UTSA coach Steve Henson acknowledged recently that his players may have been caught off guard with the release of a Conference USA preseason poll that pegs them for a second-division finish next spring.
Entering 2021-22 without departed four-year standouts Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace, the Roadrunners aren’t getting much love from the C-USA coaches, who have ranked them 11th out of 14 teams in the conference.
“Some of (our players) might have been surprised by that,” Henson said, “even though we’ve been telling them, that, ‘Hey, this is what people think,’ that Jhivvan and Keaton carried us, and they were terrific for us.
“But we’ve got some good, quality (players) coming back and some terrific talent coming in to add to it.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Henson said. “Looking at what we lost … I wasn’t too surprised at that. I’m more (focused) with what we have coming back, and I’m excited with that.”
Jackson and Wallace led UTSA to winning records in the conference in three out of four years.
Together, they formed one of the highest-scoring tandems out of the same recruiting class in NCAA history. Jackson scored 2,551 points in his career to rank 52nd in NCAA history, while Wallace added 2,080. On the C-USA scoring list, they finished No. 2 and No. 6 all-time, respectively.
Both left in the offseason to embark on pro careers. Without the two, UTSA must step up to answer questions about whether the team has enough talent to contend in their absence.
What they’re saying
Asked about the poll, sophomore guard Jordan Ivy-Curry took exception to the results, acknowledging that he was upset about it.
“A little bit,” Ivy-Curry said. “Even though we don’t have Keaton and Jhivvan, we shouldn’t be that low. At all.”
Ivy-Curry seemed to accept — to an extent — that some voters in the poll may just be unaware of UTSA’s personnel at this point.
“We’re going to work on that,” he said. “We’re going to focus on getting better and proving ourselves and showing these people that we shouldn’t be ranked 11th.”
Junior center Jacob Germany said the players discussed it in a group chat.
“It’s just more fuel to the fire,” he said. “Me personally, I’m OK with being the underdog. We’re used to that. It’s exciting, really.”
No team has ever won the conference title in October, right?
“Nobody’s really worried about the preseason,” Germany said. “We’re just trying to get better.”
C-USA preseason poll
1.UAB (8) 190 points
2. Louisiana Tech (6) – 184 points
3. WKU – 162 points
4. Marshall – 147 points
5. Old Dominion – 130 points
6. North Texas – 124 points
7. Charlotte – 110 points
8. Rice – 104 points
9. Florida Atlantic – 84 points
10. UTEP – 82 points
11. UTSA – 48 points
12. Southern Miss – 42 points
13. FIU – 36 points
14. Middle Tennessee – 28 points