Winning on the road in college basketball is no easy task. Just ask Lamar or even Tarleton State. Okay, so those aren’t necessarily good examples due to the strength of their non-conference schedules. But, winning on the road is not easy, no matter who the opponent is. That’s why when it comes to these weekly power rankings, road wins carry a lot of weight. New Mexico State had a nice week away from Las Cruces. Stephen F. Austin got a big win away from Nacogdoches. So that’s why the top two are pretty cut and dry. The rest of the field is a mixture of who wants it more, in all reality.
Grand Canyon, California Baptist, Utah Valley and Seattle all struggled away from home this week. And the road struggles continued for Lamar. So, with a little less than two weeks to go from conference play beginning, let’s get to what may be our last power rankings article before Christmas.
1. New Mexico State
Like I said above, road wins are a big piece of these rankings. And New Mexico State won three road games this week. Two of those wins came against rivals in UTEP and New Mexico. And on Saturday on the road in Los Angeles, the Aggies won in ugly fashion at Loyola Marymount. At 8-2, and with another difficult road game coming up on Wednesday at Washington State, there is an opportunity to pick up another quality win. There is potential for the Aggies to begin WAC play at 11-2 as New Mexico State hosts two non-DI opponents before opening WAC play at Seattle on Dec. 30.
2. Stephen F. Austin
The loss of Roti Ware is going to hurt. There is no two ways around that fact. But, the Lumberjacks showed grit and heart in a big win over Liberty at Dickie’s Arena on Saturday. Gavin Kensmil continues to put up big numbers. The return of Nigel Hawkins to the starting lineup is a good sign for Kyle Keller. And it seems that David Katchelries and others are starting to play up to level everyone believed this team could play at. SFA has three non-conference games left, one of which is a road trip to Lawrence to take on Kansas on Saturday. Before that road trip, the Jacks have to take care of business at home against Louisiana-Monroe on Wednesday.
3. Abilene Christian
Don’t look now but the Wildcats are now 6-2 with back-to-back dominating wins over Division I opponents. There was a break in the schedule due to COVID issues. And there was little regard to the wins over non-DI opponents following the break. But, the last two games against Incarnate Word and Drexel have shown this ACU team is going to create fits when conference play begins. ACU hosts former WAC school CSU Bakersfield on Wednesday before hosting a non-DI opponent on Sunday. The Wildcats finish the non-conference slate hosting Longwood on Dec. 22 before beginning WAC play at Utah Valley on Dec. 30.
4. California Baptist
Picking 4-8 is difficult because nobody is really separating themselves. CBU is at four because they have a win over a Division I opponent this week. Here is the problem with the Lancers. They haven’t really played anyone this season. And against the two highest ranked KenPom ranked teams they played in Texas and UC Riverside, the results weren’t good. Highly-touted freshman guard Taran Armstrong struggled in both games. The Lancers struggled to find any offensive rhythm and it makes the eight wins look not so great. CBU goes to Tucson on Saturday to take on undefeated Arizona. The Lancers finish non-conference play by hosting Southeast Missouri State and non-DI foe La Verne.
5. Grand Canyon
Jovan Blacksher Jr. and Holland Woods are really good. There is no doubt of that. And Gabe McGlothan has superstar potential. But the offensive inconsistencies of the role players is keeping this GCU team from being great. Taeshon Chery, Sean Miller-Moore and others have to step up to take pressure off Woods and Blacksher Jr. That was evident in the loss at Arizona State this week. And it was apparent in the home loss to Wyoming two weeks ago. GCU has two tests over the next 10 days. The Lopes play San Francisco at the Footprint Center as part of the Jerry Colangelo Classic. San Francisco should be undefeated coming into Saturday’s contest. And three days later, GCU takes a road trip to Reno in a true road game at Nevada.
The nonconference home finale is on Saturday.
"We've got to get better at some things that we saw out there (at ASU)."https://t.co/YvNqN0RiQN
— GCU Men’s Basketball (@GCU_MBB) December 10, 2021
A 20-point win over a Big West foe is why Seattle comes in ahead of Utah Valley. Darrion Trammell looked like the Preseason Player of the Year on Sunday night against UC San Diego. Riley Grigsby continues to play at a high level. Cameron Tyson has showed glimpses. When Seattle shoots it well, it can play with anyone. Cliché? Perhaps. But it is especially true for a team that lacks a dominant big man. The Redhawks go across town in a true road game at Washington before hosting non-DI foe Northwest on Dec. 22 to finish up non-conference play.
7. Utah Valley
The BYU win seems so far away after a difficult pair of road games this week for the Wolverines. First, Utah Valley struggled offensively at Southern Utah on Wednesday. And then the Wolverines took a road trip to the high plains. And over about a four minute stretch, turned the ball over three times while Wyoming hit four 3-pointers to put the game out of reach. The biggest problem for Utah Valley is the Wolverines lost guard Justin Harmon for at least six weeks and Trey Woodbury is still not ready to suit up. Harmon is second on the team in scoring and had a career-high 24 points in the win over BYU. Woodbury was a preseason All-WAC selection after leading the Wolverines in scoring a season ago. Keep an eye on the start of WAC play for this squad as the Wolverines host Abilene Christian and Tarleton to start conference play.
8. Dixie State
Cameron Gooden had a monster night on Saturday with 22 points in a win over Denver. It is the first 20-point win over a Division I opponent for the Trailblazers. Dixie State has three non-conference games left including a return trip to Cedar City for a rematch with Southern Utah on Dec. 22. Head coach Jon Judkins is one win away from becoming the winningest head coach in the state of Utah at the collegiate level. If Dixie State shoots it like it did on Saturday, that win will come rather quickly.
9. Sam Houston
Savion Flagg continues to play well for the Bearkats. But, Sam Houston still only has one win over a Division I opponent. Sure, the schedule has been brutal but losing on a neutral floor to UTSA doesn’t help the cause. Sam Houston gets North Texas, Bradley and a non-DI opponent before opening WAC play at home against Lamar.
Four straight losses and a season sweep by rival Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Not a recipe for success. Yes, the Vaqueros have had their fair share of injuries to deal with. But, that’s no excuse. UTRGV hosts Texas Southern on Tuesday in what should be an emotional game. The last time UTRGV played Texas Southern was the last game Lew Hill ever coached. UTRGV follows that up with a road trip to UTSA before closing out non-conference play with a non-DI opponent.
This team is hard to understand. They go to Gonzaga and hang around nearly knocking off the Zags at The Kennel. But then come home, lose to Charleston Southern and kind of coast by two non-DI opponents. Perhaps we will learn more about the Texans when they go on the road at South Alabama and then host South Alabama later in the week. Tarleton finishes non-conference play hosting Air Force before opening WAC play at Dixie State on Dec. 30.
12. Chicago State
I was trying to wait to see if Chicago State would pick up its fourth win of the season. But, the Cougars have gone ice cold in the second half against Northern Illinois. It was a similar story against Illinois State on Saturday. Both were winnable games but the Cougars couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. This team is dealing with injuries right now. Bryce Johnson and Kedrick Green are both out. And Andrew Lewis has missed the past few games. Chicago State has three road games remaining after Monday in the non-conference slate. The Cougars are at IUPUI before going on the road to Drake and Iowa State to finish non-conference play.
Two wins and they were against non-DI opponents. That is the state of Lamar basketball right now. C.J. Roberts has been really good. Davion Buster has been really good. But that’s about all she wrote. If the Cardinals can get Jordyn Adams and Kasen Harrison back, it would be a major boost for Alvin Brooks and his squad. Two road trips to Texas State and A&M Corpus Christi await plus finishing non-conference play at home against Louisiana-Monroe.