It’s go time for Grand Canyon. After starting off the season with a record of 10-5 in non conference action, the Antelopes begin WAC play on Saturday night in Seattle. “We’re excited. This has been what we have been working for since the beginning of the summer. Seattle is a really good team, really good at home with a 10-1 record. They shoot the ball really well. They can really score. We’re going to have to do a good job of keeping them off the free throw line, be strong defensively, and then find a way to make shots.” Grand Canyon head coach Dan Majerle said.
Make that✌️#WACtopPlay (s) in a row for @GCU_Lopes Air Frayer and 3⃣ already this season! Check out this week’s best plays! 🔽 pic.twitter.com/srYMgHe5jG
— WAC (@WACsports) January 3, 2018
Grand Canyon was picked by WAC coaches and media to win the conference before the season started followed by defending WAC champion New Mexico State. The Aggies beat Illinois 74-69 in Chicago on December 16th, a team the Antelopes fell to 62-58 on December 30th in Champaign. New Mexico State also knocked off previously unbeaten and 6th ranked Miami 63-54 in the Hawaiian Diamond Head Classic last month.
The first of two regular season meetings between the conference favorites will take place on Thursday, January 11th at 7:00, when GCU hosts New Mexico State. That game will be televised on Yurview. Other teams looking to make their mark in the WAC are Cal State Bakersfield, an NIT Final Four team last year, Utah Valley with five returning starters, and Seattle.
“The WAC is going to be really good. Seattle is very improved. New Mexico State, we’ve all seen what they have done in non conference play. Utah Valley returned everybody from last year with some guys who transferred in. Bakersfield, although they lost a few guys, they will always be good. No matter where you go in the WAC, especially on the road, it’s going to be tough. It should be interesting.” Majerle said.
One dunk. 2.3 million views and counting.
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— GCU Lopes (@GCU_Lopes) January 4, 2018
Grand Canyon has finished 2nd in the WAC during the regular season the last 3 years, and they know a strong run through the conference will enhance their seeding for the conference tournament, which they will be eligible to play in for the first time. “It’s very important because we want to have a great seed, and we want to have confidence going into the WAC tournament. They picked us to be number one, there’s a reason. We’ve got to have that kind of swagger. We obviously want to win the WAC, that’s always been a goal of ours, but to get that number one seed would be huge. Every game is urgent when you get to conference play. We can’t give away any more games. We’ve got to play hard. We’ve got to get better and we’ve got to find a way to win road games.”
Coach Majerle hopes GCU’s non conference schedule and lessons that they have learned have helped prepare them for WAC play. “I’m disappointed. I thought we beat the teams we should have beat, but we let some get away. Boise State, let that one get away on the road against a really good team. I thought we played well enough to win at Illinois, and then St. John’s and San Diego, we just didn’t shoot very well. I felt like we left some games out there, but overall we played really hard. We have got to find a way to win close games.”
The players know the road to March Madness starts now. “Every single night out you’ve got to come ready to play. Everybody wants to win the conference and win the championship, so you can’t let anything slip up because that can be the difference.” senior guard Casey Benson said. Fellow senior guard Josh Braun adds, “We’ve got to be ready for everybody. Anyone can win on any given night, so it’s important that we prepare and are ready for every team. We’re excited. It’s the first year that were eligible.The mindset is to win the WAC, to get out there and compete, and we think we can do it.”