the best coaches in the WAC. There is no denying that. GCU goes to Dixie State this weekend. Following that…GCU hosts New Mexico State. Well, that is if the Aggies can get off of pause.
If the Lopes get consistent play from their bench, watch out. Gabe McGlothan is a beast. And the Lopes have shown some depth. Playing at Burns Arena won’t be easy this weekend.
4. California Baptist
Rick Croy returned to the sidelines and CBU returned to the winning column. Gorjok Gak had a monster weekend as did Tre Armstrong and the Lancers swept Tarleton State at CBU Events Center.
Gak averaged 15.5 points, 16.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in the two wins over Tarleton State. Armstrong averaged 17.5 points while hitting nine 3-pointers combined in the two contests.
The Lancers are dangerous when they can score. In fact, CBU hit 24 3-pointers this past weekend. Yes, 24. And shot nearly 50 percent from deep in both games. It was a significant response since a 27-point loss at Utah Valley to open WAC play. Ty Rowell, Mark Carbone and Reed Nottage are all capable scorers for this Lancer team.
So close. Just so close. Darrion Trammell came out firing, Aaron Nettles hit some big time shots, and Riley Grigsby had another solid game. Add in Vasja Pandža hitting some monster 3-pointers and Seattle had every chance to beat Utah Valley. In fact, after Jamison Overton tied the game at 80, Riley Grigsby drove down the floor and his game-winning floater attempt slowly rolled off the rim. That close!!!
Trammell showed why he is considered a WAC Player of the Year candidate. Riley Grigsby is an offensive threat at any given moment. Problem for the Redhawks is the interior play isn’t consistent. Emeka Udenyi had a solid first half and looked much quicker and more athletic than Utah Valley big man Fardaws Aimaq. But, in the second half, Udenyi was nowhere to be found. 6’9 freshman Kobe Williamson also struggled against the bigger Aimaq. Jared Pearre gave some good minutes in overtime but also looked overmatched.
So, if any one of Trammell, Grigsby or Nettles doesn’t play well, Seattle is in trouble.
6. Tarleton State
Three games in three days. Yep, that is what Tarleton State did this past weekend. And all three games were on the road. And yes, the Texans lost all three. That’s not to say they weren’t competitive. Friday night it was a 9-point loss at CBU. Saturday night it was a 6-point loss at CBU. And Sunday, it was a 15-point loss at Weber State in which the Texans led at halftime.
It’s interesting to watch this Tarleton State team. Seems like game plans really fluctuate. On Friday at CBU, Billy Gillispie played 10 players. On Saturday against the same CBU team, Gillispie only played six players. And on Sunday, Gillispie played 10 players.
One of the main constants is Montre Gipson. The junior guard scored in double figures in all three contests. Gipson’s best game came at Weber State on Sunday as he went 9-14 from the field for a team-high 26 points.
There are flashes with this Texans team. It is just a matter of getting over the hump for their first conference win.
7. Dixie State
Similar to Tarleton State, Dixie State lost three games this past week. The only reason the Trailblazers are ranked lower is two-fold. First, Dixie State lost at home to New Mexico. Second, Dixie State got throttled by UTRGV in its WAC opener on Friday night. Yes, Friday night was ugly for the Trailblazers who only scored 49 points in the contest. Saturday night, after adjustments were made, the Trailblazers actually had a chance to win but couldn’t get over the hump in the final few minutes.
Cameron Gooden continues to play well. Sure, he would love to take the New Mexico game back. But the junior guard from Kilgore College leads the Trailblazers in points (12.7) and has 33 assists on the year.
Dixie State hosts Grand Canyon this weekend at the Burns Arena. And the Trailblazers have an uphill battle to get their first WAC win. Hunter Schofield and Jarod Greene will have their hands full. True freshman Andre Mulibea was a bright spot this week for head coach Jon Judkins. Although the numbers aren’t significant, Mulibea was active on the floor, attempted more shots and showed some shooting range and athletic ability.
8. New Mexico State
Let’s just say it: things suck right now for the Aggies. No other way to put it. After missing opening weekend of WAC play due to COVID, the Aggies had to cancel another conference weekend series because of COVID. Just so unfortunate. Not sure what else to write.
9. Chicago State
I put Chicago State on these rankings because technically until June, 2022, they are still a part of the conference. But the Cougars have suspended their season and thus sit at the bottom.