One Team All Green

WAC Power Rankings – February 28, 2019

Clark Clifford - UVU Athletics

It is the last day of February. Did I just say that? Seems like the second month of 2019 flew right by. It also means that we are two weeks away from #WACVegas. And with what has gone on in the Wacky WAC so far this season, anything can happen in Vegas. 

Grand Canyon seems to have gotten back on track with blowout wins over Chicago State and California Baptist. New Mexico State continues to win even though at times it is ugly. Utah Valley has been red hot despite slow starts to games. Jake Toolson is making a name for himself for WAC Player of the Year. Is Seattle back? Some may think so but despite two wins over Chicago State and UMKC last weekend, there are still some questions. UTRGV, CSU Bakersfield and UMKC show flashes but have all come back to earth after some interesting wins. California Baptist is having a really good year in its first year as an NCAA Division I program. By the way, have you seen their baseball team? 9-0 to start the season. Not too shabby.

So here are the second to last power rankings of the regular season.

1. New Mexico State

People are already writing in the Aggies as a 12-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Seems appropriate. New Mexico State is 24-4 overall, 14-1 in WAC play. The Aggies have won 13 straight games since losing the WAC opener at California Baptist. Remember that? Remember when everyone took a collective breath and wondered if the Aggies might not be that good? Well, think again. No Aggie really stands out with regards to stats. Seems like a different player steps up on any given night. And now Ivan Aurrecoechea is back from injury, which gives NMSU even more depth. Head coach Chris Jans will most likely win the WAC Coach of the Year honors as he just continues to lead his Aggies to win after win. NMSU can clinch the outright WAC regular season title with a win over UMKC on Thursday night.

2. Utah Valley

It was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Even head coach Mark Pope is surprised that his team has won 20 games. But WAC Player of the Year candidate Jake Toolson has led the Wolverines to 20-8 overall and 9-4 in WAC play. The Wolverines have won nine of their last 11 contests with both losses coming to NMSU. It is the first time in program history Utah Valley has had back-to-back 20-win seasons. And on Tuesday night, Utah Valley accomplished another first by winning at Seattle. Richard Harward has been a surprise for the Wolverines and Utah Valley should get a little more depth with Connor MacDougall expected back anytime. If Utah Valley wins out and earns the 2-seed at the WAC Tournament, Mark Pope should get heavy consideration for WAC Coach of the Year honors. Even my friend Dancing NMSU Aggie couldn’t deny that Pope should get consideration. Utah Valley travels to Riverside to play California Baptist on Saturday. It’s a tricky setup because Utah Valley hosts Grand Canyon on Thursday in what could determine the 2-seed.

3. Grand Canyon

You lose a floor leader in Gerard Martin and then lose three straight games. It was a strange two weeks for the ‘Lopes. But Grand Canyon has won three straight since that point and all in blowout fashion. GCU is averaging 92 points per game in its last three contests and only allowing 60.3 points per game. Are the ‘Lopes back? Possibly. Michael Finke has been playing really good basketball as of late and GCU seems to have gotten over the Martin injury. Perhaps Dan Majerle calling out some of his players following the UMKC loss sparked something. The ‘Lopes host CSU Bakersfield on Saturday night and should come away with a win, setting up a HUGE game in Orem next Thursday. 

4. CSU Bakersfield

After the first three, the rest of the power rankings for this conference are kind of a mess. I give CSU Bakersfield the nod here because they actually beat Utah Valley this year. That is something UTRGV failed to do. Rod Barnes is a great coach but CSU Bakersfield has struggled down the stretch. Losers of 3 of their last 4 including a 14-point home loss to California Baptist have put the ‘Runners in a bit of a funk. The worst part is it could get worse. CSU Bakersfield finishes the regular season at Grand Canyon, at Seattle and at Utah Valley. That is not what the doctor ordered when you have been struggling. But, CSU Bakersfield with Rickey Holden, Jarkell Joiner, Damiyne Durham and others, have the ability to do some things. The question is will they?

5. UTRGV

Roller coasters are fun rides. But I bet UTRGV head coach Lew Hill isn’t having much fun on his roller coaster of a ride. The Vaqueros started February off with a bang, winning four straight. UTRGV won at GCU and at CSU Bakersfield and the Vaqueros beat UMKC and Seattle. Then the kryptonite came to Edinburg and it brought everything crashing down. UTRGV lost to Utah Valley for the 14th straight time and showed the Vaqueros were human. Despite a win over Wayland Baptist that set a new record for wins in a season, UTRGV lost a second straight WAC game at New Mexico State. The Vaqueros will right the ship on Thursday night at Chicago State. I still think with their ability to pressure the ball and get up and down the floor, UTRGV could create havoc in Las Vegas.

6. California Baptist

I really like this team. Milan Acquaah has been dynamite but the Lancers are more than just Acquaah and have shown that over the past five games. California Baptist has gone 5-1 in the month of February with the lone loss coming at GCU on Feb. 21. The Lancers beat Seattle on the road as well as CSU Bakersfield in a homecoming for Acquaah. And there is talk that either the CIT or CBI postseason tournaments will include California Baptist. At 15-11 overall and 6-6 in WAC play, it’s safe to say that the addition of California Baptist has been a good one for the WAC.

7. UMKC

Listen, some might not agree with me that UMKC should be ahead of Seattle in these rankings. That’s okay. It’s like comparing apples to apples. About the only difference is that UMKC has wins over CSU Bakersfield and Grand Canyon. Oh, and the ‘Roos have been healthy all season. Watching this team in person last Thursday night in Orem, I saw things I really liked. Xavier Bishop is a monster despite his size. Jordan Giles has ability to be a takeover-a-game kind of guy. And the ‘Roos have athleticism and talent. I am not sure why all the inconsistency but these guys are dangerous when they are playing well. 

8. Seattle

Getting healthy is key for the Redhawks. And they are on the mend. Seattle beat UMKC and Seattle last week before falling to Utah Valley at the Redhawk Center on Tuesday. Matej Kavas only played three minutes on Tuesday. However, Myles Carter, Morgan Means, Terrell Brown, and Delante Jones were all in double figures. Carter even recorded a 12-point, 13-rebound double double. Problem is, Seattle isn’t getting any help from its bench in terms of scoring. Yes, Delante Jones came off the bench but the struggles are still real in Seattle. But, the end of the regular season schedule is favorable for the Redhawks. They are at California Baptist on Thursday before hosting both CSU Bakersfield and GCU in the final week. Seattle has potential to make noise in two weeks. 

9. Chicago State

All I will say is this….come on Chicago State! Let’s get a conference win! It’s been a difficult first season for Lance Irvin. The Cougars just can’t get over the hump. Anthony Harris and Rob Shaw form a fun tandem to watch. But the cupboard is just so bare that the Cougars can’t get help from anyone else. But, how fun would it be to see Chicago State knock off NMSU in the first round of the WAC Tournament? Don’t get your hopes up because it won’t happen.

 

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