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WCC Team of the Week and Power Rankings: Zags and Cougars look good as home stretch looms

Gonzaga and BYU, the teams picked in the preseason to finish first and second in the West Coast Conference, have rounded into form as the season turns into the home stretch.

Gonzaga's Josh Perkins is finally playing like the heralded recruit he is.
Gonzaga's Josh Perkins is finally playing like the heralded recruit he is.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Team of the Week

Guard: Amadi Udenyi Junior, Pepperdine Waves
Guard: Josh Perkins Freshman, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Guard: Nick Emery Freshman, BYU Cougars
Forward: Marin Mornar Senior, LMU Lions
Forward: Domantas Sabonis Sophomore, Gonzaga Bulldogs

Amadi Udenyi: Pepperdine's junior point guard comes off the bench to spark the team. He did just that last week with a huge second half to sink the Gaels in Moraga. He's a reserve, but he ranks third in the WCC in steal percentage and fourth in assist rate.

Josh Perkins: Frustrated Gonzaga fans might need to start overlooking the super-hyped redshirt freshman's early mistakes. Perkins racked up 16 assists to just three turnovers last week. Once on track to post the third worst offensive rating among non-benchwarming Zags in the KenPom era, Perkins is now boasting the eighth best offensive rating (121.7) in conference play.

Nick Emery: Two games, 68 points. A career high 37 against San Francisco. A program single-game record (tied with teammate Chase Fischer) ten made three pointers against San Francisco. Showed he's more than just a trigger happy shooter from distance by going 10-13 from inside the arc against Santa Clara. Also, MMM Freshman of the Week.

Marin Mornar: I guess Mike Dunlap is letting the program's lone four year senior get some run as his career comes to an end, and it's about time. After a hyper-efficient sophomore year as a role player he exploded onto the scene as a junior. But, this year he came off the bench until February 4 against Gonzaga. Since then he's been just as good as he was last year. On Thursday against Pacific (13 points) the senior from Croatia posted an offensive rating of 164. He got it done on both ends Saturday against Saint Mary's with 12 points and five blocks.

Domantas Sabonis: Honestly, Gonzaga's sophomore sensation could be on here every week. He makes scoring look too easy (37 points over two games last week) and crashes the boards as hard as anyone in the game (27 rebounds last week). He's the best player on the best team in the WCC.


Power Rankings

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (20-6, 12-2)
Last week: W 92-66 at Portland, L 69-60 at SMU
This week: 2/18 vs. Pacific, 2/20 vs. Saint Mary's
Previous: First

Gonzaga's in-conference run of form continued last Thursday in a trip to Portland. In six straight wins over WCC foes the Zags are outscoring their competition by 123 points or an average of 20.5 points per game. Saturday in Dallas, however, the Zags reverted to their old, out-of-conference selves against SMU. A second half defensive collapse let the No. 16 Mustangs take control of the game. Kyle Wiltjer scored four points on 2-17 shooting. Despite his complete ineptitude, the Zags kept feeding him the ball. Gonzaga's lack of depth was put on full display.

2. BYU Cougars (19-8, 10-4)
Last week: W 114-89 at San Francisco, W 96-62 at Santa Clara
This week: 2/18 at San Diego, 2/20 vs. San Diego
Previous: Third

While I might not say BYU is the second best team in the WCC, the Cougars are certainly in a much stronger position to finish the season than the only other team (Saint Mary's) in the running for second-best. With the WCC beginning conference play earlier than ever this season, so early that BYU was still off in Hawai'i taking part in the Diamond Head Classic, the Cougars have had one heck of a quirky schedule. Initially that saw them play LMU and Pepperdine in back-to-back weeks. Now it has them playing travel partner San Diego home and away in the same week — normally WCC teams only play one game the week they face their travel partner. So, the Cougars get the worst team in the WCC twice in a row then Portland and Gonzaga at home. Not a bad way to finish off the regular season. Three easy wins (though BYU has a propensity for blowing what should be gimmes) and a shot at a season-altering win heading into Vegas.

3. Saint Mary's Gaels (20-4, 11-3)
Last week: L 69-63 vs. Pepperdine, W 68-62 vs. Loyola Marymount
This week: 2/18 at Portland, 2/20 at Gonzaga
Previous: Second

What's happened to the Gaels? Has that complete lack of competition early in the season come back to haunt them? Is this young team hitting a wall? Whatever it is, one thing is clear. The Gaels aren't the same. Pepperdine swept them this season, and ruined their perfect home season on Thursday. Then an LMU team with no business playing a close game hung around in Moraga. The Gaels are 2-2 in the month of February and their offense is sputtering.

4. Pepperdine Waves (16-10, 9-6)
Last week: W 69-63 at Saint Mary's, W 65-63 at Pacific
This week: 2/18 vs. San Francisco, 2/20 vs. Santa Clara
Previous: Fourth

Pepperdine's huge win at Saint Mary's ended a three game skid and kept the fifth place Dons from gaining any more ground. A win over San Francisco on Thursday would lock up a top-four finish for the Waves. Last week's performance also kept the Waves' NIT hopes alive. With a season sweep of the Gaels, Pepperdine is now 4-4 against the RPI top-100. Four WCC teams have earned NIT bids since BYU joined the conference back in 2011. Those teams went 2-8, 3-8, 3-7 and 5-6 against the RPI top-100. Pepperdine is currently 4-4 against the RPI top-100.

5. San Francisco Dons (14-11, 7-7)
Last week: L 114-89 vs. BYU, W 68-51 vs. San Diego
This week: 2/18 at Pepperdine, 2/20 at Loyola Marymount
Previous: Sixth

San Francisco (77.2 ppg) showed what it can do offensively against the high octane Cougars. Unfortunately for the Dons, they also showed just how weak defensively they are by allowing the Cougars to score their most points against a Division I opponent in over 20 years. Holding San Diego to 51 points the next time out somehow sent what was the least efficient defense in the WCC up three spots. But, that's what happens when you play not only the least efficient offense in the WCC but among the worst in the nation.

6. Portland Pilots (11-16, 5-9)
Last week: L 92-66 vs. Gonzaga
This week: 2/18 vs. Saint Mary's, 2/20 vs. Pacific
Previous: Fifth

Portland was surging for a minute there, then last week the Pilots had to go up against the Zags. They lost their one game last week, and didn't really stand a chance in that game. Alec Wintering (11 points) and the starters were held mostly in check. But Freshman Jarrel Marshall (25 points) went for a career high. He's hit double figures for three straight games.

7. Santa Clara Broncos (9-17, 5-9)
Last week: W 74-71 vs. San Diego, L 96-62 vs. BYU
This week: 2/18 at Loyola Marymount, 2/20 at Pepperdine
Previous: Seventh

The Broncos have held steady in seventh for a good while now. Clearly not among the conference's cellar dwellers but not showing the ability to play consistent, quality basketball. That was the case again last week. The Broncos gutted out a three point win over the worst team and offense in the league (and gave up 71 points) then fell by 34 to one of the WCC's best. Jared Brownridge (19.7 ppg) hasn't hit 20 points in a game this month.

8. Loyola Marymount Lions (11-15, 4-11)
Last week: W 77-72 at Pacific, L 68-62 at Saint Mary's
This week: 2/18 vs. Santa Clara, 2/20 vs. San Francisco
Previous: 10th

The Lions nearly came away with what would have been a shocking Northern California sweep, but ultimately fell six points short at Saint Mary's (still, somewhat shocking). What makes it more impressive was that the Lions were without their best player, junior forward Adom Jacko, due to injury against the Gaels. Senior Marin Mornar stepped up with 12 points and five blocks to help the Lions nearly pull off the upset of the WCC season.

9. Pacific Tigers (7-17, 5-9)
Last week: L 77-72 vs. Loyola Marymount, L 65-63 OT vs. Pepperdine
This week: 2/18 at Gonzaga, 2/20 at Portland
Previous: Eighth

The Tigers come to play against the league's best. They took it to Gonzaga in Stockton, nearly beat Saint Mary's, then they did pull off the upset and knock off BYU in Provo and on Saturday they took the Waves to overtime before falling. But, against a team on their level, the Tigers just don't get up. Hence the 77-72 loss to Loyola Marymount at home. It's a trend we've seen all season.

10. San Diego Toreros (8-17, 3-11)
Last week: L 74-71 at Santa Clara, L 68-51 at San Francisco
This week: 2/18 vs. BYU, 2/20 at BYU
Previous: Ninth

Dead last in the WCC in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage and three point percentage. This team flat out can not play basketball on one end of the floor. Defensively they're average, but that average is drooping in conference play. Those two things add up to unattractive, ineffective basketball.