You’ll have to forgive me for being a day late with this week’s version of WAC Power Rankings. I watch my two-year-old 3-4 days a week while mom works. And, if you understand toddlers, you know that they are a handful. Add in the fact that I am in the Championship game of my fantasy football league and you can see where my mind has been all weekend.
I had to focus on something a little more positive than WAC Hoops this weekend. If you follow the WAC, you understand my sentiment with that statement. Teams combined to go 1-5 over the weekend. California Baptist is the only team that survived the weekend with a win. And survived doesn’t really tell the story of the Lancers blowout win over Bethune-Cookman on Saturday night.
If you really want to know how weird the 2019-20 season has been thus far, look no further than the standings. Chicago State has as many wins as UTRGV, Utah Valley, CSU Bakersfield and Grand Canyon. And since the first power rankings came out on Dec. 2, Kansas City lost three straight. Granted, two of the losses came against KenPom Top-50 teams, but still. I am sure that head coach Billy Donlon will ask me to never rank his Roos No. 1 in the Power Rankings again.
So, with all that being said, here are the WAC Hoops Power Rankings for December, 17, 2019.
1. California Baptist
As was stated above, the Lancers are the only team to win this past weekend. Sure, it was against Bethune-Cookman who is ranked 298 in the KenPom rankings. But, the Lancers won in blowout fashion to add some credibility to the win. CBU is on a three-game winning streak that features perhaps the best win of the non-conference at UC Irvine on Dec. 7. And, if the trend continues, CBU should win out in its final three non-conference contests. In the NCAA NET rankings, CBU currently sits at 154.
And with the WAC’s second leading scorer and assist man in Milan Acquaah, CBU might be setting itself up for a special season. That Jan. 4 WAC showdown with New Mexico State at the CBU Events Center might be a telling point for the Lancers.
2. Seattle University
The Redhawks had the week off due to finals so they didn’t move up or down in these rankings. Tuesday night might tell us if this four-game winning streak is for real or just a part of playing bad teams. The four-game winning streak has been against teams with sub-200 KenPom rankings. But after starting the season 2-5 with three of the losses coming at Power 6 schools, the winning streak is what Seattle needed. With a trip across town to No. 22 Washington on Tuesday night, experts expect the streak to come to a halt.
3. New Mexico State
According to head coach Chris Jans, A.J. Harris and Clayton Henry have been able to do some ball-handling and shooting drills recently but are still pretty far from actual contact. So it’s good news and bad news in Las Cruces.
The Aggies are hoping to get both guards back before WAC play. And, perhaps it will make a difference for the Aggies who have struggled with consistency and playing with a lead. New Mexico State had double-digit lead in the second half against Denver before escaping with a 72-67 win over the Pioneers. It’s not the first time a double-digit lead has evaporated for the Aggies.
And on Saturday, the Aggies lost at in-state rival New Mexico for the second time this season. After going a combined 8-0 against both UTEP and New Mexico in the first two seasons under Chris Jans, the Aggies went 1-3 in 2019-20 against their Interstate rivals.
There should come a time this season when New Mexico State will find that consistency. Perhaps when Harris and Clayton come back. Or perhaps when WAC play begins. It will come, though, so Aggie fans can relax and realize it’s about winning the WAC again and getting that auto-bid. Only problem is that a 12-seed is highly unlikely this season.
4. Kansas City
The only reason that Kansas City is sitting in this four spot is because I don’t know who else to put here. All the teams below the Roos in the WAC standings have one less win. So, that is about the only reason, at this time, Kansas City is in the four spot.
The Roos have lost three straight including a 41-point loss against No. 3 Kansas on Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Marvin Nesbitt Jr. has been playing well of late but overall it has been a rough December thus far for the Roos.
5. Chicago State
If you want to know how difficult the power rankings for the 4-9 spots are, I can show you. Lost 3, lost 1, lost 2, lost 3, lost 2, lost 5.
How do you rank those?
Chicago State had the whole week off, as well. The Cougars last played on Dec. 6 at Tennessee State. That means that Lance Irvin and crew had 11 days to prepare for its WAC/Summit League Challenge matchup against Oral Roberts on Tuesday night. A win evens the challenge. A loss gives The Summit League the win.
Here is the good new for Chicago State. The Cougars have more wins through 11 games this season than it did all of 2018-29. Now, here is the bad news. KenPom predicts that Chicago State will be on the losing end of every game from here on out. In fact, KenPom predicts no wins in the WAC for the Cougars. I am sure Xavier Johnson might have some differing opinions about that. But, we will see what happens.
6. Grand Canyon
The only reason that I have Grand Canyon at 6 is due to the fact that out of the final four teams left, the Lopes have the most wins against Division I opponents. Things are not looking good in Phoenix. It is being reported that TCU transfer Jaylen Fisher won’t play this season for GCU. JJ Rhymes is out for the season. And, Oscar Frayer still remains a question mark. Sure, St. John’s transfer Mikey Dixon finally gets to play on Tuesday night at New Mexico. But, the Lopes are still small, have a lot of mouths to feed, and have really struggled to both shoot the ball and defend.
And for all the talk about the atmosphere at GCU Arena, the Lopes have struggled at home. Four of the eight losses have come at GCU Arena including the season-opening loss to Division II opponent Davenport.
7. Utah Valley
Similar to GCU in these power rankings, Utah Valley sits at seven because it has one more Division I win than UTRGV or CSU Bakersfield. But, the struggle continues for the Wolverines.
Despite getting double-double machine Isaiah White back, the Wolverines lost at home to Northern Arizona on Saturday. It’s the fifth straight loss for the Wolverines who are 1-7 since a big road win at UAB on Nov. 15. Three of the losses have come against sub-250 KenPom teams and three losses have occurred at the UCCU Center.
In the last two years combined, Utah Valley lost just two home games. So that just shows you how real this struggle is for first-year head coach Mark Madsen. There is potential with the Wolverines. Now they just have to put it together. A win at Wyoming on Wednesday will go a long way.
8. CSU Bakersfield
The Roadrunners have lost three straight by an average margin of 8.6 points. Not horrible. And the Roadrunners are expected to win their next two non-conference games before heading to Lubbock, TX to take on Texas Tech on Dec. 29. Taze Moore and Shawn Stith have ability to lead the Roadrunners to some big wins. Czar Perry has been efficient offensively the last three games. And there are glimpses with this CSU Bakersfield team.
I will be the first to admit that it’s hard for me to put UTRGV in this spot. I believe that the Vaqueros are better than they have shown in the non-conference slate. But, one win over an NCAA Division I team added in with two losses to Texas A&M Corpus Christi doesn’t really give me confidence right now. Add in that UTRGV finishes its non-conference slate with games at Texas Tech and at Oklahoma. Yeah, you can see the struggle. Not only that, UTRGV opens WAC play at CBU on Jan. 2. Javon Levi is a player and Lesley Varner II has had a solid two weeks. It just hasn’t been the season the Vaqueros expected. Still a lot of basketball to play so that could change.