GCU
Will GCU fans have more to celebrate than just a win on Saturday night? Courtesy GCU Athletics.

GCU Could Punch First Ticket to WAC Vegas on Saturday

The GCU men’s basketball team is tied with No. 2 Purdue for the best record in college basketball.

21-2 overall. 11-1 in WAC play. The 1-seed for the WAC Tournament all but sewn up as soon as the Lopes clinch a spot at WAC Vegas.

Good news for Lopes fans…GCU could clinch that spot as early as Saturday evening.

Yes, after Saturday, there will still be seven conference games left for the Lopes.

So, let’s break down the scenario in which the Lopes can clinch a spot in the WAC Tournament on Saturday evening.

With a win, GCU improves to 12-1 in WAC play with seven games to play. This means there is no chance UTRGV, at 2-10 in WAC play, can catch the Lopes. Seven games to play for the Lopes. Eight games to play for the Vaqueros. There is no chance UTRGV can make up 10 games. It’s simple math.

That is step one.

Step two depends on the outcome of the Utah Valley-Abilene Christian game in Orem.

Currently, Utah Valley is 4-8 in WAC play and Abilene Christian is 3-8.

So, if ACU pulls off the road win in Orem, and GCU wins, the Lopes would have to win one more game to clinch their spot at WAC Vegas. Simply because ACU would still have eight games left. Yes, that means ACU would have to win out, which is unlikely. But, there is still the slim chance.

If Utah Valley wins, and GCU beats Southern Utah, the Lopes clinch their spot at WAC Vegas.

See, GCU hosts Southern Utah on Saturday night at GCU Arena. The T-Birds are 4-8 in WAC play. So, a GCU win puts the Lopes at 12-1 in WAC play. It moves Southern Utah to 4-9, making it impossible for the T-Birds to catch the Lopes with both teams having just seven games remaining.

Collin Moore and GCU can clinch their spot at WAC Vegas tonight with a win and a bit of help. Courtesy GCU Athletics.

So, on Saturday, GCU fans are rooting for their team as well as rooting for Utah Valley to win at home.

Here is the good news for Lopes fans.

First, GCU is undefeated at home in 2023-24. Yep, a perfect 11-0. If the Lopes make it 12-0, there is chance that Lopes fans can book their tickets to WAC Vegas if they haven’t yet.

Second, Utah Valley has been decent at home with a 7-3 record. And Abilene Christian is 1-8 in true road games in 2023-24 and coming off a 23-point loss at Seattle U on Thursday night.

Now, for the bad news. Well, it’s one little bad note to pay attention to.

Utah Valley has lost back-to-back home games for the first time in like four years. Yeah, the Wolverines have been pretty darn good at the UCCU Center. However, the past two weeks haven’t been good to the Wolverines at home. First was the second half dominance by GCU a week ago in Orem. Then, another second half collapse on Thursday against Tarleton.

So, which Utah Valley team will show up on Saturday afternoon at the UCCU Center?

ACU at Utah Valley tips at 2 p.m. MT. So, GCU fans will know the result of that game ahead of tip against Southern Utah, which is at 6 p.m. MT.

Here is a look at the other WAC games on Saturday.

SFA at UT Arlington – 2 p.m. CT, ESPN+

One team is coming off a win in which they allowed an opposing player to score 40-plus points. The other team is coming off a road loss on the West Coast. It is probably safe to say that SFA arrived earlier to the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area than UT Arlington did on Friday in its return from California.

That will be interesting to watch.

In the first meeting between the two schools, Phillip Russell didn’t play. But both AJ Cajuste and Day Day Hall did for SFA. So, there will be a new face gracing the floor on Saturday at College Park Center. Russell will play. Cajuste and Hall, as everyone knows, won’t play due to season-ending injuries.

SFA and UT Arlington score…A LOT. The Jacks average 78 points per game. UT Arlington averages about 73 points per game. Both teams love to play with tempo. And in the first meeting on Jan. 6, the Jacks and Mavs combined for 165 points in SFA’s 92-73 win.

Keep an eye on the paint. The battle between Shemar Wilson and Nana Antwi-Boasiako and Jalil Beaubrun could dictate the outcome of the game.

SFA is looking to improve to 8-5 in WAC play. UT Arlington is looking to bounce back and improve to 7-6 in WAC play.

Tarleton at Seattle U – 4 p.m. CT, ESPN+

Saturday’s contest at the Redhawk Center features two of the hotter teams in the WAC. Tarleton has won four straight since a rare home loss to Southern Utah on Jan. 25. Seattle U has won four of its last five including a win over Grand Canyon.

Tarleton comes in fresh off a comeback win at Utah Valley on Thursday. Lue Williams had another big night, finishing with 21 points to lead the Texans to a 72-61 win over the Wolverines. Williams scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half when the Texans outscored the Wolverines by 26 after halftime.

GCU
Lue Williams and Tarleton travel to the Redhawk Center looking for a fifth straight win. Courtesy Tarleton Athletics.

Seattle U is coming off a blowout win over Abilene Christian. It was the first game for the Redhawks since a Jan. 4 win against Utah Tech that didn’t come down to the final possession or late-game theatrics.

So, will Tarleton continue to keep pace with GCU for the regular season title? Or will Cam Tyson and company continue their run at the Redhawk Center?

There will be a lot of defense this afternoon in the Pacific Northwest.

California Baptist at Utah Tech – 3 p.m. MT, ESPN+

Saturday afternoon at Burns Arena features two teams coming off a pair of thrilling wins.

Both Utah Tech and CBU had to hold their collective breaths in the final seconds of their ball games on Thursday night.

Fortunately both teams were able to release that hold with a sigh of relief.

Utah Tech escaped with a rivalry win over Southern Utah. And CBU gutted out a gritty win over UT Arlington.

Now, the teams meet on a Saturday afternoon in sunny St. George.

Beon Riley is back for Utah Tech after missing a month. However, CBU will again be without WAC leading scorer Dominique Daniels Jr.

Since 2021, CBU and Utah Tech have played each other six times. The series, since that time, sits at 3-3. Four of the six games have come down to the final possession. Only twice has a team won by more than five points in the past six games.

In Riverside on Dec. 6, it was Utah Tech that came away with a 72-69 win over the Lancers. In 2023 in St. George, CBU walked out of Burns Arena with a 10-point win.

Don’t expect this game to be high scoring in any way. Someone is going to have to grind out a win. And, as usual in this series, it will most likely come down to the final possession.

 

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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