Technically, Climate Pledge Arena is not the true home of the Seattle U Redhawks. It is a home away from home, if you will. And it is a place where the Redhawks suffered a bad home loss.
Against a KenPom sub-200 team, one would think that the Redhawks would either cruise, or Cam Tyson would be automatic in knocking down a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Well, neither happened on Wednesday night in the Pacific Northwest.
The Redhawks trailed the entire game against Big Sky foe Northern Arizona. And Cam Tyson’s 3-point attempt as time expired hit back iron.
The 13.5-point favorites suffered their first loss, 62-60, to Northern Arizona at Climate Pledge Arena.
For the second straight night, a WAC team suffered a bad home loss.
NAU had a KenPom ranking of 257 coming into Wednesday night. Seattle U was sitting at 132 after a pair of wins to open the 2023-24 season.
But, the Lumberjacks never trailed and the game was tied just twice in 40 minutes. Even those ties didn’t last long. Viktor Rajković hit a pair of free throws with 3:37 to play to tie things up at 58.
11 seconds later, Rockwell Reynolds gave NAU the lead right back with a two-handed dunk.
Both teams went ice cold over the next three minutes before Alex Schumacher tied the game up on a layup with 14 seconds to play.
However, three seconds later, Oakland Fort hit what turned out to be the game-winning jumper.
It was the second straight night a WAC team was a double digit favorite. And it was the second straight night a WAC team faced a sub-200 KenPom team at home.
Both of those double digit favorites lost in similar fashion. Neither Abilene Christian or Seattle U led much or at all in either game. Both teams couldn’t get the stops when they needed them or hit the shot at crucial points to either tie or take the lead.
So, what is going on in the WAC? Since SFA throttled Northwestern State on Monday night in Natchitoches, it has been a struggle around the WAC.
Tuesday night was woeful in that WAC teams were 0-4. Sure, one of the games was against a Power Conference team. Another game was against a good mid-major in Utah State. And a third game was at a KenPom top-100 team. So, it makes sense in that regard.
However, when was the last time we saw Tarleton get blown out by 30 and 23 points, respectively, in non-conference play in the same season? That hasn’t happened since the Texans became a Division I program.
Last Friday, UTRGV got beat by 21 at South Dakota of the Summit League. Wednesday night, Utah Valley had no answer on offense in a double digit loss at Charlotte.
And then you have the two bad home losses by Abilene Christian and Seattle U.
It is hard to explain or fathom. The WAC now sits at 14 in the recent KenPom conference rankings. That is now behind the Missouri Valley Conference, Ivy League and Conference USA.
All in all, the WAC has really only had one signature win thus far…and that comes from one of the teams, Abilene Christian, who just had a really bad home loss on Tuesday.
That’s why it seems so crazy. One night, you’re going into Gallagher-Iba Arena and knocking off a Big 12 opponent. A week later, you’re losing at home to a sub-300 KenPom team with a depleted roster.
Right now, it is looking more and more like GCU is the cream of the crop on men’s basketball in the WAC. Two blowout wins. One of which was against a similar opponent that Seattle U had on Wednesday night against Northern Arizona.
SFA is close. It is just a matter of finding consistency. The Jacks are deep and defend like crazy. CBU is also undefeated with a pair of wins, one of which was a non-Division I opponent. We will get to know more about the Lancers over the weekend with a trio of home games.
So, what to make of all of this? Not much. Is it hard to brush the struggles under the rug? Absolutely. Is it too early to have an overreaction to a bad loss? Perhaps.
But, and SFA can attest to this, those bad losses early in the season can come back to bite you when it comes to the WAC Tournament.
You could also ask Utah Valley about that. Remember that loss to Morgan State after the overtime loss at Wake Forest? Yeah, that loss cost Utah Valley the top seed at the WAC Tournament.
Tuesday and Wednesday were a huge struggle around the WAC. There is no denying that.
However, there have been some bright spots. The WAC is 3-1 against Conference USA in the WAC/Conference USA Scheduling Initiative. All three wins have come on the road including Utah Tech’s overtime win on Aric Demings’ game-winner at Jacksonville State.
The WAC has a win over a Power Conference team thanks to Abilene Christian. And GCU is living up to the hype…so far. The Lopes have a big opportunity this week when they take on San Francisco on Friday in the Arizona Tip-Off.
It’s way too early to overreact. Heck, we are barely through the first week of the 2023-24 season. But, one thing that needs to be said…again, and again, and again: DON’T LOSE HOME GAMES!