After a non-conference schedule spent barnstorming the country, the Great West schools toil in obscurity during their conference season. For a while there was a nice weekly update from Storming the Floor about the conference, but currently it’s tough to find any information about what’s going on. The winner of the conference tournament (which will be held in Chicago this season) gets an automatic bid to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Since I’ll be tracking all the bids to both the CBI and CIT this Selection Sunday it’s time to take a refresher course on the six-team conference.
Where we stand right now:
1. Utah Valley — 7-0
2. Texas-Pan American — 5-2
3. NJIT — 4-5
4. North Dakota — 3-4
5. Houston Baptist — 2-5
6. Chicago State — 2-7
If you’re interested about conference only statistics the Wolverines are a really safe bet to take home the title. First of all, they’ll get a bye to the semifinals. Secondly they’re No. 1 in the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Utah Valley has won a school record 11 games in a row, including two games against non-Division I opponents. Of course, not every win has been easy. UVU needed double-overtime to defeat NJIT, 99-97 in 2OT in the GWC game of the season thus far. Also, Chicago State put up a fight last time out, so if the Cougars were able to survive the first round of the conference tournament, you never know.
The tournament runs March 8-10. Who are some key players to watch out for?
- Isiah Williams (Utah Valley) — 18.1 PPG
- Isaiah Wilkerson (NJIT) — 17.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG
- Ardarius Simmons (CSU) — 16.0 PPG, 4.3 APG
- Jeremy Robinson (CSU) — 15.0 PPG, 9.1 RPG
- Geddes Robinson (UVU) — 11.1 RPG (only guy average 10+ rebounds in conference play)
Simmons is a great story. He played in 30 games, but started just eight during his junior season at CSU. Now he’s playing 39.1 minutes per game in conference play and is the driving force behind an aggressive defense that leads the GWC in steal percentage. Williams is UVU’s first ever All-American, he received Honorable Mention honors after last season. He’s earning that spot again.
What happens next? Well there will be a conference tournament and then the GWC is going to be on some shaky ground. North Dakota and Houston Baptist aren’t the premiere programs in the league, but they’ll both be leaving at the end of the season. Can the other four schools find homes in other conferences? It seems like NJIT would be a decent fit with Stony Brook in America East, but I can’t find anything that suggests that could happen. The same is true for Utah Valley and the WAC. Then where would UTPA and Chicago State go? (No idea.) It seems like even post conference tournament the GWC is one to watch as the off season unfolds off the court in college basketball.