It’s time for conference basketball everybody! We’ve got a good series going down in Orem as Utah Valley hosts California Baptist. Utah Valley comes into this game with a record of 2-5 and the Wolverines are seeking their first win against a Division I foe. CBU is 3-2 but haven’t played a game since December 12 after seeing seeing three contests canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.
This is a series that promises to be a lot of fun. Each teams starting five is capable of putting up lots of points. CBU scores a blistering 90 points a game. Utah Valley isn’t quite that high, but they average 75 points which is still a good number to be at in the Division I level. Both teams love to get out and run in transition, so both games will be fast paced.
However, both teams come in with a little bit of rust. But, in this season of college basketball, who doesn’t have some rust as we enter this portion of the season? Here are a few headlines that stand out heading into this opening weekend matchup.
Battle of the Guards
Both of these schools have a trio of guards that play at high level. The CBU trio consists of Reed Nottage, Ty Rowell, and Tre Armstrong. Together these three light it up; they average nearly 46 points per game. Combined, these three shoot the ball at 44 percent, which is a respectable mark. They love to play fast, especially in transition. CBU head coach Rick Croy believes that one of their biggest strengths is their ability to pass the ball and to find the open guy.
“We really share the ball,” Croy said. “We’ve seen that from day one with this group. These guys are really unselfish. To be a great passing team it’s a skill you need to have that permeates through, and we have that. We have many guys that can pass the ball very well and we have guys that can make shots off the back end of those passes.”
Utah Valley’s back court is led by Jamison Overton, Jordan Brinson, and Trey Woodbury. All three of these guards can do it all for Utah Valley. Overton leads the Wolverines in scoring at 19.5 points per game. Woodbury is the Wolverines leader in assists with 5.1 a game. Brinson does a little bit of everything and is a good floor general for Utah Valley.
Whoever’s trio of guards plays better will have the upper hand in this series and play a big factor in determining who will win these two games.
The format for conference games this season is a bit odd, to say the least. Teams will play each other on back-to-back days. One game on Friday and then you turn around and do it again on Saturday.
When asked about the format, Utah Valley head coach Mark Madsen said that, “it’s the same two teams, but what each team does offensively and defensively can change dramatically between the two games, and by the same token it can stay consistent.”
Rick Croy thinks it will be difficult, but especially for visiting teams. “This is new for all of us as coaches playing the same opponent in back to back games… it’s hard for teams to go in and win both games. That will be a challenge for everyone.”
Conference play is going to look different this year. There will be lots of X’s and O’s. Things can change on a dime. There’s going to be a lot of chess like moves between the coaches in these series. With this type of format, we’ll get an idea of who the elite coaches are in the WAC.
The Excitement of Conference Play
Both teams are excited to finally start conference play. These two have seen multiple games canceled and a couple of pauses from team activities because of COVID-19. Being able to play means a lot to the coaches and players on both teams.
“The mood (in the locker room) is upbeat and positive… I’m thrilled that as of right now it looks like we’re playing both games because a lot of schools don’t have that opportunity. To be able to play games for our young men in a safe way is a positive thing for the sport,” Madsen said when asked about the start of conference play.
CBU head coach Rick Croy had similar comments as well.
“The guys are excited to compete. It’s been a while. It’s a really close knit group. They’ve worked really hard and they can’t wait to get back after it. It’s exciting with conference (play) starting.”
These two teams are hungry and ready to go. They’ve waited patiently to go to this point, and there is lots of excitement and optimism in both programs.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. MST on Friday night. The game can be watched on ESPN+. Saturdays game tips off at 6:00 p.m. MST, as well. That game can be watched on the WAC digital network.
Listen to the Podcast Preview
Listen to the recent episode of the WAC Hoops Digest Podcast to get more insight from CBU head coach Rick Croy and Utah Valley head coach Mark Madsen.