Saturday is another busy day of WAC Hoops. There are six games on the slate. And what is remarkable is it’s a full slate. It was a little less than a month ago when fans wondered if the slate would be full. The Omicron variant was creating more COVID chaos. Games were rescheduled or even forfeited. Uncertainty was running rampant.
And, yes, there still are concerns that the college basketball world isn’t out of the woods, yet. But, Saturday’s slate is the second straight Saturday of a full day of WAC Hoops.
Here are some things to watch for on Saturday’s slate of games.
Renewed Rivalry in West Texas
Okay, so perhaps Saturday’s game between Abilene Christian and Tarleton is not a real rivalry. Tarleton owned the series when both schools were in the Division II ranks. And Abilene Christian has just one win over the Texans in the history of the series. But, the proximity could make this a rivalry over the years to come. Both teams are very similar in playing styles. ACU and Tarleton love to turn teams over and get out in transition. Neither team has a ton of size. It’s an interesting matchup on Saturday evening at Wisdom Gym.
Keep an eye on the matchup between Freddy Hicks and Airion Simmons. Hicks has been the go-to guy for the Texans in WAC play. Simmons is the reigning WAC Player of the Week after pouring in 33 points last Saturday in a win over UTRGV.
Who Steps Up for Utah Valley?
Everyone knows of Fardaws Aimaq. When you have a 6’10 center averaging almost 19 points and 13 rebounds per game, everyone knows. The question for Mark Madsen and his staff is who will step up and be that second scorer for the Wolverines? It is kind of crazy that there are about three weeks left to WAC Vegas and Utah Valley finds itself scratching its head. The Wolverines are coming off a 71-61 loss at home to GCU on Thursday night. Utah Valley did not play well in the second half, turned the ball over too much and couldn’t stop the GCU guards. Aimaq got his stats, finishing with 15 points and 12 boards.
But, someone else has to step up. Connor Harding has shown glimpses. Le’Tre Darthard is the same. Blaze Nield has even scored 27 points in a game this season. Tim Fuller and Tim Caeser have had moments. But the inconsistency has been noticeable. Justin Harmon is back so perhaps he can be that player.
Utah Valley hosts league-leading New Mexico State on Saturday. The Aggies are arguably the deepest team in the WAC. And the Aggies have arguably the most size. Who will step up for the Wolverines? How does Fardaws Aimaq handle the physicality that New Mexico State is sure to bring in the paint? This is a game on Saturday’s slate to be sure to keep an eye on.
Race for the 2-Seed
Saturday’s slate has maybe one or two really intriguing games. And although four of the games aren’t highlight-type matchups, there is still quite a bit at stake. This is especially true for the teams fighting to stay in the mix for the 1 or 2 seeds at WAC Vegas. Seattle, Sam Houston and GCU are separated by a game for that 2-seed. The Redhawks are 9-2 in WAC play. Sam Houston is 9-3 and GCU is 8-3. That most likely won’t change unless a major upset happens.
Seattle hosts 0-12 Lamar. Sam Houston is at Chicago State. And Grand Canyon is at Dixie State. So, the slate is kind of bare. No disrespect to Lamar, Chicago State or Dixie State. Their opponents are just simply playing better basketball at this point.
But, the race for the 2-seed is extremely important. The 1 and 2 seeds at WAC Vegas get a bye to the semifinal round on Friday. The 3 and 4 seeds get a bye to the quarterfinal round on Thursday. So, those top-4 teams won’t have to play as many games to win the WAC tournament. And there is always the possibility that New Mexico State has a slip up, opening the door for the 1-seed. It’s why games are played on the floor rather than on paper.
Every game day in the WAC has new storylines. And Saturday’s slate is an opportunity for teams to solidify their spots in WAC Vegas and keep pace with the league leaders.