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WCC Week in Review: New Year Edition

Two weeks of conference play are in the books and Pepperdine is partying like it's the 1999-2000 season.

Yes, Gonzaga fan, you do.
Yes, Gonzaga fan, you do.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

1. #22 Gonzaga Bulldogs, 14-2 (4-0)
Previously: 1st

Depth was an issue for the Zags earlier this season, it is no longer. Injuries forced Gary Bell Jr. (broken hand) and Sam Dower Jr. (lower back) out of the starting lineup. Two other starters, Kevin Pangos (turf toe) and David Stockton (illness), played at less than 100%. Drew Barham and Kyle Dranginis stepped up as replacement starters and newcomer Angel Nunez was a major spark off the bench.

With Nunez now eligible, the Zags' lack of depth on the front line is no longer an issue. He posted 13 points and eight rebounds against Saint Mary's in 14 minutes of play. He's played just four games but is already fifth on the team in blocks.

A short week lies ahead as the Zags visit their travel partner, Portland, on Thursday.

Last Week: W 73-51 vs. Saint Mary's, W 86-64 vs. Pacific.
This Week: 1/9 at Portland.

2. Saint Mary's Gaels, 11-4 (2-1)
Previously: 2nd

The Gaels have been playing without head coach Randy Bennett, who is serving a five game suspension for recruiting violations, but they're faring about as well as can be expected. Maybe last week's game in Spokane wouldn't have been a blowout had Bennett been on the sideline, but it wouldn't likely have been a win.

In part two of the Gaels trip to the Pacific Northwest, they dispatched the Pilots after a sluggish start. Reserve big man Matt Hodgson tried to dispatch the Pilots' Thomas van der Mars, but instead was thrown out of the game.

The Gaels play an extra game this week, today vs. William Jessup. As far as I can tell, this game was scheduled so that Randy Bennett's suspension would cost him just four conference games.

Last Week: L 73-51 at Gonzaga, W 72-63 at Portland.
This Week: 1/6 vs. William Jessup (NAIA), 1/9 vs. Santa Clara, 1/11 vs. San Francisco.

3. Pepperdine Waves, 10-6 (3-1)
Previously: 8th

The Waves have played eight halves in conference play and for seven of them they've been amazing. Unfortunately, the one bad half happened to be the most recent, the second half at San Francisco.

Marty Wilson's Waves have shown the ability to win games from behind the arc (vs. BYU) and in the paint (vs. Santa Clara). The defensive end of the floor is where the problems are. San Francisco absolutely shredded the Waves in the second half on Saturday to complete a come-from-behind victory.

The Waves travel to BYU on Thursday, just ten days after upsetting the Cougars in Malibu.

Last Week: W 70-61 at Santa Clara, L 76-66 at San Francisco
This Week: 1/9 at BYU, 1/11 at San Diego.

4. San Francisco Dons, 10-6 (3-1)
Previously: 9th

I gave up on Rex Walters' team around Thanksgiving, but apparently the Dons didn't give up on themselves. Two of their three WCC wins have been epic come-from-behind victories.

Most recently, over the weekend against Pepperdine. The Dons scored just 19 points in the first half. After the break, which included a five-on-five halfcourt scrimmage rather than the typical shootaround, the Dons caught fire.

Kruize Pinkins has been a starter for the past two games. He's averaging 14 points per game as a starter.

Last Week: W 75-51 vs. Loyola Marymount, W 76-66 vs. Pepperdine.
This Week:1/9 at Pacific, 1/11 at Saint Mary's.

5. BYU Cougars, 9-7 (1-2)
Previously: 4th

The Cougars had an ugly first week of WCC play. This week they played just one game, and the extra time to rest seemed to do them good. On Saturday, BYU demolished San Diego 87-53.

The win helps the Cougars confidence and record, but doesn't really answer any questions. In fact, it might have created more confusion. Matt Carlino, who started the season with back-to-back games over 20 points, was pulled out of the starting lineup on Saturday. Head coach Dave Rose had moved Carlino from his traditional point guard spot a few games prior, and Carlino struggled.

Pepperdine and LMU, both of which have defeated the Cougars this season, visit Provo this week.

Last Week: W 87-53 vs. San Diego.
This Week: 1/9 vs. Pepperdine, 1/11 vs. LMU.

6. Loyola Marymount Lions, 10-6 (2-2)
Previously: 7th

The Lions' road trip in the Bay Area was far from fun. San Francisco jumped on LMU in the early going on Thursday and never looked back. Over the weekend the Broncos needed overtime but took care of business on their home floor.

Saturday's game was worrisome, Anthony Ireland had 34 points. Ireland is more than capable of scoring that many points on a regular basis, but he shouldn't. Last season, with almost no help around him, Ireland would almost always be game leader in points. This year he has the help, but when it doesn't show up he's forced to revert to do-it-all mode. That was the case on Satuday in Santa Clara. It didn't work then and it certainly won't work this weekend at BYU.

Last Week: L 75-51 at San Francisco, L 86-81 (OT) at Santa Clara.
This Week: 1/9 at San Diego, 1/11 at BYU.

7. Portland Pilots, 9-7 (1-3)
Previously: 5th

The Pilots took care of Pacific on Thursday but couldn't hang with Saint Mary's for a full 40 minutes on Saturday. With the way the WCC is shaping up this season, holding serve at home is going to be exceptionally important. Granted, losing to Saint Mary's, regardless of location, is pretty much expected unless your uniform has the word "Gonzaga" across the chest.

Portland is playing solid though unspectacular basketball this season. The Pilots have actually been one of the most surprising teams in the conference. Unfortunately, they'll likely be put on the back burner for a while. The loss to Saint Mary's is followed by a date with Gonzaga on Thursday... the other team that wins on the road in WCC play. The game against Gonzaga will be Portland's fifth straight at home to open the season.

Last Week: W 72-64 vs. Pacific, L 72-63 vs. Saint Mary's.
This Week: 1/9 vs. Gonzaga.

8. Pacific Tigers, 9-5 (0-3)
Previously: 3rd

First year head coach Ron Verlin had a hot start to his career as the Tigers cruised through non-conference play with a 9-2 record. He'll now have to navigate a conference that neither he nor his team are familiar with. So far, it hasn't been easy. Losses to Saint Mary's, Portland and Gonzaga have the Tigers at the bottom of the WCC standings.

This team was impressive for the first two months of the season, enough so that it's too soon to drop them to the bottom of the power rankings. However, I'm not expecting them to post a winning record in conference play. If their 32% showing from the field against Gonzaga is any indication, it's going to be a long two months for the Tigers.

Last Week: L 72-64 at Portland, L 86-64 at Gonzaga
This Week: 1/9 vs. San Francisco, 1/11 vs. Santa Clara

9. Santa Clara Broncos, 9-8 (2-2)
Previously: 10th

The Broncos only conference losses are to the teams ranked #1 and #3 in these power rankings. Their wins came at Portland and against Loyola Marymount.

This week it was the Jared Brownridge show for Santa Clara. The sensational freshman posted a career high 29 points in the win over LMU. Thursday against Pepperdine, in a losing effort, he had a team high 18 points. Kerry Keating seems to have found in Brownridge a replacement for super-scorer Kevin Foster.

Last Week: L 70-61 vs. Pepperdine, W 86-81 (OT) vs. Loyola Marymount.
This Week: 12/28 at Portland (8-4).

10. San Diego Toreros, 9-7 (0-3)
Previously: 6th

The Toreros continue to fall in the power rankings, though with an 0-3 record in conference play that shouldn't be a surprise. After missing out on a chance to pick up their first good win of the season, against a reeling BYU team on Saturday, the Toreros now boast the worst resume in the conference. Since the start of December, their only win against Division I competition came in the form of Southern Utah -- arguably the worst team of the year, since Grambling has been awful for a few years now.

Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson, the Toreros highly potent backcourt, were both held in single figures against BYU. Only Gonzaga transfer Chris Sarbaugh made it to double digits in scoring this week.

Last Week: L 53-87 at BYU.
This Week:1/9 vs. Loyola Marymount, 1/11 vs. Pepperdine.