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Bryce Drew’s Grand Canyon team eyes 1st NCAA Tournament bid

Grand Canyon head coach Bryce Drew (Twitter photo/@GCU_MBB)

If you haven’t followed Grand Canyon’s Western Athletic Conference this year, you’ve missed quite the shift in power.

New Mexico State lost a total of three games in conference play the last three seasons, including a perfect 16-0 run against conference opposition last year. The Aggies have won the WAC Tournament seven of the last eight years, beating the Lopes in the final the past two years to keep GCU from making its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Things, though, have changed this season, as New Mexico State has had more games postponed or canceled (11) than played (10).

That left an opening at the top, and Bryce Drew’s Grand Canyon squad has seized it thus far.

The Lopes are on an eight-game winning streak, a perfect 6-0 in conference play that has them top of the WAC. This, of course, sets up Grand Canyon to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance if they were to win its conference tournament.

Drew thinks he’s got a team worthy of the big dance.

“Well, I think we’re good enough to be in the NCAA Tournament,” he said on Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Wednesday as a part of Newsmakers Week. “I’d love to play some of the teams that are going to get at-large bids. I definitely think we can compete with them.

“Right now our NET ranking (113) isn’t high enough and won’t get high enough this year to be an at-large team, so we’ll have to get the automatic bid.”

The WAC has been ravaged by postponements and cancellations during the pandemic.

GCU (12-3) has had six games called off, and even then, their 15 games played are on solid ground compared to some of the other teams in the conference. Chicago State joins NMSU in a completely off-balance season, playing only nine games so far and losing all of them.

Drew credited his team’s ability to deal with the challenges of this unique season.

‘They’ve done a really good job,” he said. “I think life has been kind of flipped upside down and things that they used to do, they can’t do as easy. I think basketball, almost, there’s a new joy to it just because you’re used to playing pickup games in summer, you’re used to going and playing whenever you want, and that was taken away.

“Really, the guys have done a really good job of adapting. I think adaptability has been a big thing for us this year.”

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Doug & Wolf