Great West Conference Part 1

Can Houston Baptist and Texas-Pan American keep it up in the Great West?

Handicapping a league race in college hoops isn't the simplest endeavor,

but it's not exactly rocket science, either. Any given league has a core

group of three or four solid contenders from which the best of breed can

usually be chosen.

But in the case of the Great West Conference, those rules don't really

apply this season. When it's year one for a league, the contenders and

pretenders are a little harder to discern.

While South Dakota and Utah Valley have shown flashes of great play

entering the conference season, neither of those teams sits atop the early

Great West standings.

Nope, the early leaders out of the gate are Houston Baptist and Texas

Pan-American, both of which are sitting on 2-0 league marks.

While life in non-conference play this season has been very unkind at

times for the Huskies and Broncs (HBU dropped a 93-52 decision to Memphis

while UTPA absorbed a 100-44 beating at the hands of Missouri), they've

still emerged as the last two Great West squads with unblemished marks in

league play.

In one of the quirkiest starts to a conference schedule this season, HBU

and UTPA have gotten a leg up on their Great West competitors despite

sporting a combined overall record of 6-33.

Those numbers aren't pretty, but hey, that's all water under the bridge

now. Their perfect starts in Great West play represent new leases on

life. The big question is this...can these teams sustain it?

For Houston Baptist, it might be a matter of whether or not forward Mario

Flaherty can keep up his productivity against Great West foes. His

numbers in HBU's two league wins: 24.5 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 bpg and 60%

shooting from the field.

In the case of UTPA, junior college transfer Matt Mierzyckt needs to keep

up the steady improvement he's shown since making his debut back on

December 7. He's come off the bench to average 14.5 in the Broncs' two

conference wins.

In terms of overall team play, both squads need to get tougher on the

defensive end to remain factors in the Great West race. Out of 347

Division I teams, stat guru Ken Pomeroy currently has HBU ranked 293rd and

UTPA 302nd in defensive efficiency.

Conference road games are never easy, and both teams are back loaded with

those. The Huskies and Broncs both finish their regular season slates

playing six of their final eight Great West contests in opposing gyms.