This blog is an ardent supporter of a two-bid WAC if New Mexico State somehow loses in the WAC Tournament. But New Mexico State and its “better than nine Big Ten schools in KenPom” glamour has enough attention. It’s time to talk about the Utah Valley Wolverines, who have usurped Grand Canyon as the prime NMTC representative in the WAC.
This isn’t even an arbitrary idea. The Wolverines smacked the ‘Lopes 68-56 in Orem on Jan. 27 and have seized the initiative as NMSU’s biggest rival in the conference. Sure, “rival” is a bit of an overstatement given Utah Valley’s 86-59 loss in Las Cruces, but we need to gin up a narrative somehow. Utah Valley is now in the KenPom Top 100 and firmly established at 5-1 in conference.
Of course, you can’t talk about the WAC without discussing center Akolda Manyang, the Oklahoma transfer who was dismissed in 2016 after an arrest for aggravated robbery. He’s gotten a chance to revive his career in Orem, and he’s making the most of it with 13.5 points per game and 8.5 boards despite averaging only 22.8 minutes a game.
In fact, everyone on Utah Valley has fantastic names and stats. Shooting guard Connor Toolson is shooting 40.7 percent from three with 12.1 points per game. Point guard Brandon Randolph might be the best point guard in the conference. How about Kenneth Ogbe (formerly of Utah)! Jake Toolson! Ben Nakwaasah! Joonas Tahvanainen! Utah Valley has already won the conference title for best names. We shall see what the Wolverines can do in the conference tournament.
SAVANNAH STATE ALL THE TIME
Guess which team is No. 1 in the MEAC. That’s right, it’s the Savannah State Tigers, who have two more years to make the NCAA Tournament before the end of their time in Division I. Savannah State has won seven consecutive games playing its unique brand of “seven seconds or less, plus only shoot threes” basketball. Look at these scores:
That’s some cocaine basketball right there. Savannah State is going to win the Natty. It’s obvious.
THE TROOPS ARE MARCHING AGAIN
Let’s look at the nation’s other cocaine basketball team that has never made the NCAA Tournament. The Citadel has been waiting a long time. In fact, the troops at The Citadel are one of the original “Founding Fathers” who have not made the NCAA Tournament since its inception. But as you know, long odds have never stopped the US military before. Down by 17 at home against Furman, The Citadel rallied to win in overtime behind some insane shotmaking.
This was coming on the heels of another stunning upset over Wofford. This also gives The Citadel a transitive win over North Carolina, which means the dang Bulldogs might as well be National Champions. Go figure. PUT THE CITADEL IN!
William and Mary briefly spent a few days tied for first place in the Colonial, but a disappointing home loss to Drexel on Saturday makes things less rosy. I’m not sure The Tribe have the quality to survive the conference tournament right now. They are 191st in KenPom while their rivals are all in the 115-135 range. We’ll have to wait and see. Elon has lost to Bill and Mary twice, but it has much more impressive wins at Towson and against Charleston. The Phoenix may still have the higher ceiling.
Hartford is 7-3 in conference and has reeled off three straight wins over UMass Lowell, New Hampshire and Stony Brook. But Vermont is quickly approaching “best mid-major no one ever watches” status, and it would be surprising if the Catamounts don’t end the America East season undefeated for the second year in a row.
South Dakota dropped an egg at Denver this week. The Jackrabbits are now a game behind South Dakota State, which could prove disastrous down the road. They rebounded well by handling Western Illinois and beating North Dakota State on the road. Right now, South Dakota just has to focus on getting to the Summit title game. Winning the regular season would be nice, but as last year showed, that won’t get them out of this column.
Lipscomb still looks like the most dangerous contender to Florida Gulf Coast in the ASUN, but that’s a fairly large obstacle. Army sits at 6-6 in the Patriot League but is going to need some conference tournament luck to make it in.
That’s all for now. I’m getting very hyped for the beginning of the postseason.