1. Utah Valley (12-7, 6-0 WAC)
Last week: W vs UMKC 66-48, W vs Chicago State 62-55
Utah Valley has been taking advantage of New Mexico State's woes by continuing to stay ahead in the WAC. The Wolverines absolutely dominated the glass against the Roos by grabbing 50 total rebounds, including 15 on the offensive end. With this, the Wolverines were able to overcome an otherwise poor shooing night and went on a 22-5 run at the end that was primarily fueled by their defense.
They were able to avoid a total collapse against Chicago State, whose comeback effort was simply too little too late. These two wins by the Wolverines perfectly set the stage for what could be their most important week of the conference season. They will go on the road next week to face off against the dangerous Broncs of Texas-Pan American and then to New Mexico State, where the world will be able to see if the Wolverines truly deserve their place atop the conference.
2. New Mexico State (15-7, 4-2 WAC)
Last Week: W vs Texas-Pan American 90-78
The Aggies saved themselves from disaster when they were able to dispatch the Broncs last week, thanks to 32 points from Daniel Mullings. I'm sure the Aggies would have liked to allow less than 45.8 percent of the Broncs' shots to fall, but it didn't matter much in a game where the Aggies shot 56.9 percent themselves.
The Aggies get a tune-up against Cal State Bakersfield before they take on the first place Wolverines. Whoever wins that game might end up as next week's number one in the power rankings, depending on how other things shake out. Look for New Mexico State to come into that game with a chip on its shoulder. I doubt they'll be taking it easy on the Wolverines.
3. Grand Canyon (9-10, 4-2 WAC)
Last Week: W vs Idaho 86-72, W vs Seattle 71-63
What a great way for Grand Canyon to start its conference season as a Division I school. The Antelopes have seemingly slipped under the radar and have been feeding on the conference's bottom dwellers so far, taking out Idaho and Seattle last week who were ninth and seventh in last week's power rankings, respectively. If Jerome Garrison can put up the kind of numbers he did last week (30 vs Idaho, 24 vs Seattle), the Lopes might be able to sneak into the top of the standings while nobody is watching.
The competition for Grand Canyon gets a little bit tougher next week, with a pair of road tests against UMKC and Chicago State. Currently, there is quite a bit of separation between GCU and New Mexico State in the rankings. With two wins, the Lopes might be able to propel themselves to the 2-spot depending on how the rest of the conference's games shake out.
4. Chicago State (9-11, 4-2 WAC)
Last Week: W @ Cal State Bakersfield 71-63, L @ Utah Valley 55-62
Chicago State managed to earn a split in their road series last week, which is really the best one can hope for in the WAC. Still, a win against Utah Valley would have certainly helped Chicago State gain respect in the conference. They actually managed to improve on the defensive end, allowing 24 fewer trips to the charity stripe in their last two games compared to the two before that. Still, the Cougars could stand to improve more in that area. Clarke Rosenberg played all but two minutes in last week's games and put up 40 total points.
The Cougars only play two games total over the next two weeks, so they should have plenty of time to prepare for their contest against Grand Canyon next weekend. A win there would give the Cougars some much-needed momentum and allow them to string some wins together, something they haven't been able to do much this season.
5. UMKC (7-12, 4-3 WAC)
Last Week: L @ Utah Valley 48-66, W @ Cal State Bakersfield 70-69
UMKC played the same two road games as Chicago State, and wound up with the same split. The Cal State- Bakersfield game is the kind of game that could give the Kangaroos some confidence and momentum. They didn't lead at all in the second half until those fateful last seconds when Frank Williams Jr. buried a three-pointer.
UMKC has their yearly rivalry game this week against non-conference opponent Southeast Missouri State. After that, UMKC gets that shot at Grand Canyon. These next two weeks might be the toughest yet for the Roos, who will face New Mexico State and Chicago State on the road the following week.
6. Texas-Pan American (6-15, 2-4 WAC)
Last Week: L @ New Mexico State 78-90
The Broncs were able to hang with the NMSU for a good portion of the game, thanks in large part to their unselfish offense. But in the end, the Aggies were just too big and burly to be stopped. Texas-Pan American should not be discouraged by the loss, however, as they are clearly a better team than they were just two weeks ago.
The Broncs will get a chance to steal one from Utah Valley next week, which would really make things even crazier in the WAC. After that they'll take on Cal State Bakersfield, a team that doesn't seem as good as it was originally advertised.
7. Seattle (9-10, 1-5 WAC)
Last Week: L @ Grand Canyon 63-71
Seattle played a very strange game against Grand Canyon in which no Seattle player recorded double digit scoring outputs, while all but one starter for the Lopes did; yet the Redhawks only lost by eight. Some other teams in the conference have found success in a balanced attack, and the Redhawks could use a similar formula for success in the future if they can shoot more than just 34 percent like they did against Grand Canyon.
Seattle will get all week to prepare for their game at Idaho, and I expect Isiah Umipig to have a better performance in that game than he did against the Lopes (seven points, one assist).
8. Idaho (8-13, 2-5 WAC)
Last Week: L @ Grand Canyon 73-86
Despite a loss to Grand Canyon last week, Idaho actually moves up a spot in the power rankings. This has more to do with Cal State Bakersfield having a terrible week than anything else. Idaho was taken down by Grand Canyon pretty comfortably. I'm sure this isn't the start to the conference season Coach Don Verlin was expecting from the Vandals.
Idaho draws Seattle next Saturday in a battle for seventh place in the power rankings. That will be Idaho's last chance to make any adjustments before they take on the beasts of the conference in the weeks to follow.
9. Cal State Bakersfield (8-12, 1-5 WAC)
Last Week: L vs Chicago State 63-71, L vs UMKC 69-70
Cal State Bakersfield is going to be stumbling into New Mexico State following their two home losses last week. The UMKC loss is the kind of game that really lingers with people, and I hope the Roadrunners have the resolve to put it behind them and look forward to their next set of games. It isn't fun to be swept at home, but a road sweep or even a split next week would serve them well.