Everything in this week of WCC hoops went about how I expected save two things: BYU completely blowing out Santa Clara and Gonzaga nearly being upset by San Diego. Saint Mary’s is playing their best ball of the season and show no signs of slowing down. As the regular season is nearing its end, the question on everyone’s mind is how many teams will be dancing and who will it be? It will be most interesting to see how the top three teams can finish out the season, because for Saint Mary’s and BYU their only hope of being invited to the tourney is to win out. Here is how things stand:
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga is beatable. San Diego nearly pulled off the enormous upset, but the Bulldogs were able to pull out the closer-than-expected victory thanks to the clutch play of David Stockton. Kelly Olynyk is now starting to get the national recognition that he deserves. In a recent article by ESPN’s Jay Bilas and Chad Ford, Kelly Olynyk was ranked #2 among the nations big men, right behind Cody Zeller. Not bad company to find himself in. It’s very possible that there isn’t a front court in the country more dominant than Olynyk and Harris, let alone in the conference. The guard play of Gonzaga is also very deep in Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr, and David Stockton. With Gonzaga’s vulnerability now on display, the question is how well will they play in Provo and @Saint Mary’s. Both games will be very interesting and will have a lot of hype surrounding them. Again, I still believe the WCC title is Gonzaga’s to lose.
2. Saing Mary’s
No questions here. The Gaels are blowing out all opponents they face not named BYU, Gonzaga, or oddly enough San Francisco. Matthew Dellavedova, in my humble opinion, is the best floor general in the country. His basketball IQ is off the charts and his passing abilities are second to none. His calm and collected demeanor has saved Saint Mary’s more than once this season. Only he and Stephen Holt are getting significant minutes as they are doing a great job of running this team. The question is if Saint Mary’s can pull off the upset of Gonzaga on Valentine’s Day. I personally think they can. If they can keep playing as well as they have been, there’s no reason they can’t take down the Zags. It will be a very exciting, up and down game and I am looking forward to it.
3. BYU Cougars
The Cougars perhaps had their best, most complete win of the season on Saturday night over Santa Clara. BYU benefitted greatly from the play of Josh Sharp and Matt Carlino. I expected the game to be a closer, more hard-fought battle than it turned out to be in the second half where BYU ran away with the game. Haws, Davies, and Carlino are turning out to be a dominant trio that Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s will have to worry about. How do you plan defensively for that? The main concern for the Cougs has to be if Carlino and Haws will be able to play well against the Bulldogs. Last time the teams met, BYU was shut down in every way possible. If BYU can turn in the same type of complete performance, I don’t see the Zags or Gaels being able to duplicate what they were able to do last time. There is a lot on the line for the Cougars and they are going to have to be careful against San Diego and San Francisco as both teams are playing solid ball.
4. Santa Clara Broncos
I think the Broncos were as surprised as anyone with how well BYU played on Saturday night. Santa Clara is a seriously talented team that has the ability to play with anyone in the country; which makes the blowout loss to the Cougars even more surprising. It didn’t help matters that Roquemore missed large chunks of playing time due to early foul trouble and that Kevin Foster and Marc Trasolini didn’t have their most efficient games of the season. They were able to keep the game close in the first half due to their lights out shooting behind the arc, but went dry in the second half. I don’t foresee Roquemore missing that much playing time going forward and he is definitely a player that teams need to look out for. He is extremely athletic and runs the offense very well but is also a great lock-down defender. Thursday night’s match-up with Saint Mary’s is going to be a great game to watch as the Broncos will be looking to bounce back big after their loss against BYU.
5. San Diego Toreros
Wow, who saw that coming? Definitely not me. I knew that San Diego was talented, but they had fallen flat against all of the top teams in the WCC up until Saturday nights thriller against the Zags. After starting off conference play at 4-0 the Toreros are looking at a very difficult schedule to finish off conference play. I only see 3 winnable games left; Portland, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. The only way for San Diego to prove me wrong is if someone not named Johnny Dee or Christopher Anderson can step up and be a consistent contributor. Their next game is LMU with BYU, Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara all in a row.
6. San Francisco Dons
The Dons have somehow been able to keep most games close this season. They have played each team very well and got a much needed win of Pepperdine on Saturday. They play the Cougars next and for the past 2 seasons have matched up well with them each time they’ve played. I don’t expect this game to be as close as it was at the Marriot, but BYU will definitely not be overlooking this match-up. Matt Carlino seems to play his best against San Francisco, so they will need to figure out a way to slow him down. Cole Dickerson and Cody Doolin continue to be impressive, but they need a guy like De’End Parker to step up if they want to stop being the team with a ton of close losses.
7. Pepperdine waves
Last week I had the Waves behind the Dons and it turned out to be correct. Pepperdine lost by 10 at home to San Francisco and next up is Gonzaga. Jordan Baker and Nikolas Skouen are two guys that can score from anywhere on the court, and if the Waves don’t want to be bottom feeders any longer, these two guys will need to be more consistent. I don’t think they will get any signature wins, but might do enough to make it to the WCC tournament without being in the play-in game, but just barely.
8. Loyola Marymount Lions
Loyola Marymount has been the most disappointing team by far in the WCC. After a better-than-expected season last year, many thought the Lions would be able to make some noise this year. They play Portland on Feb 9th, and if they want to avoid being dubbed the worst team in the conference, they need that win.
9. Portland Pilots
Nothing new here. The Pilots continue to be the worst offensive team in the conference. If they can get a victory over LMU, they may move up a spot, but it’s not enough movement that many will even notice. Look for Portland to continue to struggle.