Collin Moore and GCU are hoping to get some bench production on Saturday at GCU Arena. Courtesy GCU Athletics.

3 Things to Watch For on Busy Day of WAC Hoops

It is ‘Rivalry Weekend’ in college football. So, you might not want to watch any hoops on this busy Saturday. It is understandable. However, if you choose to watch some hoops, and your favorite school, there are some things to watch for when things tip off later today.

Can the Mavericks be Dominant?

Sitting at 3-2 overall and a perfect 3-0 at College Park Center, the UT Arlington men’s basketball team has been solid to start the hoops season. The two losses came recently in a barn burner at New Mexico and a second half debacle in a loss at no. 3 Arizona.

However, sharpshooting freshman Kade Douglas and the Mavs returned to CPC on Wednesday to pick up a 13-point win over Alcorn State.

Now, the Mavs host Texas State on Saturday, four days ahead of the WAC opener against Abilene Christian. UT Arlington is favored by seven so there is the expectation the Mavs will improve to 4-2 overall.

However, the big question is: can the Mavs dominate a lesser opponent at home? The Mavs beat Alcorn State by 13 on Wednesday. Coming into the game, Alcorn State had a 282 KenPom ranking. On Saturday, the Mavs host a Bobcats squad that is 225 in the recent KenPom rankings.

Against an in-state foe, at home at College Park Center, and with a conference game coming up, Saturday is a big opportunity for the Mavs.

Shemar Wilson has been really good for Turner and the Mavs. Wilson is averaging 15.8 points and 10.0 rebounds. At New Mexico, Wilson had 29 points and 11 rebounds. In the loss at Arizona, Wilson had 19 points. Against Alcorn State, Wilson had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

DaJuan Gordon won the first WAC Player of the Week award of the 2023-24 season. Kade Douglas has been really good at College Park Center. In two games at CPC, the true freshman is averaging 19.0 points and has hit 12 3-pointers in two games.

A dominant win ahead of the WAC opener against Abilene Christian on Wednesday would be a good way to end the month of November.

Can UTRGV Find Its Offense?

Okay, if we are being honest, the November slate of games for the UTRGV men’s basketball team hasn’t been easy.

At South Dakota, at TCU, and at Oklahoma. Along with that, a trip to Palm Springs, California for the Acrisure Invitational. The Vaqueros have played just two home games against non-Division I opponents.

So, it has been rough. All four of the losses have come by 15 or more points. There was the debacle at South Dakota. Against Oklahoma and TCU, the Vaqueros hung around for about 25 minutes before things blew up. Against Hawaii on Friday, UTRGV fell behind early and never got as close as 18.

Let’s look at Friday’s result. The Vaqueros were not good on the offensive side of the floor. 33.3 percent from the field for the game. 1-12 from 3-point range. 27 percent from the field in the first half. And a 19-point deficit at the break.

According to the stats, the Vaqueros are averaging 76.5 points per game. That is because the Vaqueros scored 110 and 92 points, respectively, in wins over non-Division I opponents.

Against Division I opponents, UTRGV is averaging just over 64 points per game. And even that number is skewed a bit due to scoring 79 points in the loss at South Dakota. This is because the Coyotes scored 100 points.

Now, UTRGV did average just over 78 points per game in 2022-23. So, technically, the Vaqueros are right at their normal average. However, the inconsistency, the struggle to knock down shots from the perimeter, and to stop runs by hitting shots at key moments have been apparent through six games.

It doesn’t get any easier against Arkansas State on Saturday. However, if UTRGV can find its offensive flow, make layups, and knock down shots, they can compete with the Red Wolves and former Tarleton star Freddy Hicks.

Keep an eye on Ahren Freeman. If the 6’7 senior forward has a good day, UTRGV will have a good day of hoops

Can the GCU Bench Step Up?

It has been a solid start to the hoops season for the preseason favorites. Had the Lopes been able to knock off South Carolina on Sunday, things would be even better. Well, six days after the first loss of the season, the Lopes are back at GCU Arena to host North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon.

Everyone knows the GCU starters are good. Nearly 77 percent of the scoring comes from the Lope starters. Tyon Grant-Foster has been really good, averaging 21.3 points per game. Ray Harrison and Collin Moore are both averaging over 12 points per game. Gabe McGlothan and Duke Brennan combine to average 15.3 points per game.

So, what happens when the starters have to take a break? Or when a starter gets in foul trouble? It has been Louisville transfer Syd Curry who is the first one off the bench. At moments, Curry has looked really good. But, after Curry, the bench production hasn’t yet arrived.

A home game against North Dakota State could help resolve that. Perhaps as Josh Baker gets comfortable after returning from an offseason surgery, the bench production will increase. Depending on how Bryce Drew and staff ease Jovan Blacksher Jr. back into things could have an impact on bench production.

Against South Carolina and San Francisco, GCU got just four points off its bench. Part of that was leaning on vets in games that were of massive importance to the Lopes. The other part of that was the game rhythm.

So, can Syd Curry, Lök Wur, Isaiah Shaw, and Josh Baker get some mojo on Saturday? The Lopes can use it as WAC play begins on Wednesday at UTRGV.

About the author

Kyle McDonald

Love everything about WAC Hoops so decided I wanted to write more about it and cover this amazing conference that just keeps getting better. Follow us on Twitter @wachoopsdigest for information, game analysis and much more.

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