The 2021-22 basketball season brought a lot of star power to the Western Athletic Conference.
Teddy Allen transferred in from Nebraska. Savion Flagg made his way to Sam Houston via Texas A&M. WAC Player of the Year Fardaws Aimaq returned to Orem and Utah Valley.
There was Cameron Tyson returning to the Pacific Northwest after a run to the Final Four with Houston. Seattle U guard Darrion Trammell took his name out of the portal.
Holland Woods and Taeshon Cherry ventured over to GCU from Arizona State. Dan Akin made his way to CBU from UMBC.
A lot of star power and big names were part of a wild 2021-22 season. The WAC had a three-way tie for the regular season crown. Chicago State beat New Mexico State on Brandon Betson’s buzzer-beater at the Jones Convocation Center in late February.
Seattle shocked many by winning its first-ever WAC regular season title. Stephen F. Austin won 10 straight games to end WAC play and earn a share of the regular season title. New Mexico State had to win in its final regular season game to also earn a share of the title and top seed at the WAC Tournament.
Six teams had 20-plus win seasons. Sam Houston had 19 wins and California Baptist had 18 wins. Just for good measure, Utah Valley was the 7-seed at the WAC tournament and the Wolverines finished 20-12 overall.
There was a lot of star power that created a lot of exciting times in 2021-22.
But, on Tuesday morning a follower on Twitter asked a question I would like to elaborate a bit more on.
@WACHoopsDigest I know it’s early but how do see the WAC as overall strength compared to last year? Weaker, stronger?
— Melvin Bryan (@mbryan75949) August 3, 2022
The simple answer is that the WAC will be better in 2022-23.
I could stop with that answer alone.
But, the reason for that belief is the depth of the league. You look at what California Baptist, Sam Houston, and Grand Canyon did in the offseason.
Just look at New Mexico State and bringing in a trio of top-30 JUCO recruits plus a pair of guards who played a lot of minutes in the SEC.
ACU brought back Joe Pleasant but also returns Damien Daniels, Tobias Cameron, Airion Simmons, and Cam Steele.
Utah Valley lost Fardaws Aimaq. But, the Wolverines return Trey Woodbury, Blaze Nield, Tim Fuller, Le’Tre Darthard, Justin Harmon and Tim Caesar. Did I mention that former Tarleton guard Tahj Small is now in Orem?
Seattle returns nearly everyone except for Darrion Trammell. But Cameron Tyson is back. Riley Grigsby is back. Those were two of the leading scorers for the Redhawks a season ago.
Stephen F. Austin is deep with the return of those freshman that played significant minutes for Kyle Keller last season. Also returning is Roti Ware who missed nearly the entire season after injuring his knee against Liberty on Dec. 11. Add in Montavious Murphy from Kansas State and Nigel Hawkins is back for another run, too.
Sam Houston has six seniors returning so they might be the most veteran group of the bunch. Plus, Qua Grant is a proven scorer. Jason Hooten added some size with 6-10 F Kaosi Ezeagu out of UTEP.
Southern Utah is going to be in the discussion, too. Todd Simon got Tevian Jones, Harrison Butler, and Maizen Fausett back. And on Tuesday, Dee Barnes announced he is returning to the T-birds, as well.
Grand Canyon returns nearly its entire starting lineup minus Holland Woods. But Bryce Drew picked up Rayshon Harrison to fill that void. Add in that the Lopes have two big men that will play a huge role in Yvan Ouedraogo and Aidan Igiehon and GCU is in the mix, too.
Utah Tech returns most of its roster. The big loss of Hunter Schofield will hurt. But Cameron Gooden, Isaiah Pope, Frank Staine Jr. and Dancell Later among other make the Trailblazers dangerous.
Here is the thing…I could go on and on about the potential of this league. The truth of it is that teams are deeper than in 2021-22. CBU head coach Rick Croy said to win in this league you have to have depth. And the Lancers went out and got five Division I transfers. Add those transfers with with Taran Armstrong, Tre Armstrong, Reed Nottage, and Juhlawnei Stone among others. And CBU has the depth.
Last season, the WAC had seven teams in the KenPom top-150 at the end of the season. New Mexico State was the highest at 80. Grand Canyon was at 93. And Utah Valley, who lost in the second round of the WAC Tournament to ACU, was 119.
With the way the WAC has set up the résumé seeding system, this number is sure to improve in 2022-23. The WAC has depth, size, athleticism, quickness and efficient shooters. And ample opportunity to create chaos in the non-conference slate.
And teams will have to do that in November and December. Because come January when WAC play begins, there is going to be cannibalism with the amount of parity there is in the WAC in 2022-23.