After the almost eternal year of 2020, we have finally reached mid-December, which means conference play for ACU basketball is just around the corner.
The last time either ACU basketball teams played a Southland Conference game was in March of this year. Both teams were looking forward to start the conference tournament with hopes of winning back-to-back years and make it to the Big Dance.
Obviously, COVID-19 dashed all hopes for a conference championship for the players, coaches and fans’ disappointment.
Now, both teams are deep in their non-conference schedule, and at this point of the season, each team only has one loss apiece. Both teams have shown a lot of potential and promise through these past few games, which has gotten many fans excited about conference play coming up soon.
It’s reasonable to say that both teams can be contenders in the conference this season. Likewise, there’s a chance we might see both teams playing in March Madness.
One of the biggest concerns I had after the 2019-2020 season was that the teams would not be able to fill the graduating seniors’ roles. The men’s team lost three seniors, including Peyton Ricks, one of the leaders both on and off the court over the past couple of years. The women’s team lost five seniors, including leaders like Breanna Wright, Lexie Ducat and Dominique Golightly.
I was a little nervous to see if and how these roles would be filled but excited to see who would fill those holes. But as of now, those once empty gaps are starting to be filled in by both old and new players on both rosters.
On the men’s side, all of the returning players have stepped in different ways to fill those empty holes. Some of these players include senior guard Coryon Mason, center Kolton Kohl and junior forwards Joe Pleasant and Clay Gayman. Some of the new players that have made an impact include senior guard Mahki Morris and freshman guard Logn McLaughlin.
As for the women’s side, many of the players who held supporting roles last season have become the leaders this season.
Both teams have shown their potential in both their wins and their losses this season, with both teams only losing to teams ranked in the top 25.
Some of the standout games for the men’s team this season include their appearance in the Gulf Coast Showcase’s #BeachBubble tournament in Flordia. They not only played well but won the whole tournament while facing some very talented teams. They also got to show how promising and talented they were in a very close loss to No. 17 Texas Tech in Lubbock Wednesday.
The women’s team notched a very significant win on the road against Northern Colorado. With the Bears considered being one of the best teams in their conference, it was a pleasant surprise to see how ACU dominated while on the road against tough competition. The women also got the chance to play against No. 10 ranked Texas A&M in College Station. After some struggles, they stuck with the Aggies and proved themselves to be a formidable foe.
Another factor to both teams’ success has to be the coaching. Both head coaches, Joe Golding and Julie Goodenough, have done amazing things for both programs and continue to do so. They have developed and coached their players in ways that have made the team successful—especially this year, with the teams looking very different from what they did the year before.
Though both of the teams show a lot of promise, there are some issues both teams must address before entering conference play.
For the men, they need to address their offense. They have been a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end. The Wildcats average nearly 11 steals and force around 24 turnovers per game. While offensively, they average 44 percent for field goals and 37 percent from the 3-point line throughout the season. These numbers should hopefully go up as the season progresses.
For the women, their defense is good but could use some work, and they have efficient 3-point shooting percentages. But what will happen if the 3-point shooting is off? The Wildcats will need to make sure they have a consistent offense inside if they can turn to if they cannot get their 3-pointers to fall, which they did well against Mary-Hardin Baylor (scoring 52 in the paint).
Overall, both ACU men’s and women’s basketball have done very well to start the season. They both have won games they were supposed to win, plus surprise us with successes against some of the country’s top teams. It is still very early in the season, but both have many areas where they can grow.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see either one of the teams holding up a Southland Conference championship trophy in March and headed towards another appearance in the NCAA tournament.