Happy Halloween, everyone! It is time for a trick-or-treat surprise with some bold predictions for the season openers one week from today.
Hopefully, you have a safe and enjoyable evening trick-or-treating, eating lots of candy, and enjoying the last Monday before the college basketball season tips off.
Yes, Halloween is a day of celebration. Maybe not for my guy Carlos Zimmerman after I beat him up in our fantasy matchup this week. But, hopefully your Halloween is a fun one.
With that being said, how about we get to a Halloween treat for WAC Hoops fans? Bold predictions are always fun. Some bold predictions are wild. Some may be realistic. But, it gives everyone an opportunity to find excitement for a new season of college basketball.
Newcomer Will Lead ACU in Scoring
ACU fans better get to know the name Ali Dibba. The 6-4 sophomore guard can score. And in limited action at Chicago State in 2021-22, Dibba showed his capabilities. Dibba played in just five games last season and averaged 14.2 points for the Cougars. The Stockholm native burst onto the scene with a 21-point night at Grand Canyon on Dec. 31. And the following week went for 24 and 11 points, respectively, against Seattle U and CBU.
Head coach Brette Tanner believes Dibba can score and will be a factor in the Wildcat lineup. Check out what Tanner has to say at the 18:39 mark of this Straight Outta WAC podcast episode.
Against a Jackson State squad that allowed 64 points per game and teams to shoot 43 percent from the field, the season opener is a great opportunity for Dibba to solidify the faith his coach has in him.
Dibba goes off for 18-plus points in the season opener as the Wildcats leading scorer in a win over Jackson State.
Nottage Returns with a Bang
CBU guard Reed Nottage battled through a plethora of injuries in 2021-22. But, the 6-7 Sydney, Australia native still managed to appear in 28 games for the Lancers. However, all reports are that Nottage is healthy and shooting the ball really well in camp. And in the season opener against the Big West regular season champs, Nottage is going to light it up.
After finishing third on the team in 3-pointers made in 2021-22, the ceiling is extremely high for a guard with length and physicality. In 2020-21, Nottage made 57 3-pointers in just 23 games.
Bold Prediction: Nottage will knock down no less than 5 3-pointers in the season opener for the Lancers.
Lopes Open with Dominant Win
People will look at GCU’s exhibition win over Eastern New Mexico this past Friday and just shrug their shoulders about the performance. It wasn’t pretty. There is no denying that. But, first real game of the season, against an inferior opponent where a coach is trying to figure out lineups and rotations and so forth. It happens.
And for this reason, GCU will open up the 2022-23 season with double digit win over Montana State. Look, Rayshon Harrison can score. Jovan Blacksher Jr. is as reliable as they come. And Noah Baumann will shoot it much better than he did in the exhibition game. UNLV transfer Josh Baker was really solid. Chance McMillian and Gabe McGlothan are energy guys who are reliable in their roles. And GCU has the size that many teams don’t. Plus, Montana State hasn’t played in the type of atmosphere they will see on opening night. So, advantage Lopes.
Bold Prediction: GCU wins by 15-plus points.
Utah Valley, Southern Utah Win Big Time Road Games
Some might say it’s not a bold prediction to pick Utah Valley to beat Utah State in Logan on opening night. But, I am sure there will be plenty of people that say Utah Valley has no chance. I get it. Utah State has beat Utah Valley 13 straight times. The game is at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. And Utah Valley lost arguably the best big man in America in the offseason. So, there is everything working AGAINST the Wolverines.
Which is why Utah Valley will knock off Utah State on Nov. 7. The Wolverines have nothing to lose and EVERYTHING to gain. Trey Woodbury has a massive chip on his shoulder. The Wolverines are extremely deep at the guard line. And 7-footer Aziz Bandaogo is really, really good.
For reference, in big road games under Mark Madsen, Utah Valley has actually been pretty solid. The Wolverines were a 3-pointer away from knocking off Kentucky at Rupp Arena, nearly knocked off Utah two years ago in Salt Lake City, and knocked off No. 12 BYU last season in Orem.
Utah Valley has the size and depth and will beat the Aggies to snap that 13-game losing streak in the series.
People are overlooking newcomer Southern Utah, which is dangerous. Multiple 1,000-point scorers, a talented athletic wing with WAC Player of the Year written all over him, and size. Add in experience and a winning mentality, and Southern Utah is going to be a tough out in its first season in the WAC. Did I mention SUU has one of the highest winning percentages on the West Coast over the past two seasons?
Yeah, Todd Simon can coach. And sure, The Pit is a tough place to play. But, with the experience SUU returns, plus some key additions who can shoot the lights out, SUU is going to go into The Pit and come home with a season-opening win.
Redhawks Light It Up from the Perimeter
The defending WAC regular season co-champs return the best 3-point shooter in the league and a veteran guard. Cam Tyson and Riley Grigsby will combine to hit at least 10 3-pointers in the season opener.
But, bold prediction is the Redhawks will knock down at least 15 3-pointers in a win at UC San Diego.
And this is extremely bold considering UC San Diego allowed opponents to hit 6.3 3-pointers per game in 2021-22 and held teams to 31.9 percent shooting from the perimeter.
Meanwhile, Seattle U averaged 9.7 made 3-pointers in 2021-22 and shot 34 percent from the perimeter.
When lines start coming out for the season openers, I will update this article with other bold predictions for season openers. But, we will not include the openers against non-Division I opponents.