It is the start of the 2019-20 power rankings. This is a segment that I look forward to writing each week. For those that don’t understand, this isn’t necessarily reflective of records and it changes from week to week. There will be disagreements and some will take issue with where I stand on my rankings. That’s okay. Debates are good. Discussion is good. It is good to talk about our favorite college basketball conference.
So, let’s get this show on the road.
1. Kansas City Roos
New head coach Billy Donlon and the Roos have been very impressive over their last four games. Three wins over Division I opponents and a near loss to one of the few undefeated teams in the country. Kansas City took second The Island of Bahamas Showcase. The Roos beat George Washington of the A-10, East Carolina of Conference USA and lost to Liberty in the championship game.
Following that run, Kansas City beat Western Illinois to give the WAC a win in the WAC/Summit League Challenge. At 5-4, the Roos have the only winning record in the WAC. And with the most wins over Division I opponents in the WAC, it’s easy to see why the Roos are at the top of this list.
2. New Mexico State
4-4 is not the start anyone predicted for the defending WAC champs. But, due to injuries, the Aggies have stumbled out of the gate. WAC Player of the Year candidate Trevelin Queen is filling the stat sheet while Jabari Rice, Ivan Aurrecoechea and East Carolina transfer Shawn Williams are all playing better. It’s just a matter of time before the Aggies get to the top of this list. A win over UTEP on Tuesday followed by a win against Washington State in Spokane on Saturday will do that.
It is the first time in two seasons under Chris Jans that New Mexico State has lost to UTEP and New Mexico. And a 30-point loss at Arizona on Nov. 17 doesn’t help. But, New Mexico State has one of the best non-conference wins with its 78-70 overtime victory over Colorado State at the Cayman Islands Classic. Just for reference how big it was or how good the Aggies are…Utah Valley lost by 31 to that same Colorado State team on Sunday afternoon in Fort Collins.
Jim Hayford challenged his experienced squad in the non-conference. Two East Coast road trips and three games already against Power 6 Conference opponents is a tall order. But, due to playing better as of late, the Redhawks come in at three in this weeks’ power rankings.
And it took the Redhawks nearly a month to get their first win over an NCAA Division I opponent. But, Morgan Means is a 1,000-point scorer for his career, Terrell Brown stuffs the stat sheet night in and night out and since Riley Grigsby returned to the lineup, Seattle is 2-1. There is a big game looming against crosstown foe Washington in two weeks. With the way Seattle is currently playing, who knows what will happen.
4. Utah Valley
At this moment, the only reason Utah Valley is ahead of California Baptist in these power rankings is due to the road wins the Wolverines have. Yes, Utah Valley has wins at UAB and North Dakota State and a near upset of 9th-ranked Kentucky in Lexington. That’s the good news. The not-so-good-news is that Utah Valley has losses to Lamar and Mount St. Mary’s. Mount St. Mary’s was 1-5 coming into its games against Utah Valley. But the Wolverines let a big second half lead slip away in a loss to the Mountaineers. Against Lamar, Utah Valley did the same thing. The Wolverines had a double digit lead and let it get away from them in the second half. Add in Sunday night’s 31-point loss at Colorado State and there are some questions surround this Wolverine team. Mark Madsen and Utah Valley face three Big Sky Conference opponents in their next three games starting with in-state foe Weber State on Wednesday night in Orem. These next three games should tell us more about the Wolverines.
5. California Baptist
Quietly, the Lancers have had a nice start to their second season at the NCAA Division I level. However, home losses to both Georgia State and North Dakota have put a damper on things. But, the Lancers have two wins against NCAA Division I opponents and gave Big 12 Conference foe Texas a run for its money on Nov. 12 in Austin. CBU also competed with PAC-12 foe Cal for a half before being outscored by 20 in the second half.
The good news for the Lancers is they are more than just Milan Acquaah. Ferron Flavors Jr. is having a nice season, averaging 14.6 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the floor. De’jon Davis is doing his thing again averaging nearly a double double at 12.0 points and 8.4 rebounds. The Lancers play two in-state foes in UC Riverside and UC Irvine this week. The Riverside game is technically a Battle for Riverside and a game the KenPom expects the Lancers to win. With its remaining schedule, CBU should go into WAC play on Jan2, winning five of its last six.
6. Grand Canyon
Similar to the California Baptist/Utah Valley situation, the main reason Grand Canyon is ahead of CSU Bakersfield in the power rankings is due to the amount of wins against Division I opponents. All three of the Lopes wins have come against Division I opponents.
However, 2019-20 has been a huge struggle for GCU and head coach Dan Majerle. A home loss to an NCAA Division II opponent followed by a home loss to Illinois. Add in a home loss to Purdue Fort Wayne in the WAC/Summit League Challenge and things aren’t looking too good for the Lopes.
Here is something else to think about…Grand Canyon begin WAC play having lost four of their final six non-conference games. The Lopes play Liberty, Northern Iowa and are at New Mexico along with games against Mount St. Mary’s and Eastern Illinois. Remember, Mount St. Mary’s beat Utah Valley and Eastern Illinois beat Chicago State by 54 points.
Perhaps it is that the guards haven’t meshed. Perhaps GCU is really missing Oscar Frayer. Or, perhaps GCU put a lot of stock into having TCU transfer Jaylen Fisher eligible to start the season. No matter what it is, the honest truth is that GCU just hasn’t played well early in the season.
7. CSU Bakersfield
The Roadrunners come in at seven in the first power rankings of the 2019-20 season. Taze Moore is about as athletic as they come in the WAC. Shawn Stith is a man among boys on the low post. And De’Monte Buckingham has a sweet stroke. It hasn’t necessarily led to wins but CSU Bakersfield competes at a high level and will always be in ball games. The problem for the Roadrunners is that they need to win the winnable games. CSU Bakersfield has one win against an NCAA Division I opponent in Hampton and that came on the second to last day of November. A home loss to Sam Houston State is inexcusable. And CSU Bakersfield had South Dakota State on the ropes before falling in double overtime. CSU Bakersfield hosts UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday night. This in-state game will be a regular mainstay on the Roadrunners schedule as CSU Bakersfield joins the Big West Conference following the 2019-20 season. So, if the Roadrunners want to make a statement, Tuesday night is a good chance to.
8. (Tie) Chicago State and UTRGV
This portion of the power rankings is pretty simple to explain. Neither team has a win over a Division I opponent. Chicago State has reached three wins, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. UTRGV has lost twice to in-state foe Texas A&M Corpus Christi. The worst part about that is the Islanders have three wins on the season, two of which came agains UTRGV.
Chicago State’s three wins are against non-Division I competition. And the Cougars also have a 54-point loss to Eastern Illinois on their resume. In fact, Chicago State’s average margin of defeat between Eastern Illinois and Purdue was 49 points. Ouch.
It’s really all you can say about these two teams at the moment. UTRGV is better than they have shown but they have to show that on the court. Chicago State is better than a year ago but still has a long ways to go.