WCC Week In Review: Returning to Normal

Matt Carlino and the Cougars are playing their best basketball of the season. - Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Top-to-bottom, the West Coast Conference is better than ever. Every team has at least ten wins on the season and only one team has a losing record. That parity made for a wild start to conference play. Now that a few weeks have past, the early upsets have been offset by the recent return to expected outcomes.

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs, 16-3 (6-1)
Previously: 1st

Last week's number two team in these power rankings, the Pepperdine Waves, proved no match for an angry Gonzaga squad. Part two of the Zags' trip to Los Angeles was a date with Loyola Marymount. Mark Few's bunch sputtered out of the gate in both games. Pepperdine led for the first ten minutes on Thursday and LMU held the Zags to just 13% shooting early on Saturday.

In both games, the Zags would rally over the final 30 minutes and finish with their usual, stellar offensive numbers,

Sam Dower scored his 1,000th career point against the Lions on Saturday. The senior forward joins the 1,000 point club despite spending three years playing behind Robert Sacre, Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk, all three of whom have made NBA rosters this season.

Last Week: W 70-53 at Pepperdine, W 82-72 at Loyola Marymount.
This Week: 1/23 vs. San Diego, 1/25 vs. BYU.

2. BYU Cougars, 13-7 (5-2)
Previously: 3rd

The Cougars were picked to finish second in the conference. They've worked their way back into second place and finally look like the team everybody expected them to be.

This team is talented enough to make noise in March, but they didn't have the right chemistry until recently. Matt Carlino lost his starting job two games into conference play. Since then the Cougars have gone 5-0.

Carlino joined the 1,000 point club on Saturday night against Santa Clara. The Cougars now have a back-up point guard who is 17th all-time at BYU in assists, averages more assists per game than any Cougar in history and has scored 1,012 total points. Oh yeah and he's also third in steals per game and 16th in total steals. What's scary is he's playing better than ever coming off the bench.

Last Week: W 83-76 at San Francisco, W 91-81 at Santa Clara
This Week: 1/23 at Portland, 1/25 at Gonzaga.

3. Saint Mary's Gaels, 14-5 (4-2)
Previously: 5th

The Gaels played just one game last week, at home against travel partner Pacific. Sixty fouls were called in that game, 28 on the Gaels and 32 on the Tigers. The final score looks close, and the Gaels did seem to struggle at home, but when the refs are that determined to be center stage you can take the result with a grain of salt.

What can't be disregarded is that the Gaels are now on a two game winning streak since Randy Bennett's return to the sideline.

Last Week: W 79-73 vs. Pacific
This Week: 1/23 vs. Pepperdine, 1/25 vs. Loyola Marymount.

4. Pepperdine Waves, 12-8 (5-3)
Previously: 2nd

Pepperdine had a shot at first place at home against Gonzaga last Thursday. For the final 30 minutes of that game, the Waves looked nothing like a team battling for a spot atop the standings. The Waves had shown an ability to beat teams on the perimeter or in the paint. Against Gonzaga, they were ineffective at both. Stacy Davis finished with 12 points, the only Wave in double figures.

Marty Wilson and his team bounced back against the stout Pilots on Saturday. Four Waves scored in double-figures in that game.

Last Week: L 70-53 vs. Gonzaga, W 76-65 vs. Portland.
This Week:1/23 at Saint Mary's, 1/25 at Pacific.

5. San Francisco Dons, 12-8 (5-3)
Previously: 6th

Cole Dickerson's 26 points weren't enough to push the Dons past the surging BYU Cougars on Thursday. On Saturday, Kruize Pinkins game high 16 points and 11 rebounds proved just enough to ensure a win over the tanking Toreros of San Diego.

The Dons have one of the best offenses in the conference. However, they've also got by most measures the worst defense. It's that combo that allows them to score 1.12 points per possession at home against the WCC's worst offense but win by just two.

Last Week: L 83-76 vs. BYU, W 64-62 vs. San Diego.
This Week:1/25 vs. Santa Clara.

6. Portland Pilots, 11-8 (3-4)
Previously: 5th

I really like this Portland team. According to Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency numbers, the Pilots boast the WCC's third best defense and seventh best offense (every offense above them ranks in the top-100 nationally). They're solid on both sides of the ball. However, aside from the season defining win over Gonzaga, the Pilots have squandered their opportunities. They cruised past LMU as expected but fell apart down the stretch against Pepperdine.

Kevin Bailey kept his fantastic season going with 40 points last week, 27 of which came against the Waves.

Last Week: W 71-57 at Loyola Marymount, L 76-65 at Pepperdine.
This Week: 1/23 vs. BYU, 1/25 vs San Diego.

7. San Diego Toreros, 11-9 (2-5)
Previously: 10th

The Toreros have fallen apart. They were supposed to boast one of the better offenses in the conference behind junior guards Christopher Anderson and Johnny Dee. While those two have been pretty much as good as advertised.

With little support around those two, other than the emergence of Duda Sanadze, the team has struggled on the offensive end. Compounding that problem, Dee has been nearly invisible (by his high scoring standards) since the start of conference play, due to a stomach illness. The good news is he had 16 points in the loss to San Francisco. If he's back to normal, the Toreros should be able to stop the bleeding and fight for a first round bye -awarded to the top six teams- in the conference tournament.

Last Week: W 69-66 at Santa Clara, L 64-62 at San Francisco.
This Week: 1/23 at Gonzaga, 1/25 at Portland.

8. Santa Clara Broncos, 10-11 (3-5)
Previously: 7th

The Broncos may be the only team in the conference with a losing record, but that doesn't mean they should be last place in the power rankings. It helps that the two teams ranked below them have fallen into a tailspin. More importantly, however, is that the Broncos are over-performing in a major rebuilding year.

Senior starters Evan Roquemore and John McArthur did not play against BYU. Head Coach Kerry Keating benched them for "failure to uphold academic responsibilities." Nonetheless the Broncos, led by freshman Jared Brownridge's career high 30 points, hung around with the Cougars. Without Roquemore and McArthur, this young team gained invaluable game experience against one of the best teams in the conference.

Last Week: L 69-66 vs. San Diego, L 91-81 vs. BYU.
This Week: 1/25 at San Francisco.

9. Pacific Tigers, 10-7 (1-5)
Previously: 8th

Pacific has yet to adjust to the WCC style of play. The Tigers' only win in conference came at home against Santa Clara.

Last week they lost a hard fought battle at Saint Mary's. Five Tigers scored double in double figures (Tony Gill, Sama Taku, Trevin Harris, Andrew Bock and Ross Rivera) but three fouled out of the game (Bock along with T.J. Wallace, Khalil Kelley and Aaron Short). The Tigers committed 32 personal fouls compared to the Gaels' 28.

Last Week: L 79-73 at Saint Mary's.
This Week: 1/23 vs. Loyola Marymount, 1/25 vs. Pepperdine.

10. Loyola Marymount Lions, 10-10 (2-6)
Previously: 9th

Nothing is going well at LMU right now. No team in the country has worse luck with injuries than LMU. Just before the start of the season, the Lions lost projected starters Godwin Okonji and Ayodeji Egbeyemi due to injuries sustained in a car accident. Chase Flint became the third starter to see his season end early due to injury when he broke his elbow against Portland.

All these injuries mean star senior Anthony Ireland will be asked to carry the team once again. He's one of the best players out west, and more than capable of putting up huge numbers every night, but there isn't enough around him to keep the Lions from floundering. They're currently on a six game losing streak.

Last Week: L 71-57 vs. Portland, L 82-72 vs. Gonzaga.
This Week: 1/23 at Pacific, 1/25 at Saint Mary's.

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