Grand Canyon Looking to Take a Big Leap

14 Nov

At first Grand Canyon University was one of those online schools you saw advertising on TV, and then they applied to be a part of division one athletics.  Usually when teams go through the reclassification process they struggle while adjusting to division 1 basketball.  The Antelopes have faced fewer growing pains than the fledgling division one programs under head coach Dan Majerle.

Despite being ineligible for the NCAA Tournament during the reclassification process, Grand Canyon has earned three bids to the CIT Tournament since 2014 and earned their first-ever postseason wins in 2016 beating South Carolina State and Jackson State before falling to Coastal Carolina by two in the semifinals.

In the four years prior to becoming eligible for the NCAA Tournament this year Majerle’s squad won 81 games and never finished below .500.  Over that time they also have wins over New Mexico, Houston, Marshall, Central Michigan and San Diego State twice.  That kind of success is rarely seen in transitioning teams.  The Antelopes never finished lower than third in the Western Athletic Conference over the last four seasons.

DeWayne Russell was the team’s leading scorer last season averaging over 21 points per game, but he has graduated and Antelopes must replace him.  Majerle does return seven of the remaining eight players that saw action in at least 20 games and over 14 minutes per game last season including the second leading scorer guard Joshua Braun who averaged over 17 points last season.  The roster also has its share of newcomers with five freshmen and Oregon transfer Casey Benson who has made an immediate impact with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists in a win over Robert Morris on Monday.

Defensively over the first two games GCU has given up just 56 points per game and forced a total of 41 turnovers.  This year’s schedule has the likes of St. John’s, Boise State, Louisville and Illinois on it.  Don’t be surprised if Majerle’s men are well on their way to another 20+ win season before beginning WAC play at Seattle on Jan. 6.  This year however the rest of the WAC will have to put up with the Antelopes in the WAC Tournament.  Grand Canyon has lofty expectations in their first year of NCAA Tournament eligibility and the means to get there.


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