We’ve wrapped up our first week of the 2023-24 season with a ton of exciting action from around the country. Here are some notes from the first week's action across the country.
West Texas is set to be WACKY in the WJCAC
The Western Junior College Athletic Conference, from Region 5 in West Texas, has gotten off to a hot start in their 2023-24 campaigns. The NJCAA Preseason Top 25 included 5 of the 8 representatives from the WJCAC, and the league's opening week record of 22-1 vs. NJCAA competition justifies those early predictions. Current Massey Ratings have Odessa (#1), Howard (#3), Midland (#4), South Plains (#11), New Mexico JC (#14), and Clarendon (#16) after the near first-week sweep. Kudos to Odessa & Midland for playing 4 tough games in 5 days, with another scheduled for today in Oklahoma. These teams will likely beat each other up once league play starts, but they are making their statements loud and clear early on as to which league is the strongest in the country this season.
Opening week surprises; top-ranked teams struggle out of the gate:
As is always the case, early season upsets marked a few good stories over the weekend. Mineral Area surprised many in new coach Greg Heiar’s debut with an opening night upset of defending champions #4 John A. Logan by a score of 89-60 at the Three Rivers Classic in Poplar Bluff, MO. The Cardinals had 5 guys reach double figures and shot a blistering 10-22 from the 3-point line on their way to victory.
First-year Head Coach Kevon Davis at Yavapai will have a moment to remember with his first career victory over #10 College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, ID. The Roughriders trailed by 14 at the break but stormed back to give the Golden Eagles their first home loss since the 2021-22 season. Yavapai made 14 3-pointers and converted 17-22 from the charity stripe to secure the opening night win.
Northern Oklahoma Tonkawa hired Brandon Gosset in the offseason, and the Mavs wasted no time raising the ante with a 77-56 victory on the road at Seward to open the season and a heartbreaking last-second 91-90 loss to #2 South Plains on Sunday at the Elite 8 in Oklahoma. Gosset got two outstanding scoring performances from Javontae Campbell (31p vs. Seward, 41p vs. South Plains). NOC Tonkawa plays aggressively and has shown serious ammunition to make some noise this season in Region 2.
The Top 10 saw 2 teams suffer multiple losses with #4 John Logan dropping to Mineral Area and host Three Rivers on consecutive nights in Poplar Bluff. On the other side of the country, #10 CSI dropped 2 of 3 to Yavapai & #24 Lee College while hosting the ICCU Invitational in Twin Falls, ID. #23 NEO A&M dropped a pair of contests to #19 Barton and unranked Hutchinson over the weekend. All 3 teams should have plenty of opportunities for redemption as the season continues, but this will also open the door for some of the teams that were on the outside looking in to climb the ladder.
Congrats are in order to two tenured JUCO coaches as they have hit some meaningful milestones during the first week. Northwest Florida’s Steve DeMeo earned his 200th victory at the helm of the Raiders on an opening night 48-point demolition job vs. Southern Union at home. On Thursday, Mitch Charlens topped that with victory #350 as the head man at San Diego City College in a 104-75 rout of Rio Hondo at the Santa Monica College Tournament in California. SDCC is currently the top-ranked Southern California program in the 2023-24 Preseason STLB Rankings.