In my humble opinion, the West Coast Conference is underrated. If it weren’t for Gonzaga, you wouldn’t see any mention of the WCC anywhere in national sports news. Granted, it is a little top heavy with Gonzaga, St Mary’s, and BYU, but the league has more parity than people realize. That being said, here is how I feel the rankings stand:
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Of any team in the WCC, the Bulldogs by far boast the best strength of schedule. They’ve defeated Clemson (home), Oklahoma (home), Oklahoma State (away), Kansas State (home), and Baylor (home) with their sole loss against a very good Illinois team (home). Their SOS is ranked #7 nationally. They are led by Kevin Pangos, Ellias Harris, and Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk has shown incredible consistency as of late and had a huge performance with 33 points against Santa Clara. He leads the team in PPG and FG%. Kevin Pangos on the other hand could use some of that consistency. When he is on, the Bulldogs are nearly impossible to stop, but he’s not knocking down the shots as efficiently as is his potential. Ellias Harris is also a great scorer with a great FG%. Look for the Bulldogs to finish #1 in the WCC, but it won’t be a walk in the park.
2. Brigham Young Cougars
Most pundits in the country would have St Mary’s at the #2 spot, but I’m basing these ratings mainly off of WCC performances. Everyone knows how dominant both Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies can be, but with the recent brilliance of Matt Carlino and Josh Sharp, the Cougars have shown what they can be. Carlino has provided sparks for this team where there seemed to be only defeat. He did it against the Utes and stepped up huge with 22 points and 5 steals at San Francisco; two wins BYU wouldn’t have without him. Tyler Haws has come home from his mission with excellent play and look for that to continue. Brandon Davies has been great with his scoring and rebounding, but to me the most impressive development in his play is his ability to get to the line. Also, when Davies stays out of foul trouble, BYU doesn’t lose. With teams doubling both Davies and Haws each time they touch the ball, look for Carlino to continue to get great looks and be a huge boost to this team.
3. Saint Mary’s Gaels
The Gaels aren’t turning out to be the team many thought they would be this year. They are struggling in many ways, but none more than on the boards. The Gaels are just 115th nationally in rebounds per game. If it weren’t for the play of Matthew Dellavedova, the Gaels would be in a world of hurt. Each of their loses have been to teams they should have ran out of the building and perhaps their only solid victory has been against Utah St. I see the Gaels finishing 3rd in the league while losing both games to Gonzaga and splitting home and home with BYU; but they will also have a loss or two they shouldn’t to a San Francisco or San Diego of the conference.
4. Santa Clara Broncos
Santa Clara has been a surprise to me thus far. They have played solidly in each game with their only double digit loss at the hands of #1Duke. They played Gonzaga surprisingly well and took Utah State and a very solid UC Santa Barbara into overtime before losing. They will be making some noise in conference play and each team will not be looking forward to the days they play the Broncos. They are led by the trio of Marc Trasolini, Kevin Foster, and Evan Roquemore. The Bronco’s will have their say come tourney time.
5. Loyola Marymount Lions
This may be where the parity stops. The Lions have started off WCC with 2 losses, but to their credit they had to play BYU and Saint Mary’s. Loyola Marymount will be the best of the bottom feeders. They have a potential star in do-it-all Anthony Ireland. Ireland leads the team in PPG, is 3rd in rebounding, and second in assists. He is a major 3 point threat, and averages over 20 points per game and ranks 17th in the country in that category.
6. San Francisco Dons
I don’t know if San Francisco just matches up really well with BYU or if they are really just good enough to hang around. We are soon to find out. They started off WCC play with loses to Santa Clara and closer-than-expected to BYU. I haven’t seen a single player have the ability to single handedly take over a game like Cody Dooling this year. He was getting to the rim at will against BYU until Dave Rose wisely put Josh Sharp up against him and Cole Dickerson has the ability to shoot lights out; as evidenced in the first half against BYU. I am going to keep a close watch on this team and wouldn’t be surprised if they make some noise.
7. San Diego Toreros
While San Diego is a good squad, they simply don’t have the depth, athleticism, or talent to keep up with the top 4. They had a solid game against Portland to start of conference play, but they will only have wins against the bottom feeders. Christopher Anderson has led this team well as a solid point guard, but there aren’t very many other bright spots on this team.