WAC
Daylen Williams is part of a very big UTRGV squad in 2023-24. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Chances of Winning the WAC in 2023-24

There are some platforms that are set to release their preseason polls in a few days. WAC Hoops Nation won’t release its polls until the last week of October. That is simply because WAC media day is around that time. And because we still don’t know much about these squads. That is why we give a week to preview each team. Yes, I have been slacking in getting those out over the past two weeks. Old man slowpitch softball, camping trips, family in town. You know, the usual end of Summer stuff.

However, it is now September 19, and it is time to start getting serious as the season is less than 50 days away. Nov. 6 to be exact. And it is going to be a fun season. There are some intriguing non-conference games out there plus some quality MTE’s that teams will compete in.

So, that brings us to the question of: who will win the WAC in 2023-24?

Let’s start from the top of the standings from 2022-23.

Utah Valley

A new coach and a whole new roster. Okay, so there were two significant holdovers from a 28-win squad in Jaden McClanahan and Ethan Potter. There is also a bit of continuity with associate head coach Todd Phillips taking over as head coach after Mark Madsen’s departure. Drake Allen moved up I-15 to join the Wolverines. And Phillips got Utah State 7-footer Trevin Dorius to move closer to home.

The big question is: how do you replace a trio of guards who are either playing at a High Major or professionally? Along with that, how do you replace arguably the best shot blocker in America in 2022-23? Is there potential? That depends. How will Troy transfer Nate Tshimanga fare in the WAC? Phillips is really high on this 6-10 forward. Can the Wolverines shoot it from distance? There are a lot of unanswered questions in Orem. The likelihood of repeating as regular season champs is slim. Especially in a conference that Todd Phillips labels as a ‘monster’.

Chance of winning the WAC: Low

WAC
Drake Allen is now at Utah Valley after spending a season at Southern Utah. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Southern Utah

Similar to its in-state counterpart, Southern Utah may be in for a year of growing pains. New head coach in Rob Jeter plus an entirely new roster. Basically, outside of Parsa Fallah and Zion Young, the entire SUU roster was overhauled after a run to the WAC Tournament Semifinals and a really nice run in the CBI under interim head coach Flynn Clayman. But, Jeter has his work cut out for the Thunderbirds. The good news is Jeter knows how to win with less, having gone to the NCAA Tournament at a low mid-major. Can he repeat that in Cedar City? It was the one thing that former head coach Todd Simon was unable to do.

Southern Utah hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in a long, LONG time. It probably won’t get there in 2023-24, either. But, be patient Thunderbird fans. It will happen soon.

Chance of winning the WAC: Low

GCU

Ray Harrison returns. Gabe McGlothan returns. Jovan Blacksher Jr. returns. Josh Baker is back. Add in some big transfers in Tyon Grant-Foster, Collin Moore, and Lök Wur among others and you can see there is a lot of hype around the Lopes in 2023-24.

Harrison was the WAC Tournament MVP after leading the Lopes to a title and NCAA Tournament berth. McGlothan is the motor that keeps the Lopes running. Blacksher is the floor general. The big question is how will Blacksher and Harrison mesh in 2023-24? They struggled a bit throughout the non-conference slate in 2022-23 before Blacksher’s injury against Sam Houston in early January. Can they overcome perhaps different playing styles and mindsets?

The other question for the Lopes is will there be enough shots to go around? We know Harrison loves to have the ball in his hands. Moore and Grant-Foster are also guards who can score. So, will Bryce Drew be able to feed all the mouths he has brought together? Keep an eye on the Lopes. Could be another special year in Phoenix.

Chance of winning the WAC: High

Stephen F. Austin

Can the Lumberjacks stay healthy in 2023-24? If Kyle Keller’s group can, then the Jacks will absolutely be in the mix for a WAC title and return to the NCAA Tournament. AJ Cajuste was thrust into a starting role that he ran with in 2022-23. Latrell Jossell is one of the best 3-point shooters in the WAC. Day Day Hall is finally healthy after offseason shoulder surgery. Jalil Beaubrun is healthy after dealing with a foot issue in 2022-23. Add in some key transfers in former CBU forward Juhlawnei Stone, Utah Tech transfer Frank Staine, and JUCO transfer Clayton Southwick.

This team is built the way Kyle Keller wanted it to be built. Size on the guard line. Big men that can do more than just play on the post. There is a lot of excitement in Nacogdoches about a team with experience and perhaps a chip on its shoulder after struggling through a injury-riddled 2022-23 campaign.

Chance of winning the WAC: High

Day Day Hall has a healthy shoulder after offseason surgery. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Seattle U

43 wins in two years. A WAC regular season title. It has been a good first two years for head coach Chris Victor. What many might not believe is 2023-24 might be his best team, yet. Sure, the Redhawks had Darrion Trammell two years ago. Last year, Riley Grigsby got one last run after being with the Redhawks for what seemed like a decade. Emeka Udenyi also graduated this year after being a mainstay in the Redhawk lineup the past three years.

So, why would that leave anyone to believe this might be Victor’s best team yet? Well, Cam Tyson returns. Alex Schumacher is back after a stellar 2022-23 season as the floor general. Brandton Chatfield and Kobe Williamson return. Vaz Pandzâ and Viktor Rajković are both back. Pandzâ missed most of last season with an injury. Seyi Reiley and Paris Dawson are back. And Victor adds Creighton transfer and hometown guard John Christofilis to the mix.

Scoring, defense, and rebounding are plentiful in the Pacific Northwest. Question is, can the Redhawks finally get over the hump? It all starts with Tyson.

Chance of winning the WAC: High

Tarleton

Freddy Hicks, Shamir Bogues, Shak Daniel, Tiger Booker and Javontae Hopkins all gone. Four of these players transferred to other mid-majors. Shak Daniel signed a pro contract. So, who does that leave? That’s a good question considering the Texans haven’t updated the roster, yet.

Two names that we do know have the potential to have a big season are Lue Williams and Jakorie Smith. In fact, Smith is one of the candidates I wrote about earlier as a potential Player of the Year candidate. With his size and shooting ability, Smith is a matchup nightmare. Other than that, there are a lot of unknowns about the roster. What isn’t unknown is that Billy Clyde Gillispie gets his team to play hard, defend the perimeter and cause a lot of problems for opponents, especially at Wisdom Gym. Just ask GCU and Utah Valley about their trips to Stephenville in 2022-23.

In the final year of the transition to Division I, can the Texans create more chaos after winning a game in the WAC tournament a year ago? It remains to be seen. But, everyone knows, as usual, the Texans will be battle tested after a brutal non-conference slate.

Chance of winning the WAC: Low

California Baptist

Taran Armstrong, Tre Armstrong, Reed Nottage, Riley Battin, and Tim Ighoefe all gone. Joe Quintana is also gone. People might think that is a lot to lose. And it is. But, Rick Croy returns some pieces that may be in for breakout seasons. Hunter Goodrick returns. Blondeau Tchoukuiegno returns. Scotty Washington returns. Malik Wade returns.

Along with these returners, Croy brought in GCU big man Yvan Ouedraogo along with a host of other transfers that could have an immediate impact. Last year, many thought that CBU would have a better season. That didn’t come to fruition. Talking with some around the CBU program this offseason, there is some excitement about the potential. However, that is the keyword: potential.

Can the Lancers live up to the potential? That remains to be seen.

Chance of winning the WAC: Medium

Abilene Christian

There are two platforms that have ACU as a top-4 team in its preseason poll. I am not sure I am sold on the Wildcats finishing that high in the WAC standings. Perhaps I will be proven wrong. Yes, Brette Tanner returns Manny Allen, Airion Simmons, Cam Steele, Ali Dibba and Hunter Jack Madden. Tanner also brought in GCU big man Aidan Igiehon along with 6-9 freshman Ma’Shy Hill.

But, who will fill the shoes left by Damien Daniels and Tobias Cameron? Daniels was the little engine that made the Wildcats go, both offensively and defensively. Cameron played with a massive chip on his shoulder. Who will step into these roles?

That question alone is one reason I am not sold on ACU being a top-4 team in the WAC. They have pieces in place to make a run similar to what they did in 2022-23. Keep an eye on Ali Dibba. There is potential for the former Chicago State guard to have a breakout season for the Wildcats.

Chance of winning the WAC: Medium

Ali Dibba might be in line for a big season for ACU. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

UTRGV

The Vaqueros might be a bit of a surprise team in 2023-24. Yes, people will have a hang over regarding the loss of Justin Johnson, Will Johnston and Adante’ Holiman. Those three guards were really good in 2022-23. Justin Johnson was the leading scorer in the WAC and Johnston was dynamite alongside him. Holiman gave the Vaqueros an extra floor general off the bench.

But, with those three departures, the Vaqueros might be a bit better off. It opens doors for more scoring options and doesn’t necessarily rely on one or two guys to go off every night in order to win games. Add in that UTRGV is arguably the biggest team in the WAC…six players 6-10 or taller. And if Matt Figger can coach these guys up, there is potential here. Daylen Williams, C.J. Jackson and Ahren Freeman all return. John Shanu II is back. And it goes on and on. Keep an eye on this squad as they will look very different than in years’ past.

I don’t think they win the WAC this season. But, I think they are one of the eight teams to make it to WAC Vegas.

Chance of winning the WAC: Low

UT Arlington

How will KT Turner fare in year one in Arlington? That is a big question. However, Turner and his staff have put together a nice roster in their first season at College Park Center. Shemar Wilson returns from injury. Aaron Cash and Brandyn Talbot are back. And Turner brought in some key transfers including Southeast Missouri transfer Phillip Russell. The 5-10 guard averaged 18.1 points at SEMO in 2022-23 as he led the Redhawks to the NCAA Tournament.

The ties that KT Turner and his staff have to the DFW metro area and throughout the country will pay dividends. There is a familiar face that will take the floor for the Mavericks as New Mexico State transfer DaJuan Gordon is back in the WAC. Keep an eye on the paint with the combination of Shemar Wilson and 6-10 Darrius Miles. It could create rim protection that the Mavericks need in order to compete in the WAC.

Chance of winning the WAC: Medium

Utah Tech

I will get yelled at for this and perhaps it will create bulletin board material. Utah Tech, in its final season of the transition period, will not make it to WAC Vegas. (Please don’t hate me Trailblazer fans.)

Jon Judkins has to replace SO much from the 2022-23 squad. Cam Gooden is playing professionally. Isaiah Pope is at Fresno State. Frank Staine left for SFA. Dancell Leter is gone. Jacob Nicolds is gone. Trey Edmonds is gone.

There are just two familiar faces who played significant minutes in 2022-23 returning. Noah Gonsalves and Tanner Christensen. SO much to replace. Judkins got one of the favorites for WAC Freshman of the Year in Aric Demmings. And JUCO transfer Jaylen Searles has potential to be a star in the WAC per some around the program. But, after that, there are just so many unknowns.

Unfortunately, it may be a year of growing pains for the Trailblazers with all the youth on the roster. However, that might not be a bad thing in this final year of the transition period.

Chance of winning the WAC: Low

 

 

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.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to WAC Hoops Digest

Enter your email address to subscribe to WAC Hoops Digest so you never miss a beat.

Click Here to Get Your NBA Gear

Enjoy Las Vegas

Buy and Sell Your Tickets with StubHub

Get Your MLB Gear at the MLB Shop

Book with Expedia.com

Book a Stay with Hotels.com