Here are a few non-conference games to watch involving WAC teams and other mid majors that can raise the profile of our conference nationally with victories. Matchups are listed in no random order and tip times are local time.
UC Irvine at GCU Dec. 23, Noon MST
After CBU & the Anteaters went to overtime last week in Riverside with 181 total points being scored this one has me intrigued. UCI showed that they could really score the ball last week in that loss in Riverside. Will the Lopes be able to score enough to keep up with UCI or can their defense turn it into a lower scoring affair? How much will they have in the tank after three games in six days?
GCU, UTRGV to Play Liberty at the South Padre Island Classic Dec. 17-18
Last year Liberty was 19-8 overall & 12-4 in regular season Atlantic Sun contests. Like GCU the Flames earned ASUN tournament runner up honors. Overall a couple of huge matchups for the WAC headed into Christmas Break.
Stephen F. Austin vs. New Mexico at Holiday MTE Tournament in Katy
Mark Kellogg loaded his preseason schedule with quality opponents. This is another such encounter as the Lobos were a Mountain West tournament semifinalist last year and lost in the WNIT first round to CBU.
New Mexico State and New Mexico Renew Rivalry with Home-and Home Series
A year ago the Lobos were 15-5 overall & 11-3 in Mountain West regular season play but fell in a semifinal game to Fresno State. In the WNIT they lost a nailbiter to CBU in round one of regional tournament play.
Stephen F. Austin at Gonzaga Dec. 12, 2 p.m. PST
Of the games listed, this is likely the biggest matchup as last year’s Southland Conference regular season & tournament champions visit Gonzaga (WCC Regular Season & Tournament champions). In NCAA tournament play the Zags were upset by #12 Belmont 64-59. Knocking off the Zags in a big non-conference game is very possible.
Abilene Christian vs. Arkansas-Little Rock at ORU Thanksgiving Tournament
Last year the Trojans were 15-11 overall & 9-7 in Sunbelt League regular season play, reaching a tournament semifinal before falling to Louisiana-Lafayette. This is a big early season test for Julie Goodenough’s team who struggled at the end of last season.
Wright State at Abilene Christian Dec. 12, 1 p.m. CST
A year ago the Raiders won a Horizon League tournament title and upset #4 Arkansas before falling to #5 Missouri State at the NCAA tournament in San Antonio.
BYU at Utah Valley Dec. 1, 7 p.m. MST
Utah Valley will certainly get a test against a contender for the WCC title at home in UCCU Arena. They were competitive against a Fresno State team featuring the Cavinder twins, falling by 9 after trailing by as many as 20. Can they hang in against the Cougars as Tahlia White gets to play against her old team? This non-conference game is a big one on the state of Utah.
CBU vs. UC Santa Barbara, TCU at Saint Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic
The Lancers get two opportunities to bring home quality wins for the conference in this trip to Moraga. First they’ll take on a perennial upper tier Big West program in UCSB who has challenging them in their first two meetings. Then they’ll get a shot at a Big 12 team in TCU who was sub .500 a year ago at 10-15 overall, 4-14 Big 12 and is struggling this year with just a win against Houston Baptist to their name.