The WAC presents new challenges for #Texas4, longtime members

Published: Oct. 24, 2021 at 10:43 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The SFA men’s and women’s basketball teams ran the Southland Conference but doing the same in the Western Athletic Conference will be more challenging.

The men were picked third in their first WAC coaches preseason poll and second in the media poll. In the coaches poll they finished behind Grand Canyon and New Mexico State. In the media poll they finished behind NMSU. On the women’s side the team finished second to California Baptist in both polls.

The men enter their first year in the WAC with not playing a postseason game in four seasons. Last year the ‘Jacks went 16-5 while serving a one year postseason ban. For the team to return they will have to navigate a new travel schedule that will take them down to the Texas border and all the way up to Seattle.

“People talk about the play and how good these teams can be,” head coach Kyle Keller said. “What they might not talk about is the coaching. There are nine coaches in this league that have won Coach of the Year. Six have won multiple Coach of the Year [awards]. The great coaching that goes on in this league is the challenge. You start studying the teams and how well coached they are and you see that. "

The one thing SFA and the three other new schools in the conference have going for them is a different style of play that the older WAC members might not be used to building a game plan for.

“There has been some recent big time success with Stephen F. Austin,” NMSU head coach Chris Jans said.. “Then there was Abilene Christian last year knocking off Texas in the NCAA Tournament. There will be new styles and new schemes. When you are in the league three, four or five years you get accustomed to coaches and their style. They don’t tweak it that much so you get in a groove on how to stop them or score on them. It will be a new challenge for all of us.”

On the women’s side of the league, the top two teams, SFA and California Baptist, combined for just four losses last year. California Baptist edged out SFA by just four total votes in the preseason poll. SFA dominated the Southland Conference with double-digit wins and took Georgia Tech to overtime in the first round of the National Tournament. CBU made a deep run into the WNIT winning 26 games before losing in the third round to Rice.

“We played well and had a high margin of victory,” SFA women’s coach Mark Kellogg said. “I don’t know if that will be the case in the WAC. I don’t expect that but I didn’t expect that last year. I knew we would be good but I did not know we would be as dominant. The travel and those things will be different. We will go to the West Coast for two non-conference games in a row so we will use that to figure out how to handle the road trips out west.”

The Lancers welcome the challenge of SFA and know that nothing is guaranteed with new teams coming in this year.

“It has made the league more difficult to win From our side of it,” CBU head coach Jarrod Olson said. “At the same time for us we are excited about the challenge. We are a team that has not shied away from the competition. We want to play the best. That is how we measure ourselves.”

East Texas fans can get their first look at the basketball teams on October 28 at Jack Madness. The event is free and starts at 7 p.m.

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