West Coast Conference play got underway Thursday with all ten teams in action. Here are three things to know from around the league to get you caught up on what’s going on out West.
Big Three Start Strong
No. 7 Gonzaga (13-0, 1-0) took care of Pepperdine (4-9, 0-1) at home 92-62. That’s now 21 consecutive wins for the Zags in conference openers. For No. 19 Saint Mary’s, (11-1, 1-0) it was a bit more of a challenge, but the Gaels won on the road at Loyola Marymount (7-5, 0-1), 72-60. And in Provo, BYU (10-4, 1-0) easily dispatched Santa Clara (6-8, 0-1) 89-59.
BYU is clearly a rung or two below Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s this season. But, rightfully, since joining the WCC, the Cougars have compared themselves with those two programs rather than any of the other seven schools. Taking care of business against Santa Clara showed that Dave Rose’s squad is indeed closer to the top than the middle, once again.
But really, for the casual observer all of this boils down to one thing. The race for the WCC title is going to be fun. On Jan. 14, Gonzaga hosts Saint Mary’s, and now we’re one step closer to that game being a nationally-televised clash between two undefeated-in-league teams with first place on the line.
Second Tier Teams Take Care of Business
San Francisco (11-3, 1-0) and Portland (8-5, 1-0), which ranked fourth and seventh, respectively, in this week’s WCC power rankings, picked up wins over San Diego (7-6, 0-1) and Pacific (6-8, 0-1), respectively.
Portland, which has shown flashes of being an offensive juggernaut this season, opened conference play with a 1.29 points per possession performance. Only Gonzaga (1.26 points per possession) came close to that mark on Thursday night. But the Pilots did that on the road. Meanwhile, San Francisco snapped San Diego’s five game winning streak.
San Francisco had been hot, while Portland had been sputtering somewhat. But these two teams opened conference play exactly how a second tier WCC team should. They got wins over teams they have to beat.
Great Offense Happens Late at Night
Portland 80, Pacific 76. 156 total points.
Gonzaga 92, Pepperdine 62. 154 total points.
San Francisco 80, San Diego 74. 154 total points.
BYU 89, Santa Clara 59. 148 total points.
Saint Mary’s 72, LMU 60. 132 total points.
If you want to watch teams score the basketball, you need to stay up and watch what’s happening on the West Coast.
Seven of the league’s ten teams posted an offensive efficiency figure over 100 on Thursday night. Offensively, the WCC ranks among the top five leagues in offensive efficiency (108.3), effective field goal percentage (52.6%) and three-point percentage (38.6%). Yes, it’s a small sample size. But it’s also the continuation of a years long trend.
The WCC has been a top-ten league in offesnive efficiency per KenPom for the past seven seasons. And it’s been on an upward trend over those seven years. With scoring machines in Spokane and Provo, and a ruthlessly efficient team from Moraga, the other seven teams have had to shoot to keep up.
The end result being a lot of made baskets every Thursday and Saturday night. That’s a reason to stay up.