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Week 6 WCC Power Rankings: Portland climbs into the top three

Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU represent the three big brands in the WCC, but are they the three best teams?

Portland v Gonzaga
Portland Pilots mascot Wally Pilot during the 2016 WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Team of the Week

Guard: Matt Hauser Santa Clara Broncos
Hauser led Santa Clara to a win with 18 points and 10 assists (to just two turnovers) against UC Riverside. He then followed that up with a 17-point outing against Washington State.

Guard: Nigel Williams-Goss (third appearance) — Gonzaga Bulldogs
Williams-Goss dropped 20 points on 7-11 shooting, along with nine rebounds and six assists in his lone game last week. A triple-double is coming.

Guard: Olin Carter San Diego Toreros
A career-high 34 points for the sophomore earns him a spot on this list. That included a wonderful shooting performance, in which he was 8-8 from the line, 6-7 from distance and 4-4 from inside the arc.

Guard: Jazz Johnson Portland Pilots
He connected on 8-9 three pointers last week and scored 36 points over two games.

Forward: Gabe Taylor — Portland Pilots
Make it 17 points and 10 rebounds per game last week for the junior forward, who stretched the floor by connecting on 5-7 threes.

Power Rankings

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (11-0)

Last week: W 86-76 vs. Tennessee (in Nashville)
This week: 12/21 vs. South Dakota
Previous: First

They’ve been ranked in the top 10 for weeks now and are one of just six undefeated teams in the country. But in their lone game last week, the Zags showed there’s still room to grow. Tennessee scored 17 points off of 20 offensive rebounds. Gonzaga has allowed its opponents to pull down an offensive rebound fully one-third of the time this season. If Mark Few and co. can address that issue, look out. Oh, and shout out to Williams-Goss (13.4 ppg, 4.7 apg) who finished his undergraduate degree last week.

2. Saint Mary’s Gaels (8-1)

Last week: W 73-51 vs. Western Kentucky
This week: 12/20 vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi, 12/22 vs. South Carolina State
Previous: Second

Last week against Western Kentucky, the Gaels played 60 possessions. Through nine games this season, they’re averaging 61.8 per game. Only Virginia (60) averages fewer possessions per game than Randy Bennett’s surgically precise offense. Led by Joe Rahon’s 10, the Gaels dished out 23 assists on 31 made field goals against the Hilltoppers. KenPom gives the Gaels a 95 percent and 99 percent chance to win their final two games of the non-conference season, meaning they’re virtually assured of hitting 10 wins before WCC play for the eighth time in Randy Bennett’s 16 seasons.

3. Portland Pilots (7-3)

Last week: W 85-82 vs. South Dakota, W 54-45 vs. Oregon State
This week: 12/20 vs. Portland State, 12/22 at Cal State Fullerton
Previous: Fifth

Alec Wintering (21.6 ppg) and Jazz Johnson (18.4 ppg) entered Sunday’s game against Oregon State as the fifth-highest scoring duo in the nation. A grinder of a game kept them well below their averages, 14 and 15 points respectively, but the guards keyed the Pilots once again. No bad losses (UCLA, Dayton, and Colorado) for Terry Porter’s team, which just keeps finding ways to win close games. It might not always be pretty, but unlike the teams they’ve jumped, they’re winning.

4. BYU Cougars (7-4)

Last week: L 75-73 vs. Illinois (in Chicago)
This week: 12/20 vs. Idaho State, 12/22 vs. Cal State Bakersfield
Previous: Third

A 3-4 record over the past seven games has BYU officially on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble picture, and it’s not even Christmas yet. Can the Cougars pick up a quality win against Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s? Maybe. Can they pick up enough to warrant an at-large bid? Absolutely not. Eric Mika (21.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg) is great, but if he gets in foul trouble, like he did Saturday against the Illini, the Cougars’ already spotty defense becomes nearly non-existent in the paint. The Zags and Gaels bigs have no doubt taken notice.

5. Loyola Marymount Lions (6-3)

Last week: W 91-90 (OT) vs. Incarnate Word, W 69-66 at Colorado State
This week: 12/22 vs. UT Arlington
Previous: Seventh

Don’t look now, but the Lions have won four in a row, including a win over Colorado State Monday night. I thought if they took better care of the ball that LMU could take a big step forward. Then they posted their lowest turnover rate (16.9) of the season against Incarnate Word and still needed five extra minutes to pick up the win. The next real test comes Thursday at home against Arlington.

6. San Francisco Dons (8-2)

Last week: L 82-78 vs. Portland State, W 86-51 vs. Abilene Christian
This week: 12/22 vs. Utah (Diamond Head Classic), TBD vs. Illinois State/Hawaii, TBD vs. TBD
Previous: Fourth

San Francisco’s offense has been good, and when the Dons aren’t relying on Ronnie Boyce (17.9 ppg) to do it all, they really look like a 8-2 team. And while they are indeed 8-2, I’m not ready to buy this offense just yet. They’ve yet to face a top-200 defense in KenPom. This week at the Diamond Head Classic will either prove the Dons are for real, or it’ll be a rude awakening.

7. San Diego Toreros (6-5)

Last week: W 105-89 vs. Bethesda
This week: 12/22 at North Texas
Previous: Sixth

Like San Francisco, San Diego hasn’t beaten anybody of note. But the Toreros have tried. Two of their losses (UCLA and USC) are to teams among the final six unbeatens in college basketball. Beyond that, there’s not much of an identity to this team. They could hang their hat on three-point defense (29.2 percent) if they didn’t just let non-Division I Bethesda drop 14 threes on them Saturday.

8. Santa Clara Broncos (5-7)

Last week: W 77-53 vs. UC Riverside, L 69-68 at Washington State
This week: 12/22 at Valparaiso
Previous: Eighth

Herb Sendek took over for Kerry Keating this past spring, but the Broncos are still losing heartbreakers to teams from the 509 area code.

A trip to Valparaiso is a lot harder than one to Pullman, Washington, but the Broncos have found a way to hang with superior competition all season long.

9. Pacific Tigers (4-7)

Last week: W 66-57 vs. North Carolina A&T, L 70-68 (OT) vs. Fresno State
This week: 12/20 vs. Kennesaw State, 12/23 vs. Pacific Union
Previous: Eighth

The Tigers are a solid rebounding team and have won the battle on the boards in all but three of their contests this season. The problem is, they’re terrible at scoring. So, they can frustrate opponents with their energy, but can’t really translate that into wins.

10. Pepperdine Waves (4-6)

Last week: N/A
This week: 12/20 at Louisiana Lafayette, 12/22 at Montana
Previous: 10th

No games for the Waves last week, and after five straight losses, that break couldn’t have come at a better time. Maybe they did some soul searching and found their identity. Because right now they’ve got the sixth-best three point percentage in the nation (43.3 percent), but barely utilize it. Three pointers account for just over a quarter of Pepperdine’s points this season.