As a whole, through the first three weeks of the season, the West Coast Conference sits at 54-22 (.711). One team, Gonzaga, is ranked in the polls and another, Saint Mary's, is receiving votes.
1. #19 / #15 Gonzaga Bulldogs (7-1)
The Zags spent the week in Maui but it wasn't exactly a trip to paradise. Fans expecting a clash with Syracuse in the Maui Invitational Final were disappointed as the Zags made their way to the consolation bracket as quickly as possible, thanks to a loss to Dayton in their first game. That loss hurt the Zags in two major ways. First, the Flyers laid the blueprint for how to beat Gonzaga. Second, Gonzaga was forced to play Division II Chaminade and then Arkansas, rather than ranked Baylor and ranked Syracuse. An already weak -- and atrocious by Gonzaga's standards -- schedule became even weaker.
After Dayton, Gonzaga bounced back nicely and picked up three straight easy wins. The large margins of victory so this season are in large part due to the fact that the nation's best offense is once again in Spokane. Gonzaga's efficiency has been off the charts. The Zags' average 1.28 points per possession, the best in the country. Guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. are both shooting lights out from three point land.
Last Week: L 79-84 vs. Dayton (Maui), W 113-81 vs. Chaminade (Maui), W 91-81 vs. Arkansas (Maui), W 86-51 vs. Coppin State.
This Week: 12/7 vs. New Mexico State (7-2).
2. Saint Mary's Gaels (6-0)
I'm not sure what it is about the Gaels this season, but it's as if they want to be overlooked. Nobody expected them to contend in the WCC this season because, the loss of Matthew Dellavedova would be too much to overcome, right? Well, they're alone atop the standings right now and have maybe the best collection of wins in the conference. Right now they're being overlooked because it's hard to look at them, simply because they're not playing games. After playing four solid teams over the first eight games of the season, the Gaels are now averaging about one bad team per week. There are just four Saint Mary's games between 11/16 and 12/14.
Despite what their two votes in the most recent AP poll might suggest, the Gaels are playing some of the best basketball in the nation. Four Gaels are averaging double figures in scoring: Brad Waldow with 17.7ppg, Stephen Holt with 12.8ppg, James Walker III with 11.5ppg and Beau Levesque with 10.3ppg. Stephen Holt's flawless transition from off-guard to point has kept the Gaels offense humming. Their 1.21 points per possession ranks seventh in the nation.
Last Week: W 89-64 vs. Murray State.
This Week 12/8 vs. Eastern Washington (5-2).
3. BYU Cougars (6-2)
The reason I had to say the Gaels have "maybe" the best collection of wins in the conference is because BYU is in the conference. This week they picked up quality wins over Texas and Utah State, both on neutral courts. The Cougars also have good wins over Weber State and at Stanford.
BYU has been playing at a blistering pace, averaging 82.7 possessions per 40 minutes, over a dozen more than the national average. The reason they're able to play so well so fast has been junior point guard Matt Carlino. He's averaging 19.0 points per game so far to go along with 4.6 assists per game yet he leads the team in neither of those categories. Two other guards join Carlino in the backcourt, forming a three pronged scoring attack. Tyler Haws leads the team with 23.7 points per game and Kyle Collinsworth is tallying 11.3 points, 9 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.
Looming late this week is a date with UMass on a "neutral" court in Springfield. The Minutemen will be the third ranked team the Cougars play this season.
Last Week: W 86-82 vs. Texas (Kansas City), L 62-75 vs. Wichita State (Kansas City), W 85-74 vs. Utah State (Salt Lake City).
This Week: 12/3 vs. North Texas (5-3), 12/7 vs. #21 Massachusetts (6-0).
4. Pacific Tigers (6-1)
For a team that lost five contributing seniors, one head coach and one conference affiliation this offseason, the Tigers have had an amazing start to the season. Five seniors left last season, five seniors start this season. That veteran laden roster, combined with the fact that a longtime assistant (Ron Verlin) took over the head coaching job, has kept the Tigers afloat in what should have been a rocky season. A loss at Oregon, though to be expected, is the only blemish on the record.
There is nothing spectacular about this Tigers' team, but they've been very consistent in getting the job done. The front court of Ross Rivera and Tony Gill has been the focal point of the offense, leading the team in scoring in all but two games so far.
This week's date with Utah State will give the Tigers a chance to prove they are for real.
Last Week: L 62-85 at Oregon, W 73-71 vs. Cal Poly (Eugene, OR), W 93-76 vs. North Dakota (Eugene).
This Week: 12/7 at Utah State (5-1).
5. San Diego Toreros (7-2)
The Toreros didn't have the greatest of weeks. The loss to UIC, which has defeated just two D-I teams this season, ruined an undefeated start to the season. Since the Toreros have as many wins as any team in the conference, they have to be up in the top half of the power rankings. That said, I'm not sold on them yet. They've yet to beat a team in the top-200 of Ken Pomeroy's rankings. Despite weak competition, they've yet to soundly defeat a D-I opponent.
Guards Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson have been one of the west's best back-courts for the past two seasons. They are once again this year, and newcomer Duda Sanadze has made the USD back-court even stronger.
Last Week: L 70-74 vs. Illinois-Chicago (Estero, FL), W 83-71 vs. UNC-Greensboro (Estero), W 59-56 vs. Southern Illinois (Estero), L 66-73 at New Mexico.
This Week: 12/5 vs. #24 San Diego State (5-1).
6. Loyola Marymount Lions (5-2)
LMU and San Diego are similar in that both have built stout records by feasting weak teams. Like San Diego, LMU has yet to defeate a team in the top-200 of KenPom.
The Lions have been playing fairly good offensive ball this season. They're a fast paced team that can score very well, putting up nearly 81 points per game. The problem is they also allow a lot of points to be scored against them, they're giving up 79 points per game.
Anthony Ireland (19.3 ppg) continues to lead the way for the Lions, but he's not doing it alone this season. Newcomers Gabe Levin, Evan Payne and Ben Dickinson have had a hot start to their season. In the two most recent games, Payne replaced junior Chase Flint in the starting line-up.
Last Week: L 68-77 vs. Vanderbilt (U.S. Virgin Islands)
This Week: 12/2 at UC-Riverside (2-3), 12/6 at Pittsburgh (7-0).
7. Portland Pilots (5-3)
Kevin Bailey and Ryan Nicholas have been carrying the load for this Portland team for a few seasons now. This year is no different, but they have a better supporting cast. 5-3 is the best start for the Pilots in the last three years. West Virginia transfer Volo Gerun has been providing excellent minutes of the bench, helping keep the starting front-court of Nicholas and Thomas van der Mars fresh. Van der Mars has hit double-figures in scoring in each game since the November 18th loss at Michigan State. In the last game, against Southern Utah, he led the game with 17 points.
If Nicholas and Bailey can continue to get support, like they have been lately from van der Mars, the Pilots have a shot to finish well above the coaches preseason projection of ninth place. This week they cross the Willamette to face underwhelming in-town rival Portland State.
Last Week: W 86-69 vs. San Jose State, W 86-57 vs. Southern Utah.
This Week: 12/7 at Portland State (4-2).
8. Pepperdine Waves (5-3)
Marty Wilson's group took a trip to bitter cold Anchorage this week. After a 1-2 showing at the Great Alaska Shootout, he may be wishing he hadn't left his home in beautiful Malibu. While the Waves did post a losing record in an early season tournament, there is quite a bit to be encouraged about. Neither loss was bad, as they were both close games and both teams are ranked in the top-100 of KenPom. Plus, the win over Denver should look good by season's end.
Brendan Lane had an exceptional game in the loss to Green Bay. His 26 points were a game high. Stacy Davis, being punished for missing a practice, came off the bench in that game and never quite got going. Freshman Jeremy Major continued his strong debut, posting 19 points against Green Bay and 15 against Indiana State.
Last Week: L 89-97 vs. Green Bay (Anchorage, AK), W 68-56 vs. Denver (Anchorage), L 70-73 vs. Indiana State (Anchorage).
This Week 12/4 vs. Cal State Fullerton (2-6), 12/7 at UC-Irvine (5-3).
9. San Francisco Dons (5-4)
This was a bad week for USF basketball. First, on Tuesday, it was announced that Cody Doolin would forego the remainder of his senior season. Then came the news that he was leaving because of a physical altercation with a teammate at practice. Head coach Rex Walters should now be on the hot seat on the hilltop. Walters is now four games under .500 at head coach at USF. After the 2011-12 season six players transferred out of the program. After 2012-13 starter De'End Parker was dismissed from the team. And now, nine games into this season, he's lost his starting point guard. I picked this team to finish third in the WCC. With Doolin, they had the talent to do so. Without him, and considering there is quite a bit of internal turmoil, I can't see them finishing above eighth.
Juco transfer Kruize Pinkins has been a spark off the bench. The junior forward is second on the team in field goal percentage, rebounds per game and points per game.
Last Week: W 96-73 vs. Sonoma State, W 72-61 vs. Vermont, L 76-90 vs. Illinois State.
This Week 12/13 vs. Nicholls State (1-4).
10. Santa Clara Broncos (2-4)
Kerry Keating's Broncos were picked 8th in the preseason coaches poll, but there is no reason to be surprised that they're 10th in this power ranking. The loss of three 1,000+ point scorers combined with a large incoming freshman class and the addition of a senior transfer means this team will need time to figure itself out. Once they do, the talent is there to keep the Broncos out of the cellar. Also, a promising start from the freshmen means Keating's Broncos are rebuilding, not floundering.
Junior Brandon Clark has been the leader for the team so far, posting a career high 32 points in the loss to North Dakota State. Senior point guard Evan Roquemore tallied his 500th career assist in that game.
Last Week: L 85-91 vs. North Dakota State, L 66-67 vs. Rice.
This Week: 12/5 at Cal State Bakersfield (5-3), 12/7 at Cal Poly (2-5).