by Tyler Walls
The small team from Orem, Utah has a point to make! After winning the Western Athletic Conference regular season title in 2020-2021, the Utah Valley Wolverines stumbled in the conference tournament semifinals to New Mexico State in a 78-62 loss. This knocked them out of the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Mark Madsen and his Wolverines are hungry for the conference tournament championship and their first NCAA tournament appearance. With returning player like star center Fardaws Aimaq and the all-around hustler Le’Tre Darthard, the Wolverines are on course for a good 2021-2022 season. After the news of Trey Woodbury out for undetermined time with a knee injury, can guards Blaze Nield and community college transfer Justin Harmon pick up the slack for that lack of presence?
With promising new faces like BYU transfer Connor Harding and Coastal Carolina transfer Tim Ceaser, the Wolverines will look to find a rhythm early. The bench must play an important role throughout the season for the Wolverines to have success.
In his third season as head coach, Madsen and the Wolverines are currently 6-1. Their top five scorers are Aimaq, Harding, Harmon, Darthard, and Nield. Their next matchup will be a game to watch as the Wolverines take on the #12 ranked BYU Cougars. With home court advantage, Utah Valley aims to defeat their former coach Mark Pope. Emotions are high as the smaller team feels overlooked. Can the Wolverines capitalize and shock the nation?
The Cougars are traveling to Orem, Utah with an unblemished record of 6-0.While an upset will be difficult, it’s never impossible. The Wolverines must improve their offensive counter to a full court press or BYU could use this to their advantage. Free throws are another issue the Wolverines struggle with collectively. These freebies can win or lose the game. Their defensive rotation is slow which could lead to open shots.
BYU leading scorer Alex Barcello will be a major threat from anywhere on the court, so tight defensive pressure is a must. Te’Jon Lucas is another smart player to keep an eye on, yet the biggest question is who will get more shots in the paint? The Cougars gain many points in the lane from an effective drive-and-dish scheme. The Wolverines will have a big task at hand, yet a tremendous learning experience whether they win or lose.
How well can UVU’s young team play in the shadow of their in-state rivalry? How much can this team bond together and fight for a winning season? The answers to those questions won’t come immediately, though this fight will ready them for their journey ahead and is a great building block. Will the 2021-2022 season be the year that Mark Madsen puts Orem, and the Utah Valley Wolverines on the map in college basketball?
Follow along with The Gold and Green Wolverine Report while watching the 2021-2022 Utah Valley men’s basketball season unfold.
Featured image courtesy Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo