After the Utah Valley University men’s basketball team enjoyed a solid 2017-18 season, this next one coming up could include some growing pains.
The Wolverines lost eight letterwinners, including two starters, and will have seven new additions to their roster in the upcoming 2018-19 season, which kicks off Tuesday against Westminster at the UCCU Center at 7 p.m. If Utah Valley wants to get close to last season’s 23-11 overall finish, it will have to find a way to the new faces to gel right from the start.
So far, the Wolverines are off to a good start. They beat Dixie State 88-70 in an exhibition game Tuesday. Their two leading scorers that game were Jake Toolson and Connor Toolson, who were both fixtures on last year’s team and returned this season for their junior and senior years, respectively.
Connor Toolson averaged 12.1 points per game and shot 45.4 percent from the field, including 39.5 percent from 3-point range. Jake Toolson scored 10.9 points per game and shot nearly 50 percent from the field.
Connor Toolson and was named to the Preseason All-Western Athletic Conference first team in polls by the media and the league’s coaches. Jake Toolson was named to the second team in the same two polls.
With roster continuity coming at a premium this season, Utah Valley retained its head coach, Mark Pope, who inked a six-year deal worth more than $1.2 million over the summer. Pope is entering his fourth season with the Wolverines, and led the team to a school record in wins and a second postseason bid last season.
But after Connor Toolson, Jake Toolson and Pope, the Wolverines will feature a slew of first-year players. Four of them are transfers in Isaiah White, TJ Washington, Connor MacDougall and Baylee Steele.
Three other players will join Utah Valley but will be in their redshirt season, and three others — Wyatt Lowell, Drew Cotton and Cache Fields — are true freshman who could see playing time this year.
Despite all the changes, the league’s coaches and media expect the Wolverines to be in the mix of top WAC teams. The media predicted Utah Valley to finish third in the conference, while coaches picked it to finish fourth. That is likely based on the Wolverines finishing second in the conference with an 10-4 record and the roster changes heading into this season.
But Utah Valley will have something else going for it this season. The Wolverines were practically unbeatable at home last year, boasting a 16-1 record at the UCCU Center. In the last 13 years, Utah Valley is 162-46 at home.
All times Mountain
Tuesday — Westminster, 7 p.m.
Friday — at BYU , 8 p.m.
Nov. 11 — at Saint Mary’s, 6 p.m.
Nov. 16 — at Utah State , 7 p.m.
Nov. 19 — Hartford, noon
Nov. 21 — Iona or Long Beach State, noon or 3 p.m.
Nov. 24— North Dakota, 4 p.m.
Nov. 28 — Western State, 7 p.m.
Dec. 1 — Denver, 7 p.m.
Dec. 6 — at Arizona, 7 p.m.
Dec. 8 — at Northern Arizona, 6 p.m.
Dec. 15 — at Weber State, 7 p.m.
Dec. 19 — Idaho State, 7 p.m.
Dec. 22 — Sam Houston State, 2 p.m.
Dec. 29 — at Fresno State, 5 p.m.
Jan. 3 — at Grand Canyon, 6 p.m.
Jan. 5 — at CSU Bakersfield, 8 p.m.
Jan. 12 — Seattle U, 7 p.m.
Jan. 17 — UT Rio Grande Valley, 7 p.m.
Jan. 19 — New Mexico State, 7 p.m.
Jan. 24 — at UMKC, TBA
Jan. 26 — at Chicago State, 1:05 p.m.
Jan. 30 — California Baptist, 7 p.m.
Feb. 9 — at Seattle, TBA
Feb. 14 — at UT Rio Grande Valley, 6 p.m.
Feb. 16 — at New Mexico State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 21 — Chicago State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 23 — UMKC, 7 p.m.
March 2 — at California Baptist, 8 p.m.
March 7 — Grand Canyon, 7 p.m.
March 9 — CSU Bakersfield, 7 p.m.
March 14-16 WAC Tournament at Las Vegas