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West Coast Conference opening week team and power rankings

The WCC's three big teams have returned to the top of the power rankings just in time for the conference slate.

Improved guard play from Eric McClellan and company have vaulted the Zags back to the top.
Improved guard play from Eric McClellan and company have vaulted the Zags back to the top.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Team of the Week

Guard: Jeremy Major Junior, Pepperdine Waves
Guard: Alec Wintering Junior, Portland Pilots
Guard: Chase Fischer Senior, BYU Cougars
Forward: Evan Fitzner Freshman, Saint Mary's Gaels
Forward: Domantas Sabonis Sophomore, Gonzaga Bulldogs

Jeremy Major: Major looked at times last week like the only Wave willing to put up a fight. He is averaging 9.8 points per game this season but went for a career high 21 against Gonzaga and then set a new career high with 28 against Portland.

Alec Wintering: A career high 34 point performance against Pepperdine in which he shot 11 of 15 from the field. That will make you forget about a disappointing by his standards performance in the win over LMU in which he scored just eight points, his second lowest output of the season.

Chase Fischer: Something about Chase Fischer and Hawaii. Last year in Maui he went 10 of 13 from deep to set the BYU single-game three point record in a win over Chaminade. Last week he went 9 of 14 from deep against New Mexico en route to scoring 41 points. He then scored 26 against Northern Iowa.

Evan Fitzner: Two games into conference play Fitzner is averaging 20.5 points against WCC foes and has an offensive rating of 181. That's absurd, but not out of the ordinary for this year's Gaels.

Domantas Sabonis: Second straight team of the week honor for the sophomore. He put up 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists (from the five spot!) against Pepperdine then 15 and 13 against LMU.

Power Rankings

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (10-3, 2-0)
Last week: W 99-73 vs. Pepperdine, W 85-62 vs. Loyola Marymount
This week: 12/31 at Santa Clara, 1/2 at San Francisco
Previous: Second

Kyle Wiltjer (20.2 points per game) continues to have a strong season but it has been Domantas Sabonis (17.2 ppg) who has really stepped up to replace the injured Przemek Karnowski over the past month. Those two are playing as well as just about anybody in the country but they aren't why the Zags jump into the top spot this week. That honor goes to the backcourt. Freshman Bryan Alberts has started the past four games and the backcourt has found its identity. Over those four games the Zags have posted their four best turnover percentages of the season. Coincidence?

2. Saint Mary's Gaels (10-1, 2-0)
Last week: W 74-52 vs. San Francisco, W 81-59 at Santa Clara
This week: 12/28 vs. Utah Valley, 12/31 vs. BYU, 1/2 vs. San Diego
Previous: First

Saint Mary's shooting hasn't gone cold now that they're facing familiar opposition. In two games last week the Gaels made 20 of 44 shots from long range. They still lead the nation in both effective field goal percentage and three point percentage. Freshman Evan Fitzner opened conference play with a bang, going for 20 points against San Francisco and 21 against Santa Clara.

3. BYU Cougars (9-4, 0-0)
Last week: L 85-82 (OT) vs. Harvard, W 96-66 vs. New Mexico, W 84-76 vs. Northern Iowa
This week: 12/31 at Saint Mary's, 1/2 at Pacific
Previous: Fourth

The Cougars spent Christmas week in Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic. An opening defeat against Harvard set them on the track to pick up quality resume wins against New Mexico and Northern Iowa. Thanks in large part to enormous games from Chase Fischer (he averaged 23.7 points in Hawaii despite going for just four against Harvard) the Cougars' offense was humming once again in those two wins.

4. Portland Pilots (8-7, 2-0)
Last week: W 87-60 vs. Loyola Marymount, W 87-79 vs. Pepperdine
This week: 12/31 at San Francisco, 1/2 at Santa Clara
Previous: Seventh

Last week I said Alec Wintering needs more help if the Pilots want to keep climbing. Against LMU the junior point guard scored just eight of the Pilots' 87 points. The next time out he went for 34. The good news is that while he might not be able to come up big every night, the Pilots now have help. Bryce Pressley and Jarrel Marshall scored in double figures in both games last week. Three game winning streak for the Pilots.

5. Pepperdine Waves (7-6, 0-2)
Last week: L 99-73 at Gonzaga, L 87-79 at Portland
This week: 1/2 vs. Loyola Marymount
Previous: Third

The Waves embarked on the Northwest road trip with a five game winning streak. They return to Malibu with a two game losing streak. Marty Wilson's team has traditionally hung its hat on the defensive end. Giving up 99 and 87 over two games doesn't look good. But obscured by that stat is some good news: an aggressive Jeremy Major leads to good offense. Pepperdine scored 116 points per 100 possessions against Gonzaga, the most anyone has scored against a very stout Gonzaga defense this season. In fact, the last team to put up more points per possession against the Zags was this same Waves team last season in Malibu (117.7). Weird.

6. San Francisco Dons (7-5, 1-1)
Last week: L 74-52 at Saint Mary's, W 89-76 vs. Pacific
This week: 12/31 vs. Portland, 1/2 vs. Gonzaga
Previous: Eighth

Destroyed by a team with just one loss then defeat a team with just one Division-I win. The Dons jump two spots because the future looks somewhat brighter. No longer is it just Tim Derksen and Devin Watson on the hilltop. Uche Ofoegbu's increase in production is not just a fluke. While Ronny Boyce (15 ppg last week) may be just a flash in the pan, Rex Walters likes what he sees as the previously underutilized junior college guard has moved into the starting lineup.

7. Loyola Marymount Lions (7-6, 0-2)
Last week: L 87-60 vs. Portland, L 85-62 vs. Gonzaga
This week: 1/2 at Pepperdine
Previous: Fifth

The Lions are terrible against the zone. Portland went into a zone after the Lions' hot start on Monday and LMU completely fell apart. After reading the following tweet it's no wonder the Zags did the same against the Lions on Wednesday.

8. Santa Clara Broncos (4-10, 0-2)
Last week: L 73-72 (OT) at Pacific, L 81-59 vs. Saint Mary's
This week: 12/31 vs. Gonzaga, 1/2 vs. Portland
Previous: Sixth

The Broncos have lost all three games this season that have gone to overtime. Their loss to Pacific had to be especially heartbreaking (and not just because it gave the Tigers their first win over a D1 opponent this season).

9. Pacific Tigers (2-9, 1-1)
Last week: W 73-72 (OT) vs. Santa Clara, L 89-76 at San Francisco
This week: 12/31 vs. San Diego, 1/2 vs. BYU
Previous: 10th

The Tigers record is awful, but on paper and the court they're surprisingly not horrible. KenPom's computer predicts the Tigers will finish with a 6-12 record in WCC play. I might think that's absurd, but after one week they're on pace to do 50% better than his computer believes. That said, they did just beat the team I have pegged eighth (by one point, in overtime and at home) and will see a visit from the only team below them in the power rankings. So maybe don't get too excited in Stockton.

10. San Diego Toreros (5-6, 0-0)
Last week: W 81-63 vs. Cal State Northridge
This week: 12/31 at Pacific, 1/2 at Saint Mary's
Previous: Ninth

Since BYU was in Hawaii, the Cougars' travel partner had to stay at home and wait a week to get into WCC play. In that week they beat Cal State Northridge quite convincingly. The Toreros actually shot the ball reasonably well, too. But I'm not convinced. Despite going 5-1 over their past six games the Toreros offense is still among the very worst in the nation. At home against a not good CSUN team you had better shoot the ball reasonably well even if you're San Diego.