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Weekly Wrap: WCC

Through the first week of the season, the conference with the highest winning percentage is the WCC. Seven teams are undefeated and none are below .500, so, ranking the teams wasn't too easy.


Disclaimer: If a team has a loss I am unwilling to put it ahead of a team that does not. Going forward these power rankings won't be so record dependent, don't expect to see the Waves floating in the middle of the pack (this season) once they pick up a loss.

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (3-0)

No surprise here, the Zags are taking care of business. We've seen a different looking Gonzaga offense in each of their three games so far. Game one had 78 possessions, game two saw 67 and an Oakland team that wanted to bore viewers to sleep held the Zags to just 59. It turns out that the Zags are hyper-efficient regardless of pace as they're averaging 1.313 points per possession.

Gonzaga's attack was expected to shift to the back court after last year's front court focus. Considering the Zags are shooting 42.3% from behind the arc this season, it's safe to say the offense has moved to the guards. Though that's not to say the bigs are being ignored. Senior Sam Dower has gotten off to a red-hot start and 7-1 center Przemek Karnowski is the go-to guy when he's on the floor. It's just that Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos have had an even better start to the season. Also, David Stockton has started all three games so far, giving the Zags a small, three-guard line up.

The Zags' continue to face mediocre opponents as Washington State is their next test.

Last Week: W 100-76 vs. Bryant, W 93-61 vs. Colorado State, W 82-67 vs. Oakland.
This Week: 11/21 vs. Washington State (2-0).

2. BYU Cougars (4-0)

Unlike Gonzaga, BYU's offense has only one speed. The Cougars lead the nation in adjusted tempo (per stat guru Ken Pomeroy) and have dropped over 100 points twice this season. Going into Stanford during the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon and scoring 112 points, on national television, was a real statement win for the Cougars. The other 100+ point game, Friday against Mount Saint Mary's, was without the aid of super scoring off-guard Tyler Haws.

Haws is currently listed as day-to-day with an abdominal strain but the deep Cougars aren't missing a beat without him. Point guard Matt Carlino has been playing every possession in attack mode and fellow back court mate Kyle Collinsworth isn't playing like a guy who just missed two seasons serving an LDS mission. In the post there is no longing for the services of Brandon Davies, now in the NBA, as freshman center Eric Mika has shown the ability to contribute immediately. Fellow freshman, off-guard Frank Bartley is the most athletic player on the team. He's just lost in the shuffle with the starting backcourt playing like a three headed monster.

A tough Cyclones team visit Provo this week.

Last Week: W 81-72 vs. Weber State, W 112-103 at Stanford, W 108-76 vs. Mount Saint Mary's, W 84-60 vs. Colorado Mesa.
This Week: 11/20 vs. Iowa State (3-0).

3. Saint Mary's Gaels (4-0)

The Gaels have the most impressive collection of wins in the WCC, and maybe the nation. They easily handled Louisiana Tech in the first game of the post Matthew Dellavedova era. Akron visited for the midnight PST game of the Tip-Off Marathon and ended up getting blown out. Drake, the least talented of the four teams they've played, gave the Gaels their biggest scare. That's likely because of head coach Ray Giacoletti who was an assistant at Gonzaga until this season.

Stephen Holt has made the transition from off-guard to point guard very smoothly. Big man Brad Waldow gives the Gaels a stout interior presence, and is quickly rising on the schools all-time blocks list. Seniors Beau Levesque and James Walker III have been very productive in expanded roles. Finally, walk-on Jordan Giusti has been an ultimate glue-guy for Randy Bennett. It all combines to form another high octane, efficient WCC offense. It's just not quite as good as Gonzaga or BYU's. Still, the Gaels have avoided the drop off that pretty much every person outside of Moraga was expecting.

Last Week: W 83-70 vs. Louisiana Tech, W 85-63 vs. Akron, W 78-65 vs. North Dakota State, W 67-63 vs. Drake.
This Week: 11/23 vs. Alcorn State (2-1).

4. Loyola Marymount Lions (4-0)

Anthony Ireland isn't having to do it all this season. Last year, he did it all and they stumbled to a 1-15 record in WCC play. The supporting cast that Max Good has built around his star senior has the Lions on a radically different path than last season. Freshman Gabe Levin and sophomore transfer Ben Dickinson have been immediately impactful in the front court, which looks to be at least as good as the Drew Viney led teams of a few seasons ago. A collection of other young players have helped the Lions to their first 4-0 start since 2004.

The Lions haven't been blowing out their foes, or playing impressive teams but they have managed to claw their way to victory four times this year. That's what counts. There is a lot of upside on this roster, just wait until they've played together for a month or two. Up next is a trip to the US Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam.

Last Week: W 78-75 vs. Grand Canyon (neutral), W 98-89 vs. South Dakota State (neutral), W 74-73 at Long Beach State, W 90-87 vs. Northern Arizona.
This Week: 11/22 vs. Northern Iowa (1-1).

5. San Diego Toreros (4-0)

San Diego is lower than LMU despite having a more efficient offense through four games. Unlike LMU, I think the Toreros are playing as well as they are capable right now. Junior Johnny Dee is a scoring machine and point guard Christopher Anderson knows how to run an offense as well as anybody on the West Coast. The defensive end is where they've been most impressive, however. Bill Grier's boys are holding foes to an effective field goal percentage south of 40. The best offense they've faced, South Dakota State, came closest to beating the Toreros (and that game was in San Diego). Time will tell if the defense is for real or just the product of facing bad offenses.

For now, they're 4-0 and playing exciting, up-tempo basketball. After this week, that is basically a bye as they play one team and it's not a D-I team, they'll look to knock off New Mexico (at UNM) and San Diego State (at USD). Those games will answer the defensive question.

Last Week: W 74-70 vs. South Dakota State, W 70-59 vs. Grand Canyon, W 67-61 at Morgan State, W 75-44 at Northern Kentucky.
This Week: 11/21 vs. San Diego Christian (Non-D1)

6. Pacific Tigers (3-0)

Pacific's return to the WCC has gotten off to a strong start. Senior guard Sama Taku and senior forwards Ross Rivera and Tony Gill (who won WCC Player of the Week after just one week in the conference) account for nearly 90% of the Tigers field goal attempts. First year head coach Ron Verlin's job is made pretty easy with a veteran core like that. The WCC's record against regional rivals has been bolstered by the Tigers. An opening night win against the Mountain West's Nevada Wolf Pack, in Reno, was followed up by a victory over former conference foe UC Irvine. Another MWC team is on the docket as Fresno State visits Stockton on Saturday.

Pacific has posted the nation's eighth best free throw percentage so far: 83.9%.

Last Week: W 80-78 at Nevada, W 84-79 vs. UC Irvine, W 66-52 vs. Western Illinois.
This Week: 11/23 vs. Fresno State (2-1).

7. Pepperdine Waves (3-0)

Hey look, it's another undefeated WCC team. The Waves come in 7th because their path to the 3-0 mark has been by far the easiest of any team in the conference. In fact, it's been one of the easiest in the nation. Ken Pomeroy has UC Riverside ranked 320th in the nation and Central Michigan 310th (remember, there are 351 total teams). The other win came against non-D-I San Diego Christian. That said, Pepperdine looks to be much improved from last season.

Stacy Davis has been a beast at the four spot for Marty Wilson. The reigning WCC Newcomer of the Year is picking up right here he left off as a freshman and is averaging 23.7ppg on 70.3% shooting from the field. Senior forward Brendan Lane fell one rebound short of a double-double against UC Riverside. He posted double-doubles in both other games. A strong freshman class, led by point guard Jeremy Major, have this team heading in the right direction.

Last Week: W 81-68 W vs. San Diego Christian, W 69-66 at UC Riverside, W 88-71 at Central Michigan.
This Week: 11/20 vs. San Jose State (0-4), 11/23 vs. Utah Valley (2-1).

8. San Francisco Dons (2-1)

USF is why power rankings after one week are stupid. I see them as the third or fourth best team in the WCC, but because they lost I had to put them behind the undefeated teams. Senior Point Guard Cody Doolin is averaging 7.3 assists per game. His valiant 33 point effort on Friday nearly took down Nevada. Cole Dickerson already has one double-double and I expect he'll be averaging ten and ten once the season hits the home stretch. Sophomore studs Avry Holmes, Tim Derksen and Mark Tollefsen add balance to Rex Walters' Dons.

With three games this week, including two against, and at, high level competition, the Dons have a great opportunity to make a statement.

Last Week: W 95-57 vs. Notre Dame de Namur, W 91-82 vs. Cleveland State, L 90-92 vs. Nevada.
This Week: 11/18 vs. Idaho State (1-1), 11/22 at Montana (1-1), 11/24 at Oregon (2-0).

9. Portland Pilots (1-1)

Senior Ryan Nicholas and junior Kevin Bailey have been the focal point of this Pilots team. Unlike other teams that rely on two guys, there isn't much around them. When Nicholas went 5-15 from two and posted an offensive rating of just 78 against Oregon State, the Pilots were unable to find production to make up for his off-night. And, obviously, they lost. That was the WCC's first loss of the season. Maybe I'm just bitter about that, but I really don't see the Pilots making any strides this season. Nicholas and Bailey won't have bad games very often, but there is nothing spectacular about this team. In a league full of high octane offenses and stout defenses, unspectacular won't cut it.

Eric Reveno has built some absolutely brutal schedules over the past few years. This year's is far more manageable, save for the assured blow out defeat at the hands of Michigan State tonight.

Last Week: W 100-83 vs. UC Davis, L 73-79 at Oregon State.
This Week: 11/18 at Michigan State (3-0), 11/21 vs. Idaho (2-1), 11/22 vs. Columbia (1-2), 11/23 vs. North Texas (2-1).

10. Santa Clara Broncos (2-1)

A 2-1 start in a rebuilding year has to feel pretty good for Kerry Keating and his staff. Like USF, Santa Clara will not finish this low. But, by virtue of having a loss in a league with 7 undefeated teams, I can't put them much higher than this. Also, since they've gone 1-1 against D-1 teams, just like Portland (but Portland played better), they wind up in 10th place.

Three 1,000 point scorers graduated last season, the one remaining 1,000 point scorer has yet to play with an injured back. Junior guard Brandon Clark has led the way for the Broncos in the place of the absent Evan Roquemore. Once Roquemore returns, the back court will among the five best in the conference. Until then, Clark's supporting cast is a handful of freshmen and ineffective veterans. Considering how much youth is on this roster, it's no wonder they've struggled on the defensive end.

Last Week: W 84-39 vs. Bethesda, W 89-77 vs. San Jose State, L 73-86 at Cal State Fullerton
This Week: 11/22 at Notre Dame (2-1).