Team of the Week
|Guard: David Humphries||Senior, LMU Lions|
|Guard: Duda Sanadze||Senior, San Diego Toreros|
|Guard: Alec Wintering||Junior, Portland Pilots|
|Guard/Forward: Lamond Murray Jr.||Junior, Pepperdine Waves|
|Forward: Kyle Wiltjer||Senior, Gonzaga Bulldogs|
David Humphries: Despite holding the second highest offensive rating in conference play (141.9) per KenPom, Humphries has flown under the radar. Coming off the bench for a middle of the pack LMU team doesn't help his case. But a 20 point performance against San Francisco and then a 14 point performance with an offensive rating of 211 against Santa Clara, certainly will.
Duda Sanadze: Without Brandon Perry the Toreros are clearly Sanadze's team. The senior from Tbilisi averaged 25 points over two games last week. On a team full of terrible shooters he has gone 14-16 from the free throw line in conference play.
Alec Wintering: Portland's dynamic point guard earned a second straight team of the week honor by scoring 23 points against San Diego and 22 against BYU. He made all 12 free throws on Thursday and went eight for nine on Saturday.
Lamond Murray Jr.: Like Wintering, Murray is making his second straight appearance on the team of the week. He was the best player on the floor in Pepperdine's win at San Francisco, scoring 27 points, hitting four threes and pulling down nine rebounds.
Kyle Wiltjer: With 35 points against BYU Wiltjer had scored over 30 in three straight games. He failed to hit that mark against San Diego (25 points), but maintains a six game streak scoring over 20 points. Pulling down ten rebounds against the Cougars gave Wiltjer his fourth double-double of the season.
1. Saint Mary's Gaels (15-2, 6-1)
Last week: W 78-62 vs. Pacific
This week: 1/21 vs. Gonzaga, 1/23 vs. Portland
Saint Mary's had the weekend off after a Thursday date with travel partner Pacific. A loss by Gonzaga pushed the Gaels back into first place in the standings. Against Pacific Emmett Naar had another fantastic game (21 points, 6 assists) while Jock Landale (24 points) continued his emergence as one of the best big men in the conference. The 6-foot-11 sophomore is averaging 13.4 points per game in WCC play. He and fellow big man Dane Pineau rank second and first respectively in two point percentage against WCC foes.
For the second season in a row the BYU Cougars came into the Kennel and spoiled Gonzaga's perfect conference season. Last year that game likely blocked their chances at getting a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, this year it might end up blocking them an at-large bid to the big dance. Gonzaga recovered nicely against a hapless San Diego team, excelling both on offense and defense. Kyle Wiltjer (25 points) and Domantas Sabonis (14 points, 15 rebounds) had another big night but the increased comfort and composure of reserve big man Ryan Edwards (10 points) is huge for the Zags. Without Przemek Karnowski for the rest of the season Edwards will be forced into extra playing time, especially if Sabonis can't stay out of foul trouble (which was the case against BYU).
3. BYU Cougars (13-6, 4-2)
Last week: W 69-68 at Gonzaga, L 84-81 at Portland
This week: 1/21 at Loyola Marymount, 1/23 at Pepperdine
Two straight wins in Spokane for the Cougars. A second loss in three trips to Portland. BYU's northwest road swing went from exactly what the team needed to just what they didn't (but what they've been doing pretty much every year since joining the WCC). The Cougars' defense allowed the Pilots, a team that had just dropped four straight, to put up 84 points in front of a very pro-BYU crowd. The Cougars are battle tested — Dave Rose always schedules well — so they can hang with the big boys as they showed on Thursday. But the loss to Portland continues the disturbing pattern of dropping games they can't afford to. With an RPI in the mid-200s Portland is the worst loss on the Cougars' resume and their third loss of the season to a team outside of the RPI top-100. That looks really bad.
4. Pepperdine Waves (11-7, 4-3)
Last week: L 62-60 at Santa Clara, W 98-84 at San Francisco
This week: 1/21 vs. San Diego, 1/23 vs. BYU
Pepperdine, like the BYU team which is coming to visit this weekend, has a habit of playing to the level of the opponent. On Thursday they couldn't put away the Broncos and Jared Brownridge made them pay with game winner in the final seconds. Then on Saturday they came into San Francisco and punched the Dons in the mouth, scoring a season high 98 points and defending well despite giving up 84. In this year's WCC a road split should be enough for the Waves to stay afloat, but it won't be enough to get this team into the NIT. Especially if the losses are coming at places like Santa Clara.
5. Loyola Marymount Lions (9-9, 2-5)
Last week: W 87-83 at San Francisco, W 76-66 at Santa Clara
This week: 1/21 vs. BYU, 1/23 vs. San Diego
The Lions went 2-0 this past week, with both wins coming on the road, which was better than any other team in the conference and rocketed them up the rankings. LMU's 0-5 start to conference play was confusing considering their 7-4 record during the non-conference. If the Lions have indeed figured things out they will have just enough time to climb high enough in the standings to avoid an opening round game in the WCC Tournament.
6. Portland Pilots (9-11, 3-4)
Last week: L 82-71 vs. San Diego, W 84-81 vs. BYU
This week: 1/21 at Pacific, 1/23 at Saint Mary's
The Pilots' defensive troubles allowed the atrocious offense of San Diego to come into the Chiles Center and pick up a win. Against the high-octane offense of BYU the Pilots didn't really need to worry about defense, since it's hard to defend all the Cougars' shooters. They just needed to outscore BYU and that's exactly what they did. Three Pilots scored over 20 points in the win, led by Alec Wintering's 22.
7. Santa Clara Broncos (7-13, 3-5)
Last week: W 62-60 vs. Pepperdine, L 76-66 vs. LMU
This week: 1/21 vs. San Francisco
Jared Brownridge had an off night on Thursday but clutch players can be clutch even when they're struggling. A 12 point performance, well below his average of 19.4 points per game, can be forgiven considering he hit the game winner. Overall the Broncos' offense continues to perform much better than it did in the first month of the season. Scoring 1.06 points per possession would normally get a win at home against LMU, but they let the Lions score 1.23 points per possession.
8. Pacific Tigers (5-12, 3-4)
Last week: L 78-62 at Saint Mary's, W 88-30 vs. Bethesda
This week: 1/21 vs. Portland, 1/23 vs. Gonzaga
Pacific went to Saint Mary's and, as expected, took one on the chin from the first place Gaels. Ten Tigers scored in the game, but only Ray Bowels (16 points) was in double figures. Saturday the Tigers took on non-Division I opponent Bethesda in what ended up being a rout. The Tigers held Bethesda to just one of 14 from three while connecting on 12 of their 22 attempts. For context, San Diego faced Bethesda earlier this year and won by a less impressive score of 71-56. Lose to the best team in the league on the road then blow out a non-D1 team and it's hard to drop a team, especially since they're already in eighth.
Complete recency bias here, but the Dons have lost three straight with the last two at home. They can put up points (76.4 points per game, 84.3 points per game in WCC play) but they also give up a ton of points. Their defensive efficiency in conference play, per KenPom, ranks dead last at 117.4. Gonzaga and BYU both scored over 100 points on Rex Walters' group this year, and Pepperdine fell two points shy of that on Saturday.
San Diego got its first conference victory against a bad defensive team in Portland. Two days later in Spokane, against a solid Gonzaga defense, the Toreros shot just 31% from the field. Duda Sanadze scored 29 points in the win and 21 in the loss. The senior from Georgia looks poised to step up and lead the team as they finish the season without Brandon Perry.