The Wolverine’s NCAA tournament hopes ended in the WAC semi-final against Grand Canyon University last season. As time ticked down in Las Vegas, UVU left the court in disappointment after failing to make it to the conference championship game.

UVU was a force to be reckoned with in the 2017-2018 season. Going 16-1 on their home court and finishing second in the conference through the regular season, the Wolverines were a dominant presence within the conference. UVU’s game against New Mexico State highlighted how dangerous the team was, as they shot 58% from the court and beat the eventual conference champion 86-79 on Feb. 15.

Despite somewhat of a lackluster finish, UVU will head into the new season with high hopes. The men’s basketball team made moves to take things to the next level over the off-season. Signing head coach Mark Pope to six more years and picking up multiple transfers have added confidence and depth to the Wolverine squad.

The Wolverines will start their new season on a much less intense level. Memorably, UVU began last season playing both Kentucky and Duke in the span of 24 hours. The team’s opening game will be played against Westminster College on Nov. 6 in Orem.

However, things will immediately ramp up on Nov. 9 as UVU will play BYU at the Marriott Center. Beating BYU on their home court will be no easy task, but it has been done before. The Cougar’s most likely have not forgotten UVU’s 114-101 beatdown of 2016. Of course, BYU did respond with a 85-58 victory the following year.

UVU will continue to play tough non-conference opponents for the remainder of pre-conference play. The Wolverines will matchup against Utah State University, Saint Mary’s University and Arizona University — all road games. UVU has shown, much like they did last year, that they will not be backing down from scheduling top-notch competition.

UVU’s major conference matchups tend to be against New Mexico State University and Grand Canyon University. With NMSU and GCU finishing first and second in the conference respectively, the Wolverines will be looking to find a way to finally find a place in the conference championship.

Conner Toolson returns for his final year as a Wolverine this season. Last season, he was the overall leader in steals in the conference — as well the eighth leading scorer. Helping Toolson in the backcourt will be Oklahoma State University transfer Brandon Averette. Averette lead the Cowboys in total assists and ranked 14th in the Big 12 conference.

UVU’s off-season moves give the impression that the team has gotten stronger and deeper going into 2018. The Wolverines winning the WAC is still in question, but there is no doubt that they will be viewed as conference contenders. An NCAA tournament berth would be an historic moment for UVU, but there will be a very tough road getting there.

 

Photo credit: UVU Athletics

Andrew Creer
Sports Editor