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
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
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.