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WAC Wednesday: Power rankings, burning questions and cookies

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After a one week hiatus, we’re back.

NCAA Basketball: Cal. State - Bakersfield at Brigham Young
Damiyne Durham and the Roadrunners dropped a disappointing game at UC Santa Barbara.
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The holidays are over, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any more presents.

How about some lists? Who doesn’t love lists?

In addition to some quick power rankings, this edition of WAC Wednesday has some other thoughts categorized in numerical order. But first, 12-2 New Mexico State retains the top spot and gets its third Twitter embed. The Aggies are monopolizing this fine privilege.

WAC Power Rankings through 12/28

Team Record Previous Thought
Team Record Previous Thought
New Mexico State 12-2 1 Sophomore Eli Chuha has emerged as one of the nation's best offensive rebounders.
Grand Canyon 8-6 3 All that seprates the Lopes from a six-game win streak is a competitive loss at Arizona.
CS Bakersfield 8-6 2 It was on the road, but CSB seems above losing to UC Santa Barbara.
Utah Valley 6-6 4 Wolverines can salvage a non-con that's gone off the rails on a road swing to UC Riverside and UC Davis.
Seattle 7-6 6 With a win against UC Davis, the Redhawks will have posted a 6-2 homestand.
UMKC 7-7 5 The 6-2 start seems a lifetime ago - Roos haven't beaten a Div. I team since Nov. 30.
UTRGV 6-9 7 Vaqueros closed out their non-con with five Div. I wins; not bad work in Lew Hill's first year.
Chicago State 4-10 8 Eastward swing to Valpo and CMU won't be pretty, but the SEMO win was big.

Three questions begging for answers

1. Seriously, a two-bid WAC? NMSU is indeed 12-2, and has the most “pedigree” of any program in the league. Let’s assume the Aggies repeat what they did last year and go 13-1 in WAC play while losing the tournament final. That would put them at 25-4, and mid-March WAC Wednesday would be singing their praises. Sadly, that’s pie-in-the-sky thinking. In some years, wins over Arizona State, New Mexico, Long Beach and UC Irvine might be enough to at least start a realistic conversation. But not this year, as there simply isn’t enough quality on the schedule.

2. Who’s the dark horse? One of the many fun things about our beloved conference is that most of the teams are capable of a three-game winning streak in Las Vegas. But who’s the most likely dark horse this year (e.g., not NMSU/CSB/UVU/GCU)? How about Seattle, which hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1969.

The Redhawks are a solid defensive team that’s a good mix of young and old. Cameron Dollar has a trio of seniors he can rely on (Brendan Westendorf, William Powell, Emmanuel Chibuogwu), as well as younger players in important roles who should continue to develop (Morgan Means, Zachary Moore). They key might be the three, where the Redhawks have been dreadful. They were better against a Washington team daring them to shoot (10-of-27), and this kept them in the game for the first 10 minutes.

3. What’s the one conference game to circle? Clearly, this is a dumb question. There are too many contenders: the track meet that’ll be both UVU-UTRV games, Aaron Menzies doing battle with an emerging NMSU front court, Dewayne Russell and LaVell Boyd going shot-for-shot in a diminutive slugfest, just to name a few. But this answer is a cop-out. Cal State Bakersfield’s visit to Las Cruces on Jan. 14 gets the nod, as the Roadrunners try and make a statement that last year was no fluke, and that they’ll yet again challenge NMSU’s league supremacy. This game looks more important now to CSB after it dropped a frantic game to a UC Santa Barbara team that hadn’t beaten a Div. I opponent.

What kind of cookies did these coaches leave for Santa?

This really is the all important question.

1. Paul Weir: No cookie recipes call for green chiles (as far as I know), so they had to be maple-flavored, right?

2. Kareem Richardson: Not cookies, but something still in the sweets department: a delicious mini-pumpkin pie from Kansas City’s famous Gates BBQ.

3. Cameron Dollar: Beside that stereotypical cup of coffee? Probably something form Seattle’s first cookie-only bakery, Hello Robin.

4. Tracy Dildy: University Village is Southside-ish and worth the drive for County BBQ’s cookie dough sold by the spoon.

POY contenders

1. Dewayne Russell: The senior guard can be inefficient at times, but that doesn’t bother Dan Majerle. The high-volume shooter is a dynamic scorer (25.2 PPG), and had his most efficient performance to date the last time out against UAPB, scoring 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting.

2. LaVell Boyd: The reigning WAC Player of the Week has the same green light as Russell. After he was understandably eaten up by West Virginia, he responded by committing no turnovers in 33 minutes in a loss to UT Martin.

3. Damiyne Durham: The sophomore has emerged as one of the top offensive threats in the league (17.8 PPG), in large part because he’s been much better finishing around the rim.

4. Trayvon Palmer: The Chicago State forward is nearly averaging a double-double (14.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG), which is all the more impressive when you consider he’s 6’4’’ and essentially the sole presence on the Cougars’ frontline. Palmer had 18 points and 15 rebounds in CSU’s win over SEMO last week, which ended a five game losing streak.

5. Group of Aggies: Ian Baker has been predictably reliable, Eli Chuha is on the rise and Braxton Huggins has been the hero lately. NMSU could win the league, do any of these players emerge from the pack?