Wolverine Weekly: Men’s hoops off to a 2-0 start in WAC play

Mark Madsen and the men's basketball team celebrate after improving to 2-0 in the Western Athletic Conference on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. Photo courtesy of UVU Athletics.

Both men’s and women’s basketball are in full swing after starting Western Athletic Conference play last weekend and the Utah Valley sports landscape is only going to get busier with spring rapidly approaching. The wrestling team has been in action already this season and men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball set to kick off their exhibition schedules in the coming weeks. With all of the fall sports having been postponed to this spring, nearly every team at Utah Valley will be competing at some point over the next few months and we will have it all broken down here at The Review.

Too soon to tell?

Men’s basketball had an up-and-down season last year — the team shone at times but was inconsistent overall and finished the season with a 5-10 record in conference play. The Wolverines have shown similar flashes of inconsistency so far this season, likely not helped by the plethora of new faces on the team this year. Still, they have looked absolutely dominant at times and the team seems to be coming together and moving in the right direction.

With a two-game sweep of California Baptist last weekend, UVU sits in first place in the WAC and showed an ability to get over the hump that has been absent for much of this season. In the first game, UVU jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, beating the Lancers 77-50. The second game, though — an 81-77 victory — is arguably the more impressive win, simply because of the perseverance and grit on display down the stretch. Winning close games has proven difficult for the Wolverines over the last 18 months and hopefully this win is a harbinger of things to come for the team in conference play.

Of course, both of those games took place at home, so UVU didn’t have to deal with the impact of travel and had the benefit of playing in their home gym. As critical as home court advantage can be, an analysis done by Ken Pomeroy of The Athletic found that the advantage has been significantly muted this season, likely due to smaller crowds allowed into arenas — if crowds are allowed in at all. During a normal college basketball season (if any of you can still recall a time when we would pack ourselves into crowded arenas and high-five strangers), Pomeroy calculated the home-court advantage to be worth 3.58 points in favor of the home team, based on data from 2015-2020. This year, that number is down to 2.25, a 37% decrease from the previous five seasons.

Keep in mind that this is based on a very small sampling of data, but if that data continues to hold, it will be even more critical for UVU to be able to squeak out wins at home.

Perhaps the bigger factor in play this year is the toll that games on back-to-back nights will take on teams. In order to reduce travel and (hopefully) the spread of COVID-19, the WAC decided to do away with the home-and-home format for conference games, and instead, UVU will play each WAC opponent in one location, on back-to-back nights.

“It’s all about load management,” head coach Mark Madsen said. “That aspect is hard because as a program you have to have contributions from everyone, which we had. It’s being able to shuffle the right players in and out, our players did a great job with that.”

Fatigue certainly played (and will continue to play) a role for the Wolverines, but the back-to-backs might also magnify something already present in most conference games — animosity. Both games against CBU had their fair share of physicality, including a short scuffle in the earlier contest. It could mean nothing for the remainder of the season but it’s easy to see how facing the same team on consecutive nights could cause more tempers to flare.

The Wolverines flipped the script on a CBU team that beat them twice last season and they will have the chance to do the same thing against Seattle U on Friday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 16. The Redhawks beat UVU by a score of 83-50 in their first meeting last year, then followed that up with an 87-85 victory a month later. Even a split in this series in Seattle would further signal the improvements made by this year’s team and could put the Wolverines on the path of being conference contenders.

Player of the Week – Demetrius Romero, Wrestling

The UVU wrestling team hosted their first pair of duals on Friday, Jan. 8 in the Lockhart Arena. Although they fell 19-16 as a team against No. 25 Northern Colorado in the later match that afternoon, senior Demetrius Romero had a key victory against California Baptist earlier that day as the Wolverines cruised to a 25-16 victory. Romero ranks No. 5 in the country and won a 17-2 technical fall victory against CBU. He later achieved a 13-2 major decision against UNC’s Damen Pape to improve to 5-0 so far this season.

In Their Own Words

“I was here last year, we had a lot of ups and downs. Coach [Madsen] went and recruited a bunch of good guys. The chemistry and the friendship we all have, having that bond with each other clearly carries out on the court. I feel like we’re the best team in the WAC.”

Senior guard Jamison Overton, Men’s Basketball

Senior guard Jamison Overton was not lacking in confidence following the team’s second victory over CBU. One of the few remaining holdovers from last year, Overton has been just as confident on the court, leading the Wolverines with 18.5 points per game and shooting 56% from the field. If winning really does beget winning, it’s this type of attitude that will help the Wolverines stay on the straight and narrow this year.

Up Next

Both men’s and women’s basketball are in action on Friday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 16 against Seattle U before each having a week off before hitting the hardwood again.

UVU wrestling will host No. 11 Arizona State and Wyoming on Saturday, Jan. 23 in the UCCU Center. Both contests will air live on the WAC Digital Network.

That same day, the cross country team travels to Hurricane, Utah to participate in the Dixie State Invitational.

Extra Points

UVU Hall of Famer Ronnie Price was announced as the Director of Player Development for the men’s basketball team. Price played for the Wolverines from 2002–2005 before going on to play in the NBA for 12 seasons — including four with the Utah Jazz.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, remember that we still have a long way to go as a nation to make it so that every citizen is granted equal opportunities to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As Rev. King said, “Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.”

Although it may be uncomfortable, take time this month to understand how even those with the best intentions often participate in and benefit from systemic racism. This is a difficult moment for everyone, so there’s no better time to work toward ending racism and white supremacy — making our communities and nation better for all of us. After all, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.