This week, like the rest of the month, was interesting in that there were very few even matchups between GSC West teams and their opponents. Most of the games played were against considerably lesser opposition, like HU’s games against Arkansas Baptist and Central Baptist. Some of the games were against considerably better opposition, like HU’s game at Northwestern State. Here’s a rundown of where each team stands, starting from my top-ranked team, down to the bottom.
1. Delta State (6-1)
Last week (12/4 to 12/10):
12/5 W 89-78 vs. Tougaloo (team rating of 16)
12/10 W 106-69 vs. Arkansas Baptist (22)
This week (12/11 to 12/17):
12/15 vs. Bellarmine (48)
Delta State falls into the first category that I mentioned, having faced two weak teams and beaten them both. Still, I think they have to be the division favorites, since their only loss was to a red-hot UNA team on the road. This week, the Statesmen will have a rematch of one of their closest games, facing D-II Bellarmine at home.
2. Arkansas-Monticello (4-1)
12/7 W 100-68 vs. Philander Smith (19)
12/17 at Dayton (75)
This week begins the real test for the Boll Weevils, as they start a stretch against Dayton, Cincinnati, LSU, and UC-Irvine, all D-I schools. If they hold their own in these games, they could be very tough. Really, I suppose they’ll probably be tough even if they don’t.
3. Harding (7-2)
12/5 W 94-83 vs. Arkansas Baptist (22)
12/8 W 109-80 vs. Central Baptist (17)
12/10 L 61-89 at Northwestern State (69)
The Bisons have three weeks off now after a solid 7-2 start. I would like for us to have beaten UAH in Huntsville for a more comfortable 8-1 record, but 7-2 is not bad. The Northwestern State blowout was somewhat expected, given their rise to power in the Southland Conference. The other games were easy wins (well, ABC should have been an easy win). This is a precarious #3 spot because If UCA cleans house next weekend in Las Vegas, I might drop us a spot in the rankings.
4. Central Arkansas (6-1)
12/5 L 72-82 vs. North Alabama (44)
12/7 W 100-65 vs. Arkansas Baptist (22)
12/10 W 69-62 vs. Lyon (22)
12/17 vs. Rollins (45)
UCA dropped a game I figured they would win at home against UNA, but they took care of business in their other two games, so there’s no reason to drop them in the rankings. I expect this team to get better and better, and wins over Rollins and Washburn next weekend would be a good start for Rand Chappell’s team.
5. Henderson State (2-3)
12/5 L 70-74 at West Alabama (34)
12/17 at West Georgia (54)
I have no idea what to think about this Reddie team, since they’ve played only five games against generally tough opposition. I’m leaving them in my #5 spot, but they need to play well against West Georgia to stay there. In my mind, there is a growing gap between the top four and bottom five GSC West teams.
6. Ouachita Baptist (6-4)
12/6 W 83-48 vs. Williams Baptist (17)
The Tigers did what they were supposed to do this week, beating Williams Baptist handily. They have no games this week, but they travel to Hawaii next week to play some good teams, and then they have a New Year’s Eve game against Central Baptist to round out their 13-game non-conference schedule. They’ll need to make a good showing (probably split) in Hawaii and then beat CBC to maintain this ranking.
7. Southern Arkansas (3-5)
12/7 W 75-67 at West Alabama
12/11 L 51-56 at Tulsa (64)
12/16 vs. Southeastern Okla. St. (43)
12/17 at East Central (36)
SAU acquitted itself nicely in today’s win over D-I Tulsa, although the Golden Hurricane is not quite as strong as it was a few years ago. They get two more D-II opponents this week, then Midwestern State on December 30, as they wrap up a consistently strong non-conference schedule. With a little success this week, they could jump OBU in my rankings.
8. Christian Brothers (4-4)
12/7 W 107-89 vs. Crichton (24)
12/10 L 58-60 vs. LeMoyne-Owen (38)
12/17 vs. West Alabama (34)
The Buccaneers have only played two truly good opponents this year, but the other “average” teams they have played inflate their strength of schedule, which I currently rate as 7% stronger than the league average. 4-4 is not good enough in those games to make me rank them any higher, though. Luckily for them, Arkansas Tech has played an exceptionally weak schedule. They need to be looking over their shoulders, though. I’m not impressed, and I’m not expecting a whole lot from this young team in the conference season.
9. Arkansas Tech (6-1)
12/7 W 66-59 vs. Rhema (14)
12/10 W 85-65 vs. University of the Ozarks (30)
12/17 vs. Southwestern Okla. St. (41)
I ranked Arkansas Tech 9th to start the season, and until they start winning games more convincingly in their cupcake non-conference schedule, they’re going to stay 9th. The Wonder Boys may be in a three-way tie for the best record in the conference right now, but that will change in a hurry in January. Southwestern Oklahoma State will be the best team that ATU has seen this year, which is not saying a whole lot. They need to keep their winning ways going for another 2 weeks or so if they want to move up this list.