One Team All Green

WAC Power Rankings – Feb. 7, 2019

Clark Clifford

Sorry everyone. It has been an up and down few weeks. The slow pitch softball season is underway. I have been dealing with a head cold that has turned into the flu. You get the picture. A lot of time resting and watching Dancing NMSU Aggie troll GCU fans on Twitter. Good times. 

But, the midway point of the conference season is here. Things became a bit more normal after a crazy first two weeks of WAC play. NMSU and GCU are tied for first. CSU Bakersfield and UVU are right on their tails. About the only surprise is how much Seattle has struggled in conference play. But, injuries have hurt the Redhawks so it is a little more understandable. 

With that being said, here are my WAC Power Rankings as the second half of WAC play gets underway.

1. New Mexico State

About the only reason the Aggies get the nod over GCU for this top spot is because NMSU beat GCU head-to-head. Plus, New Mexico State is the only team to win in Orem in almost two years. It might not be the dominating team that head coach Chris Jans had in his first season in Las Cruces. But, NMSU owns the best overall record in the WAC and the Aggies just continue to roll. NMSU goes on its most difficult road trip beginning Thursday night at CSU Bakersfield. Then, the Aggies travel to Phoenix for a HUGE WAC game against GCU in GCU Arena. The game Saturday night has the potential to determine the WAC regular season champion.

2. Grand Canyon

I was a doubter. With some of the struggles the ‘Lopes had in the non-conference schedule, I didn’t think GCU would be where they are in conference play. I was dead wrong. Dan Majerle has his guys playing defense at a level many have not seen before. Carlos Johnson is becoming a star in the WAC and should be considered for Player of the Year. The biggest improvement, though? Winning on the road. GCU went 3-1 in road games in the first half of WAC play and narrowly missed being 4-0. The ‘Lopes are coming off an impressive 72-59 win at CSU Bakersfield and now host both UTRGV and New Mexico State in a big weekend in Phoenix. 

3. CSU Bakersfield

Again, the only reason I give this spot to the Roadrunners is because they beat Utah Valley head-to-head. Yes, I am one of those who gives credit for winning games rather than all the analytics. But, after a tremendous start, CSU Bakersfield came back to earth last Saturday with a home loss to GCU. Sure, Jarkell Joiner is making a name for himself. But, the ‘Runners foul at an unprecedented pace to put teams at the foul line, and it bites them at times. Just look at what happened against New Mexico State. With road trips to Seattle, Utah Valley and Grand Canyon in the second half of WAC play, we will really see what CSU Bakersfield is made of.

4. Utah Valley 

A couple of what ifs? It’s that simple as to Utah Valley potentially being 7-1 rather than 5-3 in conference play. The narrow miss at CSU Bakersfield, the lack of offense over the last 2-3 minutes against New Mexico State. But, the fact that UVU has 16 wins and is right in the mix for the WAC regular season title has to say something about head coach Mark Pope. When a team loses a majority of its scoring, a majority of its leadership and three of five starters, one might consider the next season a rebuilding year. And while there have been growing pains, UVU has just kept on winning and competing at a high level. The Wolverines have a shot to win in a place they haven’t won under Pope. In all actuality, the Wolverines haven’t played well at all in the Pacific Northwest. But, with a Seattle team that is reeling with injuries and who California Baptist just beat in Seattle, the time is ripe for UVU to get its first win at Seattle under Pope.

5. UTRGV

Yes, the Vaqueros are a good basketball team. The play defense, and with their full-court pressure they can create some havoc. UTRGV beat Chicago State by 31 and then dominated UMKC over the past weekend. Sophomore guard Javon Levi was named WAC Player of the Week after averaging 12.0 assists, 8.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 steals in the two wins. Not a bad stat line. Yes, in order for UTRGV to make noise in the WAC, they have to beat the big boys. 

6. California Baptist

Can I just say that I really like this team? Head coach Rick Croy has his team playing at a high level in their first year at the NCAA Division I level. Let’s put it this way…California Baptist has beat New Mexico State already and won at Seattle. Pretty impressive. Yes, the Lancers struggled at GCU but it’s to be expected. Milan Acquaah is a very good basketball player and the pieces are there for California Baptist to continue to have success. The Lancers should win both games this weekend as they host Chicago State and UMKC.

7. UMKC

What can you say about this UMKC team? They are one of those teams that has very solid moments and then not so solid moments. The ‘Roos lose a heartbreaker to CSU Bakersfield and then go and lose by 28 at GCU. Sure, UMKC beats the teams they probably should in Chicago State, California Baptist and Seattle. But, Rickey Holden and company should be able to be better than what they have shown. UMKC is dangerous, to a point. And it will be interesting to see what the ‘Roos do on Saturday at California Baptist.

8. Seattle

The Redhawks finally got a win in WAC play. Is that bad to say? Seattle beat Chicago State, 75-47, in Chicago. So, they got a road win and their first conference win. However, Seattle followed that up with a flop at UMKC, only scoring 54 points in a 63-54 loss against the ‘Roos. Yes, Seattle is banged up. But, in all honesty, that weak non-conference schedule is coming back to haunt the Redhawks. People might disagree with that and I respect that. But, when you played only one team ranked in the KenPom Top-100, and your two Pac-12 wins were against teams ranked lower than 150 in the KenPom rankings, that isn’t a quality schedule. Perhaps if Myles Carter and Matej Kavas can get healthy, this Seattle team could be dangerous come March in Las Vegas.

9. Chicago State

I still believe that the Cougars will win a game no one sees coming in the second half. Perhaps it will happen at the WAC Tournament in March. Lance Irvin had his work cut out for him coming into the season. And it has shown. Whether it is the lack of execution or the lack of talent, something is amiss with Chicago State. It would be nice if the Cougars could be competitive in WAC play. Chicago State has shown flashes but it just hasn’t been enough. 

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