Grand Canyon’s 2023-24 success will impact future scheduling

Feb 20, 2024, 10:07 AM | Updated: 10:38 am

Grand Canyon head basketball coach Bryce Drew joined Bickley & Marotta at the Arizona Sports studio...

Grand Canyon head basketball coach Bryce Drew joined Bickley & Marotta at the Arizona Sports studios on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Sarah Kezele/Arizona Sports)

(Sarah Kezele/Arizona Sports)

Grand Canyon head coach Bryce Drew hasn’t kept his players’ eyes off the rankings.

From his bigger-picture perspective, he has good reason to pay attention to The Associated Press voting, the USA Today Sports Coaches Poll, NET ratings and everything in between.

It’s been an open goal for the ‘Lopes to chase a top-25 AP ranking, not only for this year’s team to get some love and build momentum to make the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid if GCU (24-2) can’t win the WAC Tournament.

From the head coach’s seat, it will have grand implications in the future, starting with scheduling stronger nonconference opponents.

And building future schedules could help future Grand Canyon teams build resumes to safeguard themselves from the potential ways they could fall out of the tournament discussion this season.

“In the last couple years, it’s been extremely difficult,” to schedule opponents, Drew told Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday, speaking specifically on how GCU’s student section might deter visitors unwilling to lose in a tough road environment.

“This year was hard. We thank the Lord for the year we’re having and if we can sustain and finish really strong, we’re hoping it can put us in a different realm for scheduling because sometimes when you’re on that fringe, it’s really hard. If you can get your NET high enough, then you might be able to gain some more attraction from some schools who want to play a high NET game.”

A home win against a No. 25-ranked San Diego State team is GCU’s best victory on the schedule. But the ‘Lopes haven’t seen Power Five opponents other than a 75-68 loss to South Carolina at a neutral site in Glendale, Arizona in November.

Despite its 24-2 record, Grand Canyon garnered only 16 points in the last AP poll released Monday and ranks 35th in the nation. It’s 32nd in the coaches poll and sits 46th in NET ratings.

In the immediate future, running through the five remaining games of the WAC regular season and winning the tournament to avoid being left out of the NCAA Tournament by the selection committee is the obvious safe path to the postseason.

Winners of seven straight as of Tuesday, the ‘Lopes have been powered by transfer Tyon Grant-Foster and fourth-year GCU forward Gabe McGlothan, who have led the team in scoring in 19 of their 26 games so far this year.

GCU is two games up on Tarleton State in the WAC standings and visit the Texans on Thursday.

But even if they pull away and take the league, one loss from here on out puts the ‘Lopes at risk of missing the Big Dance.

“I think we’re right there. I talked to (ESPN analyst) Joe Lunardi the other day, the Bracketology guy, and if (the) season ended right now we’d be right there on the bubble with consideration to get an at-large bid,” Drew said.

“It’s really hard. I think sometimes conference realignment has actually hurt some of the mid-major leagues. Because you have so many (teams) like the Big 12, you have so many teams just playing each other but their NET stays so high all year.”

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