Team of the Week
|Guard: Jared Brownridge||Junior, Santa Clara Broncos|
|Guard: Nick Emery||Freshman, BYU Cougars|
|Guard: Alec Kobre||Senior, Pacific Tigers|
|Forward: Adom Jacko||Junior, LMU Lions|
|Forward: Kyle Wiltjer||Senior, Gonzaga Bulldogs|
Jared Brownridge: It took him a while to get going at the Kennel against Gonzaga's defense. On Saturday in Portland, though, he had no problems. In 38 minutes the junior scored 38 points on 21 of 35 shooting.
Nick Emery: BYU's freshman sharpshooter didn't put up huge numbers last week, scoring just 27 points over two games, but he showed up on the defensive end. Against a Pepperdine team that is quite good at valuing possession Emery racked up five steals.
Alec Kobre: In the second half against Saint Mary's, the Tigers' lone game last week, Kobre scored 11 of his 18 points and got hot from deep. Kobre got hot from distance as the Tigers tried to defend their lead late against the Gaels.
Adom Jacko: Two games, 20 points in each. Jacko has become one of the most consistent performers in the WCC since the start of conference play. If he can manage to stay out of foul trouble Jacko will become one of the west's most dominant players.
Kyle Wiltjer: Against Santa Clara the Zags' strech-four scored 35 point and went seven of 11 from long range. A meager by his standards 15 points on Saturday was still enough to make his average for the week 25 points per game.
1. Saint Mary's Gaels (18-2, 9-1)
Last week: W 68-65 at Pacific
This week: 2/4 at BYU, 2/6 at San Diego
The Gaels have now faced double digit second half deficits against one of the WCC's best teams (Gonzaga) and one of its worst (Pacific). In both games, they've gutted out comeback wins. Maybe teams are figuring out how to slow what is still, after putting up their fourth worst shooting performance of the season, the nation's best shooting offense (53.2% FG). While computers might not like ugly games too much I can't help but think these are good for a team that has spent most of the season coasting past weak teams at home. Up next, the opposite. A strong BYU team in a very hostile environment.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (17-5, 9-2)
Last week: W 84-67 vs. Santa Clara, W 86-48 vs. San Francisco
This week: 2/4 at Loyola Marymount, 2/6 at Pepperdine
Gonzaga relied on Kyle Wiltjer (35 points) and Domantas Sabonis (17 rebounds) to take down Santa Clara on Thursday. Then on Saturday they showed they're more than just those two bigs. Against a San Francisco team averaging 75 points per game the Zags' defense stepped up and the offense was balanced. Silas Melson came out of his slump with a team/career high 15 points. Down the stretch of the first half, with Sabonis and Wiltjer on the bench, the Zags went on an 11-0 run. If this is a sign of things to come the Zags won't be second best for long.
3. BYU Cougars (16-7, 7-3)
Last week: W 87-62 vs. Loyola Marymount, W 88-77 vs. Pepperdine
This week: 1/4 vs. Saint Mary's, 1/6 vs. Pacific
A week after Pepperdine knocked BYU out of third place in the standings and these power rankings the Cougars turned the tables on the Waves. The Cougars' offensive efficiency of 112.4 was the fifth best against the Waves this season. In the game Kyle Collinsworth became BYU's all-time leading rebounder. The 6-foot-6 point guard was already the Cougars' leading assist man. A favorable schedule down the stretch puts BYU — including last week, seven of the Cougars final 10 games are at home where BYU is unbeaten this year — puts BYU in control of its own destiny.
Like BYU, Pepperdine is unbeaten at home this year. Also like BYU, the majority of the Waves remaining games are at Firestone Fieldhouse (four of seven). So the Waves shouldn't have any problem staying in the top-four of the WCC even with games against Gonzaga and Saint Mary's left on the schedule. But, their early season struggles and Saturday's loss to BYU have really put a dent in the Waves' résumé. And I'm talking about their NIT résumé. It's auto-bid or bust for the Waves at this point.
Six Dons scored in double-figures in Thursday's win at Portland. Only two hit double-figures at Gonzaga and the Dons were run out of the gym. A Northwest split is about as good as any team in the WCC can expect (even BYU can't seem to pull a sweep). So the Dons rise in the rankings because everybody else has no right to do the same. Their offense has put up 883 points in conference play, second only to Gonzaga's 913. That alone is enough to push them to a win about half the time.
6. Santa Clara Broncos (8-15, 4-7)
Last week: L 84-67 at Gonzaga, W 90-84 at Portland
This week: 2/6 at San Francisco
Jared Brownridge got hot in the second half Thursday in Spokane but it was too late. Santa Clara had no answer for Kyle Wiltjer, whose 23 first half points pretty much put the game away. Brownridge came up even bigger Saturday in Portland, erupting for 38 points. The Broncos' posted their highest offensive efficiency ranking of the season on Saturday (120.5). During their 0-7 start they never topped 100.0. They've only failed to top 100.0 five times since.
7. Pacific Tigers (6-14, 4-6)
Last week: L 68-65 vs. Saint Mary's
This week: 2/4 at San Diego, 2/6 at BYU
Interim head coach Mike Burns has done something to get this previously hapless team fired up for big games. Two weeks ago the Tigers took it to Gonzaga and very nearly popped Gonzaga's bubble. Saturday against Saint Mary's they nearly did the same but gave up a late lead. This week they've got another chance for some Saturday insanity when they head to BYU. Yeah, Provo isn't Stockton, but the Cougars will be coming off a nearly must-win game against league-leading Saint Mary's. Trap game. With no postseason to play for, playing spoiler is about the best the Tigers can do.
8. Loyola Marymount Lions (10-12, 3-8)
Last week: L 87-62 at BYU, L 77-69 at San Diego
This week: 2/4 at Gonzaga, 2/6 at Portland
So, LMU ran into a BYU team that at this point can't afford another loss. And, that BYU team had just a week prior given up 50 first half points to the Lions. Excusable loss indeed. But Saturday at San Diego the Lions completely imploded. LMU missed its final eight shots, hit just one of its final 14 and only two of the final 19. No matter which sample size you choose, that's awful. Adom Jacko fouled out late and Steven Haney turned the ball over while trying to inbound it, unguarded. San Diego's offense is bad, to put it lightly, but the Lions allowed them to post their third best offensive efficiency of the season.
9. San Diego Toreros (7-14, 2-8)
Last week: L 75-65 vs. Pepperdine, W 77-69 vs. Loyola Marymount
This week: 2/4 vs. Pacific, 2/6 vs. Saint Mary's
These are power rankings, I don't think the Toreros are necessarily better than the Pilots but they are certainly in a better position to finish strong. Marcus Harris had a career high 23 points in Saturday's win over LMU and the Toreros posted their second best offensive efficiency of the conference season.
10. Portland Pilots (9-15, 3-8)
Last week: L 87-76 vs. San Francisco, L 90-84 vs. Santa Clara
This week: 2/4 at Pepperdine, 2/6 at Loyola Marymount
One win in nine tries for the Pilots (over BYU, of all teams). This is a team that lives by the three (they hit ten against BYU) but more often than not dies by it. Portland plays fast, and chucks up a ton of threes. Their offense isn't healthy like it was during the non-conference slate. Plus, they've got a brutal final month ahead of them.