Utah Valley guard Trey Woodbury is back for another season and a WAC Player of the Year candidate. Courtesy UVU Athletics.

Schedules, Big Men, and More in Sunday WAC Hoops Mailbag

As we try to provide more content that fans want to see, a weekly WAC Hoops mailbag seems to draw a lot of attention. Season previews have driven a lot of the attention the past four weeks. And we still have nine weeks or team previews to go.

With that said, fans provided some questions regarding schedules. There were questions about big men around the WAC. And the usual question of who are some sleepers in the WAC. So let’s get to the weekly mailbag.

Schedules Coming Out Soon for Entire Season? Have Teams Already Finalized Their Schedules?

Associate commissioner Drew Speraw told me the conference schedule was supposed to be out either end of July or sometime in early August. So, that should be coming out soon. We have already seen the matchups for the conference season. So there is at least that.

As far as more teams releasing their 2022-23 schedules, I would bet we see more as we get further into August. Some teams that can’t afford to buy may home games are struggling to put together schedules. New Mexico State head coach Greg Heiar mentioned the Aggies are still looking for a few home games. And a few weeks ago, another coach in the WAC said they were looking for upwards of seven more games. Stephen F. Austin is in a similar boat where they are struggling to games. Last report was the Lumberjacks can’t find a Power 6 school to play them.

So, I can’t officially answer this question with more details than that. But, I would expect teams to release their non-conference schedules as we get closer to September.

Where Does the WAC Rank Among Other Mid-Major Conferences?

At the end of the 2021-22 season, the WAC was 15th in KenPom rankings. That number is up from 23 in 2020-21. And up from 24 in 2019-20. So, as you can see, the addition of the Texas schools helped the WAC make a big leap. If the WAC is looking to move up in the conference rankings, it is all about the non-conference slate. Plain and simple. WAC schools have to win games they should and then win more games that they shouldn’t. In 2021-22, the WAC had just two wins over Power 6 opponents. And just one win over a team that was ranked in the top-25 at the time.

That has to change for the WAC to move up. And, as we have seen thus far, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for signature wins in the non-conference slate.

If I am being honest, too, Lamar and Incarnate Word going back to the Southland Conference was a win-win for the WAC. Lamar had a season-ending KenPom of 350 and Incarnate Word had a season-ending KenPom of 353. Add in Chicago State’s 340 KenPom ranking. And you lost your three worst schools in terms of ranking. UTRGV was the only sub-300 school in the WAC at 301.

It will be interesting to see where KenPom has the WAC when his first 2022-23 season rankings come out.

Who Are Your Preseason Top-5 WAC Big Men?

This is a pretty loaded question for this mailbag. Outside of Fardaws Aimaq, the WAC over the past two seasons has been a guard-heavy league. And in 2022-23, it is going to be a guard-heavy league once again. For this sake of this mailbag question, we will stay with players at 6-10 and above. I mixed in Yvan Ouedraogo at 6-9 because he is more of a center than most 6-9 guys in the WAC.

1 – Yvan Ouedraogo and Aidan Igiehon – GCU

I put these two together because as they go, so goes GCU. The physicality and strength of Ouedraogo at 6-9 and Igiehon at 6-10 will play a huge role in GCU’s success. Both compete in International competitions this offseason. And if their offensive game has improved even a little bit, GCU will be a tough out.

2 – Timothy Ighoefe – California Baptist

Rebounding and rim protection. Those are two things CBU lacked in 2021-22. Ighoefe is a 7-foot center who has played in the Big East and done both for the Georgetown Hoyas. The last Power 6 big man to transfer to CBU had a pretty stellar year for the Lancers.

3 – Jason Spurgin – Southern Utah

The 6-11 Australian started in all 35 games for the T-birds in 2021-22. Spurgin averaged 8.2 points and 5.2 rebounds. In 2022-23, Spurgin will be another key piece of Southern Utah’s success. And it is his ability to put the ball in the hole. Spurgin shot 64.5 percent from the field in 2021-22.

4 – Aziz Bandaogo – Utah Valley

Mark Madsen needed to find a replacement for Fardaws Aimaq. So he went with a 7-foot transfer from Akron. Now, Bandaogo won’t necessarily be the offensive threat Aimaq was. And he won’t necessarily have to be, either. Utah Valley is loaded with guards that can score. Trey Woodbury is back. Justin Harmon is back. As are Blaze Nield, Le’Tre Darthard and Jaden McClanahan among others. But, Utah Valley needs a rim protector. And Bandaogo fits the bill. Two seasons ago, Emmanuel Olojakpoke set the single-season record for blocks at UVU. Coaches in Orem believe Bandaogo can be even better.

5 – Dima Zdor – UTRGV

Could this be the year we get a breakout from the former Weber State and GCU center? Yes, Zdor left GCU following the 2021-22 season after playing in 28 games for the Lopes. But, perhaps the new scenery will have an impact. At 6-10, Zdor has the length and size to be a rim protector. It is something UTRGV hasn’t had as big man Jeff Otchere dealt with injuries nearly his entire time in Edinburg.

What Do You Really Think About the Conference Seeding for WAC Vegas?

Initially, I was skeptical. The teams that can afford to buy home games will. And teams that don’t have a lot of money will be stuck playing a ton of road games with very few quality home games. And if you’re like a Stephen F. Austin and New Mexico State where nobody wants to play with you, how will the system take into account that issue? There were a lot of questions.

So, the debate is still out about it. In theory, I think it is great. It challenges teams to put together better non-conference schedules. And as we have seen so far, the WAC has a lot of opportunities for quality wins. Big Ten opponents. ACC opponents. SEC opponents. Big 12 opponents. Pac-12 opponents. Mountain West, West Coach Conference, Conference USA, Missouri Valley and more.

I am interested to see how it plays out considering the seeding will be a combination between NET and KenPom rankings. The WAC said that they are working to have a very transparent system that would show updated seeding list as well as the value of each game played so everyone can see how the numbers were put together.

The jury is still out. Ask me in late March in another mailbag when seeding is set for the WAC Tournament.

Which Teams are Sleepers in the Conference?

Southern Utah and Utah Valley.

The T-Birds return two 1,000-point scorers. One of those is Player of the Year candidate Tevian Jones. And Simon gets two other starters back in Maizen Fausett and Jason Spurgin.

For Utah Valley, they return perhaps the most of any roster. Yes, Fardaws Aimaq isn’t returning. But Trey Woodbury, Justin Harmon, Le’Tre Darthard, Jaden McClanahan, Tim Caesar, Tim Fuller and Blaze Nield are.

Who are My Favorites for WAC Player of the Year?

I won’t go into depth with each one for this mailbag. But here is the list in no specific order.

Jovan Blacksher Jr. – GCU

Trey Woodbury – Utah Valley

Tevian Jones – Southern Utah

Xavier Pinson – New Mexico State

Taran Armstrong – California Baptist

Riley Grigsby, Cameron Tyson – Seattle U

Airion Simmons – Abilene Christian

Roti Ware – Stephen F. Austin

Be sure you send over your questions for our weekly mailbag that will come out every Sunday evening. And remember to subscribe to our YouTube page so you never miss an episode of the Straight Outta WAC podcast.


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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