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WCC Power Rankings and Team of the Week: Zags and Gaels dominate Week Nine

#1 and #2 are no surprise.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Francisco
Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss dribbles against San Francisco’s Jordan Ratinho.
Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Last week saw Saint Mary’s host BYU in the first big-three clash of the WCC season. As it turns out, it might just be a big-two this year.

Not surprisingly, the Zags’ and Gaels’ have some stars who can’t stay off our WCC team of the week.

Team of the Week

Guard: Nigel Williams-Goss (fourth appearance) — Gonzaga Bulldogs
A career-high 36 points to go along with 11 rebounds and six assists against San Francisco. The junior became the first player in the nation to post a 35 point, 10 rebound and five assist performance this season.

Guard: KJ Feagin (second appearance) — Santa Clara Broncos
The sophomore’s played for just three weeks this season, but has quickly gotten his legs under him after returning from a foot injury. Last week he scored 19 points per game, went 10-of-21 from long range and dished out 12 assists.

Forward: Juwan Gray San Diego Toreros
The freshman pulled down 14 rebounds, all on the defensive end, in Saturday’s road win over Pepperdine. Gray’s season high of 17 rebounds came in a triple-overtime game against Bethune-Cookman.

Forward: Chris Reyes (second appearance) — Pepperdine Waves
The senior transfer from Utah continues to benefit from the Waves’ insistence on getting the ball inside. Reyes hit 13-of-21 two point attempts last week and scored 20 and 21 points in two games.

Center: Jock Landale (fourth appearance) — Saint Mary’s Gaels
Thursday vs. BYU: 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Saturday vs. San Francisco: 21 points and 11 rebounds. Over those two games he missed just eight of his 27 shots from the field.

Power Rankings

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (15-0, 3-0)

Last week: W 95-80 at San Francisco, PPD at Portland
This week: 1/12 vs. Loyola Marymount, 1/14 vs. Saint Mary’s
Previous: First

Nigel Williams-Goss erupted for a career high 36 points in last week’s win over San Francisco in the Bay Area. Five Zags average double-figures in scoring, with two more logging more than eight points per game. So, one of the questions surrounding Mark Few’s team was if there was someone who could take over a game if needed. Now we know: that someone is Williams-Goss.

A winter storm caused Gonzaga’s game in Portland, scheduled for Saturday, to be postponed. It will be made up at a later date which is yet to be determined.

2. Saint Mary’s Gaels (14-1, 4-0)

Last week: W 81-68 vs. BYU, W 63-52 at San Francisco
This week: 1/12 at Portland, 1/14 at Gonzaga
Previous: Second

The Gaels are slow. Only Holy Cross and Virginia play less possessions per 40 minutes than Saint Mary’s (61.8). On Thursday the Gaels hosted BYU, which at 77.2 possessions per 40 minutes ranks sixth in the nation. Randy Bennett’s disciplined, veteran squad held BYU to just 62 possessions. Or, exactly the speed at which Saint Mary’s wanted to play. If the Cougars can’t push Saint Mary’s out of its comfort zone then no one can.

There is just one area of concern for the Gaels, and it is, somewhat surprisingly, turnovers. Saturday against San Francisco one quarter of the Gaels’ possessions ended in a turnover. Through two weeks they rank dead last in WCC play with a turnover rate over 20 percent.

3. BYU Cougars (12-5, 3-1)

Last week: L 81-68 at Saint Mary’s, W 91-62 vs. Pacific
This week: 1/12 vs. San Francisco, 1/14 at San Diego
Previous: Third

After missing ten games with a knee injury sophomore guard Elijah Bryant (8.6 ppg) returned to action last week. In two games since returning he’s scored 28 points. Bryant sat out last season after transferring from Elon, where he was named the 2015 CAA Rookie of the Year. So, his presence is a huge boost for the Cougars. Along with Bryant, BYU has been working in junior forward Corbin Kaufusi, who spent the Fall playing football. Between Bryant’s talent and Kaufusi’s experience (36 career starts), the Cougars just got a big mid-season boost. But, if Thursday’s performance at Saint Mary’s is any indication, it won’t be enough to vault them into the title race.

4. Santa Clara Broncos (8-9, 2-2)

Last week: W 70-42 vs. Portland, L 66-56 at LMU
This week: 1/12 at San Diego, 1/14 at Pepperdine
Previous: Seventh

As mentioned above, KJ Feagin (14.6 ppg) missed the first 12 games of the season with a foot injury. In five games since returning the Broncos are playing much better, particularly defensively. The sophomore has started the past four games and scored in double-figures in the past three. Feagin gives Santa Clara a legitimate second scoring option as teams key in on Jared Brownridge (17.1 ppg), who passed 2,000 career points last Thursday. Feagin’s return couldn’t have come at a better time, either. The Broncos were hampered by injuries to usual starter Matt Hauser (concussion) and key reserve Jarvis Pugh (foot) on Saturday, forcing them to play a six man rotation. Once everybody is back and healthy, the Broncos could play spoiler down the stretch.

5. Portland Pilots (9-6, 2-1)

Last week: L 70-42 at Santa Clara, PPD vs. Gonzaga
This week: 1/12 vs. Saint Mary’s, 1/14 vs. LMU
Previous: Fourth

The Pilots got absolutely smacked by Santa Clara in the Bay Area on Thursday. All-WCC point guard Alec Wintering turned the ball over seven times to go with just four assists. It was the least efficient game of the season for the Pilots, who were held to just 0.70 points per possession. Their previous low was 0.88 against Colorado back in early December.

Portland would likely be on a two-game losing streak were it not for a winter storm which caused their home game against Gonzaga to be postponed Saturday.

6. LMU Lions (8-7, 1-3)

Last week: L 71-70 at Pepperdine, W 66-56 vs. Santa Clara
This week: 1/12 at Gonzaga, 1/14 at Portland
Previous: Fifth

The Lions have four one-possession losses this season, two of which were by just one point. The Lions have three one-possession wins this season, two of which were by just one point. This team could very easily have a wildly different record, in either direction.

7. San Francisco Dons (11-6, 1-3)

Last week: L 95-80 vs. Gonzaga, L 63-52 vs. Saint Mary’s
This week: 1/12 at BYU, 1/14 at Pacific
Previous: Sixth

In 11 non-conference games this season, the Dons’ average offensive efficiency was 111.6. Only twice during those 11 games did they fail to record an offensive efficiency over 100. In four conference games they’ve fallen short of 100 twice and are averaging an offensive efficiency of 100.5. That’s a big drop, and only barely good for fifth best in the WCC. A missed shot or two and they’d be eighth.

8. Pacific Tigers (7-10, 1-3)

Last week: W 56-53 at San Diego, L 91-62 at BYU
This week: 1/12 vs. Pepperdine, 1/14 at San Francisco
Previous: Ninth

The Tigers rank dead last in WCC play in offensive efficiency (94.0), effective field goal percentage (45.8%) and free throw percentage (56.5%). Granted it’s been just four games, so this comparison isn’t the best but it’s worth noting: Gardner-Webb is the nation’s worst free throw shooting team this season, having connected on just 57.2 percent of its free throws. That’s better than what the Tigers have done since the start of WCC play. In a league full of shooters, a team that can barely connect on half of their unguarded shots is doomed.

9. San Diego Toreros (8-8, 1-3)

Last week: L 56-53 vs. Pacific, W 76-68 at Pepperdine
This week: 1/12 vs. Santa Clara, 1/14 vs. BYU
Previous: Eighth

On paper, there’s nothing that really stands out about this team, good or bad. They’ve won eight games, but according to KenPom their best win of the season came Saturday at Pepperdine. And, if you’ve read this far you should know the Waves are the only team I view less favorably going forward than the Toreros.

10. Pepperdine Waves (5-11, 1-3)

Last week: W 71-70 vs. Loyola Marymount, L 76-68 vs. San Diego
This week: 1/12 at Pacific, 1/14 vs. Santa Clara
Previous: 10th

The Waves pulled out a one point win at home over rival Loyola Marymount last Thursday, which snapped a nine-game losing streak. I’m going to say this every week until it changes: Pepperdine is ninth best in the nation from three (40.4%) but Marty Wilson’s squad ranks ninth-to-last in three pointers taken per field goal attempt (0.25). Why? Three-point shooting is the one area they’re more than marginally above average in, and they’ve spent all season actively working to not shoot many threes. Why?