The WCC has seen better times. I found a stat that blew my mind; the WCC is only 1-13 as a whole against teams in the top 25. Ouch. (The sole victory being Gonzaga’s win over Oklahoma State). The only top 25 team left on any WCC roster is, of course, just Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are rolling past teams in conference play and St Mary’s has shown some toughness that was lacking in the preseason. Hopefully the top teams will continue to play strongly and represent come tourney time. There’s a lot of ball left to be played, but lets see how things are to date:
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs Easy choice for #1. No one else in the conference is playing anywhere near their level. They already have a win over Saint Mary’s and a dominating drubbing of BYU. Kelly Olynyk is turning out not only to be the best player in the conference, but one of the best players in the country. His perfect game against BYU shows just what he is capable of. With him and Ellias Harris in the frontcourt, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gonzaga win out in conference play; especially if Kevin Pangos can be a consistent contributor. The two games to circle on your calendar are @Saint Mary’s and @BYU. I think both games will be competitive, back-and-forth games, and I still see the conference championship as theirs to lose.
2. Saint Mary’s Gaels I have to put them next. They beat BYU in Provo, a rare feat for any team. Tyler Haws’ last second, fade-away jumper was great, Matthew Dellavedova’s running 3 at the buzzer was simply unbelievable. The Gaels have definitely stepped it up just in time for conference play and are now a force to be reckoned with. They do have a habit of getting down early and having to dig their way out of deficits, but they are winning and that’s what matters. It will be interesting to see how well they play Gonzaga at home. Stephen Holt is turning in to a solid player and Dellavedova is playing as well as any point guard in the country. I think the Gaels have a legitimate shot at a regular season co-championship with Gonzaga if they can just beat them at home, but would need to remain perfect against all other foes. The obvious games to look forward to are their homes games with BYU and Gonzaga.
3. Brigham Young Cougars BYU is playing themselves out of a good season. They had a chance to get a quality win against Saint Mary’s in the Marriot, but fell asleep on defense allowing Dellavedova a clear path down the court. Gonzaga played incredible defense against the Cougars and showed everyone how vulnerable BYU is when Tyler Haws is shut down. Brandon Davies is getting into a lot of foul trouble and isn’t playing with the same bounce or speed as he was in preseason play. If BYU can beat the Bulldogs at home and steal a victory over Saint Mary’s @Saint Mary’s, they just may get an invite to the big dance. Hopefully Matt Carlino will pick up where he left off against Portland and the rest of the team can play like they belong. The Cougars have a very home-friendly schedule remaining and they need to win them all to have a shot at the WCC title.
4. Santa Clara Broncos Other than a slip-up at Loyola Marymount, the Bronco’s have been as good as advertised. They are enjoying one of their best seasons in recent years and have played solidly against WCC opponents. The trio of Kevin Foster, Marc Trasolini, and Evan Roquemore are running teams over. Roquemore’s freak athleticism and his court vision have him as one of the better point guards in the WCC. Again, they are a team that nobody wants to play. They played Gonzaga close at home to show they can play with just about anyone. They have yet to play Saint Mary’s and play BYU in Provo this Saturday. We’ll have a better gauge of where this team is in the next week or so, but look for them to compete better than expected.
5. San Diego Toreros The 4-0 start by San Diego was unexpected, but the wins were against the 4 worst teams in the conference. They got blown out by BYU and Saint Mary’s and suffered a double digit loss at home to the Broncos. I don’t see the Toreros getting any wins over the top 4 of the conference, but they’ve definitely shown they are the kings of the bottom-eaters. Johnny Dee has been a bit of a scoring threat with Christopher Anderson showing he is a capable PG, but other than that there are no real threats on the team. They play BYU, Saint Mary’s and the Bronco’s in 3 or their next 4 games, so I don’t foresee a winning record in their future.
6. San Francisco Dons I’m putting the Dons ahead of Pepperdine because of how well they have played teams. Even though they are losing, they have played BYU, Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s very closely. They have a great PG in Cody Dooling and Cole Dooling is almost averaging a double-double. I think the Dons will finish out conference play much stronger than they’ve started. Next up for the Dons is Saint Mary’s and a very winnable game against Pepperdine.
7. Loyola Marymount Lions The Lions have been disappointing, that much is certain, but even though they have less wins then Pepperdine, I put them a spot ahead because I still think they have it in them to make a little run down the stretch. Anthony Ireland has been nothing but impressive, but it’s going to take more than one player to get some victories in the WCC. They showed what their potential is in their sole victory (Santa Clara). They play Gonzaga twice in the next 4 games, but after that they will have plenty of chances to redeem themselves.
8. Pepperdine Waves Pepperdine is about where I expected them to be at this point in the season. They only have 2 wins (Loyola Marymount and Portland) and have lost handily in each game against the top 4 of the conference. I don’t expect their play to pick up and think they will finish next to last in conference play.
9. Portland Pilots Tanner Riley has made himself the most hated player in the WCC with his frustration choke move against Brock Zylstra in the Pilots loss to BYU. Portlands only win comes to a far underachieving Loyola Marymount team and I won’t be surprised to see it be their only win in conference play. Look for them to remain at the bottom of the WCC.