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WCC power rankings and team of the week entering conference play

With two months under their belts a number of WCC freshmen have started paying dividends for their teams.

NCAA Basketball: South Dakota at Gonzaga
Gonzaga freshman forward Zach Collins in action against South Dakota.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Team of the Week

Guard: Jared Brownridge (second appearance)- Santa Clara Broncos
An offensive rating of 142 and 30 points against Valparaiso for the senior guard who never comes off the floor.

Guard: Brandon Brown (second apperance) - LMU Lions
The senior scored 22 points and added 11 assists against UT Arlington. He went for 22 against Colorado State and also did this:

Guard: Charles Minlend - San Francisco Dons
In four games last week, the freshman came off the bench to average 14 points per game. Minlend led the Dons in scoring in the Diamond Head Classic semis (17 points) and title game (18 points).

Forward: Yoeli Childs - BYU Cougars
After moving into the starting lineup seven games ago, Childs has blossomed. The freshman averaged 13.5 rebounds over two games last week.

Forward: Zach Collins (second appearance) - Gonzaga Bulldogs
The freshman sixth man put up 21 points and hit all nine of his shots from the field. He’s not playing for Kentucky, but he’s one of the very best freshman in the nation.

Power Rankings

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (12-0)

Last week: W 102-65 vs. South Dakota
This week: 12/29 vs. Pepperdine, 12/31 at Pacific
Previous: First

Mark Few’s Bulldogs are off to the best start in program history and have made it through non-conference play unblemished. They’ve yet to play a true road game though, something they’ll have to do nine times before March. So it’s too soon to assume they’ll run through WCC play without dropping a game. But a historical weakness of theirs, three-point percentage defense, is now one of Gonzaga’s greatest assets. The Zags’ three-point percentage defense (26.7 percent) ranks first in the nation. Against a slate of WCC competition that shoots 37.9 percent from long range (compared to the national average of 34.8 percent), this transformation into the nation’s best perimeter defense couldn’t have come at a better time.

2. Saint Mary’s Gaels (10-1)

Last week: W 67-46 vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi, W 74-47 vs. South Carolina State
This week: 12/29 at Loyola Marymount, 12/31 vs. San Diego
Previous: Second

According to KenPom’s adjusted tempo metric, the Gaels are the second-slowest team in college basketball, yet they rank in the top half in scoring with an average of 75 points per game. Randy Bennett’s Gaels are obscenely efficient on offense, and while they don’t hang their hat on the defensive end, they’re an above average team there as well. They hold teams to the fourth fewest points in the nation (57.5 per game). Lights-out shooting and a limited number of possessions has turned Moraga, California into Blowout City, USA. Also, junior center Jock Landale (17.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 63.6% FG) is quietly putting together an all-America-worthy season.

3. BYU Cougars (9-4)

Last week: W 84-58 vs. Idaho State, W 81-71 vs. Cal State Bakersfield
This week: 12/29 vs. Santa Clara, 12/31 at Loyola Marymount
Previous: Fourth

The Cougars’ 9-4 non-conference record is tied for their worst in their brief six-year history in the WCC. Last season, also with a 9-4 non-conference record, they missed the NCAA Tournament. We’re far enough into this season to say with certainty that they’re on the same track again and might need to win the WCC Tournament to snag a bid. Dave Rose’s Cougars have had four shots against decent-to-good teams so far, and have won once (Colorado) and lost the other three (Valparaiso, USC and Illinois). They’ll get four more shots at quality wins in WCC play, but if that 1-3 record isn’t enough now, a 1-3 record against Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s won’t bolster the resume much either. And, if Utah Valley can win in Provo, you can’t expect the Cougars won’t slip up against the likes of Portland, San Francisco, or worse.

4. San Francisco Dons (10-3)

Last week: W 86-51 vs. Abilene Christian, W 89-86 vs. Utah, W 66-58 vs. Illinois State, L 62-48 vs. San Diego State
This week: 12/29 vs. San Diego, 12/31 at Santa Clara
Previous: Sixth

There are 61 teams with 10-plus wins, and if Tennessee Martin (10-5) wasn’t in that group, San Francisco would be easily the least impressive on paper. And that’s after the Dons picked up their two best wins of the season en route to the Diamond Head Classic title game. That semifinal win over Illinois State shows that the Dons’ hot shooting can hold up against a statistically strong defense. But the length, athleticism, and frustratingly slow pace of the Aztecs completely shut down Kyle Smith’s offense. They’re the perfect candidate to pick off a high-tempo team like BYU, but against a slow-as-molasses Saint Mary’s or athlete-laden Gonzaga?

5. Loyola Marymount Lions (7-4)

Last week: W 69-66 at Colorado State, L 80-77 vs. UT Arlington, W 70-49 vs. Morgan State
This week: 12/29 vs. Saint Mary’s, 12/31 vs. BYU
Previous: Fifth

The Lions are the kings of close games. A quality UT Arlington team, which won by 14 points at Saint Mary’s a few weeks back, escaped Gersten Pavilion with a three-point victory last week. Senior guard Brandon Brown was an all-WCC honorable mention last season. If he’s not named first- or second-team this season, Lions fans have the right to be up in arms.

6. San Diego Toreros (7-5)

Last week: W 69-68 at North Texas
This week: 12/29 at San Francisco, 12/31 at Saint Mary’s
Previous: Seventh

On paper, the Toreros look really bad. Ken Pomeroy’s ratings have them as the worst team in the WCC, over 20 spots in back of Pepperdine. They’ve yet to beat anybody remotely good, but they’ve also played some really tough competition, including a pair of still-unbeatens (USC and UCLA). What does it all add up to? Honestly, probably nothing more than a bottom-half finish in the WCC.

7. Portland Pilots (7-5)

Last week: L 77-75 vs. Portland State, L 77-72 (OT) at Cal State Fullerton
This week: 12/29 at Pacific, 12/31 vs. Pepperdine
Previous: Third

If you’ve read this far, you probably think I know what I’m talking about when it comes to college hoops, especially in the WCC. I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to the Pilots. Last week, I went all-in on Terry Porter’s team, and then they suffered two straight losses to sub-par competition. A great three-point shooting team (40 percent), the Pilots have all the pieces to finish comfortably in the top half of the WCC. Maybe even third. They just can’t afford to drop winnable home games.

8. Santa Clara Broncos (6-7)

Last week: W 87-80 (2OT) at Valparaiso
This week: 12/29 at BYU, 12/31 vs. San Francisco
Previous: Eighth

Jared Brownridge is no joke, folks. The senior guard went for 30 points in an impressive road win over Valparaiso. He’s playing the fourth-most percentage of his team’s minutes of anyone in college basketball (93.7). After a somewhat rocky and inefficient start to the season, Brownridge (19.2 ppg) has grown into his role and is now thriving. If the Broncos were better overall, he’d be an early favorite for WCC Player of the Year.

9. Pacific Tigers (6-7)

Last week: W 69-56 vs. Kennesaw State, W 102-54 vs. Pacific Union
This week: 12/29 vs. Portland, 12/31 vs. Gonzaga
Previous: Ninth

Despite a pair of wins last week, the Tigers stayed stuck in ninth. It’s been over a month since they’ve picked up a win over decent competition and they’ve yet to win away from home this season. Pacific is about to start its fourth trip through the WCC, and it’s not looking like this will be the year the Tigers finish with a winning record in conference play.

10. Pepperdine Waves (4-8)

Last week: L 90-64 at Louisiana-Lafayette, L 71-70 at Montana
This week: 12/29 at Gonzaga, 12/31 at Portland
Previous: 10th

That’s now seven straight losses for Marty Wilson’s Waves. They finish their stretch of four straight road games this week, with two more looming in the Pacific Northwest. Pepperdine shoots over 42 percent from three point range, which is good for best in the WCC and seventh in the nation. But they never shoot them. Less than a quarter of the Waves’ shots come from distance, and only six teams in the nation take fewer threes than Pepperdine. It’s mind-boggling.