It is a a great Monday. There are six games featuring WAC schools. We are three days away from Thanksgiving. And, well, it is just a good day overall.
When the non-conference slate of the 2022-23 season is completed, the week of Nov. 14 thru Nov. 20 might be the talk of the slate. Two Power 6 wins, multiple close calls against Power 6 foes, Tarleton putting on a clinic at the Paradise Jam. Impressive road wins. And putting the WAC on the map even more.
Remember the article put out in August talking about how deep the league was going to be in 2022-23? You can read that article here.
So, while it surprises some around the country what Sam Houston, Tarleton, California Baptist and others are doing, it doesn’t surprise those that follow the WAC closely.
And following a week where the WAC got multiple Power 6 wins, some close calls by Utah Valley and SUU to get more Power 6 wins, and multiple road wins, the WAC is showing its depth.
And on the first day of Thanksgiving Week, the WAC has more opportunities to show its depth.
Here is a breakdown of Monday’s slate of games. Five of the six games are being played as part of multi-team events.
Grand Canyon vs. Wichita State – Hall of Fame Classic, Kansas City, MO
Tip – 1 p.m. MT – CBS Sports Network
What will Grand Canyon do for an encore after a dominating win over Grambling on Friday night at GCU Arena? The Lopes put on a defensive clinic. But, the big news was that Rayshon Harrison had a breakout game for the Lopes.
Remember Friday’s preview article? It stated that if Rayshon Harrison or Noah Baumann could step up in the scoring department, GCU would be tough to beat?
Well, 25 points later, including five 3-pointers and you saw what GCU can do when Harrison has a big game offensively.
The Lopes are 3-1 overall with the lone loss coming at Nevada. And as part of perhaps the most difficult non-conference schedule the Lopes have faced, they have another big opportunity on Monday afternoon. It is essentially a road game despite it being at a neutral site in the T-Mobile Center. Wichita State is a little under three hours away from Kansas City. Grand Canyon is 1200 miles from Kansas City. So, you can see this will be more of a home game for the Shockers.
Jovan Blacksher Jr. has to be better offensively on Monday afternoon. The senior guard had just two points in the win over Grambling. If Blacksher and Harrison are both in double figures today, GCU wins. Noah Baumann came off the bench Friday after starting the first three games of the season. And it was an efficient move as Baumann had 10 points and hit a pair of 3-pointers in the win.
Can the Lopes get the Hall of Fame Classic off to a good start? It’s an opportunity in front of a national audience to do so.
— Grand Canyon Men’s Basketball (@GCU_MBB) November 19, 2022
UT Arlington vs. Drexel – Gulf Coast Showcase, Estero, Florida
Tip – 2 p.m. CT – Flo Hoops
So far, in the 2022-23 season, the UT Arlington men’s basketball team has not defeated a Division I opponent. The Mavericks have wins over a pair of non-Division I teams. But, Greg Young’s squad has been blown out in its two Division I games.
Now, the Mavericks will look to get that first Division I win at the Gulf Coast Showcase. And they will look to do it against the 2-1 Drexel Dragons in the first day of the Gulf Coast Showcase.
On Friday at the College Park Center, UTA struggled to score in a 62-43 loss to Nevada. In fact, it took over five minutes for the Mavericks to score their first points of the game. And over 10 minutes to get their second bucket.
UTA has one player in double figures in Taj Anderson at 10.5 points per game. And while its been a balanced attack, the Mavericks have struggled against Division I competition thus far. Let’e be real, though. Playing at Oklahoma State in the season opener and hosting a Nevada team that already has a dominant win over GCU under its belt isn’t easy for any opponent.
However, different starting lineups have been used multiple times thru four games. And, in his podcast episode prior to the season, Greg Young said he didn’t know who ‘the guy’ would be for his squad. And it seems that is still the case as we enter Thanksgiving Week. Maybe on Monday afternoon in the Sunshine State, someone will step up and be ‘the guy’ and lead the Mavericks to a non-conference win.
Western Illinois at UTRGV – Edinburg, Texas
Tip – 5 p.m. CT – ESPN+/Longhorn Network
This is a big game of sorts for UTRGV. It is part of a doubleheader with the University of Texas who plays Northern Arizona in the nightcap at Bert Ogden Arena. So, there figures to be somewhat of a large crowd for the Vaqueros afternoon tip against the Catamounts.
And, similar to UT Arlington, UTRGV is looking for its first Division I win of the 2022-23 season. The Vaqueros shot the ball relatively well in a loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Thursday. But, 25 turnovers proved to be the difference in the 97-75 loss in the South Texas Showdown.
If UTRGV is to get a win in front of a big crowd on Monday night, they have to take care of the basketball. Most notably Will Johnston and Justin Johnson have to take care of the basketball better. The duo combined to commit 11 of UTRGV’s 25 turnovers on Thursday.
Monday’s game is also the first leg of a home-and-home series between the Vaqueros and the Catamounts. So, getting a win and establishing some confidence is key for UTRGV at Bert Ogden Arena.
Abilene Christian vs. Wright State – Vegas 4, Las Vegas, NV
Tip – 5:30 p.m. MT – BallerTV
Are the Wildcats for real? That is a good question.
ACU is coming off a 104-46 win over crosstown foe McMurry on Tuesday. So, it has been almost a week since the Wildcats last took the floor. Prior to that win against McMurry, ACU struggled offensively in a 77-58 loss at Texas A&M.
And, as part of the Vegas 4, the world is about to learn more about the 2022-23 version of the ACU men’s basketball team. Joe Pleasant saw his first action of the season in the win over McMurry. And head coach Brette Tanner is hoping Pleasant can go even more minutes on Monday evening at The Dollar Loan Center in Sin City.
Airion Simmons has been consistently good for ACU thus far. But, scoring has to come from somewhere. In the win over Jackson State, it was Tobias Cameron with the big night. In the loss at Texas A&M, Manny Allen was the only other Wildcat in double figures next to Simmons.
Who can be that source of consistency? That is the big question. And against a Wright State squad that has wins over Louisville and Bowling Green and went toe-to-toe with Davidson, someone will have to take on that role if the Wildcats are to get a win in Las Vegas.
Tarleton vs. Drake – Paradise Jam, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
Tip – 8 p.m. ET – ESPN3
Outside of the Sam Houston Bearkats, the Tarleton Texans have been arguably the best team in the WAC through the first three weeks of the season. A near-upset at Arizona State was no surprise. Had the Texans had a healthy Freddy Hicks, Tarleton would have walked out of Desert Financial Arena with an upset win.
And in its first two games at the Paradise Jam, Tarleton has made itself known to the world. And Freddy Hicks has shown that his foot is fully healed. In two games in St. Thomas, Hicks has averaged 23.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. And the Texans have averaged 79.5 in a pair of wins over Belmont and Boston College.
The 70-54 win over Boston College is the first Power 6 win in program history for the Texans. And the game was never really close. CJ Pencha gave Boston College a 5-2 lead at the 17:36 mark of the first half. But, a 12-0 run put the Texans in front for good in a wire-to-wire win.
And now, Tarleton has an opportunity for another signature win in the championship game of the Paradise Jam against 4-0 Drake. The Bulldogs have a KenPom top-100 ranking and beat Buffalo and Wyoming to get the Paradise Jam title game.
Javontae Hopkins puts this one to bed with authority! ? pic.twitter.com/YvmpWXWj5y
— Tarleton Men's Basketball (@TarletonMBB) November 21, 2022
California Baptist vs. Minnesota – SoCal Challenge, San Juan Capistrano, California
Tip – 8:30 p.m. MT – CBS Sports Network
Since that season opening loss at home to Long Beach State, California Baptist has reeled off three straight wins. This includes a win over a Power 6 opponent. Yes, the Lancers got arguably the biggest win in the Division I era on Thursday in a 73-64 win at Pac-12 foe Washington.
Despite missing the season opener, LMU transfer Joe Quintana leads the Lancers at 14.7 points per game. WAC Freshman of the Year Taran Armstrong has been solid each and every night. Armstrong is averaging 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Utah transfer Riley Battin has been solid as well averaging 9.8 points and 7.5 rebounds.
And on Monday, the Lancers get another shot at a Power 6 win when they face the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. It is a battle between a pair of 3-1 teams. Minnesota’s lone loss came against DePaul. And outside of that one game, the Golden Gophers haven’t played another opponent as good as the Lancers.
It should be a fun one in Southern California to end a busy Monday night of WAC Hoops.