Chicago State at Utah Valley, 9:00 PM Eastern, UVU-TV
If someone had said a month ago that first place in the WAC would be on the line in Orem, Utah on January 25, they would have been laughed at. However, here we are approaching the end of January and the Utah Valley Wolverines (5-0, 11-7) are in first place while the Chicago State Cougars (4-1, 9-10) are in second — both ahead of preseason favorite New Mexico State. In fact, yours truly had predicted that New Mexico State would run the table in the WAC — and they instead have already lost to both Chicago State and UMKC…with two games against Utah Valley still to go.
Chicago State is a program on the rise after years being amongst the bottom feeders in Division I. CSU was pretty much kicked out of the Summit League, spent several years as an independent, and found a home..of sorts…in the Great West Conference. Even their time in the Great West was rough, including a year spent on the APR ban list. They finished the regular season in 2012-13 at 9-21, but promptly won both games they played in the Great West tournament to capture the GWC’s last ever basketball championship and earn their first ever postseason bid, an automatic bid into the CIT. They have already matched last year’s 9 regular season wins…and a shot at a winning record this season does not seem out of reach. It would be only their second winning season in the past dozen.
Utah Valley had won five straight games heading into tonight’s contest and has been establishing themselves as a legitimate contender in the WAC, especially if New Mexico State cannot bounce back from their recent struggles. Tonight’s game will be the 14th all time meeting between these former Great West “rivals”, with UVU holding a 9-3 series lead. A win by UVU will give them a two game lead in conference play as the league season nears its mid-point.