Welcome back to basketball, everybody! College basketball in general, but West Coast Conference basketball specifically. Each week here at Mid-Major Madness, we provide you with a total look at the WCC, complete with our indisputable power rankings and ideal starting five from the week prior.
Team of the Week
G Isaiah Wright, San Diego Toreros
Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery, and Wright sure got that when he transferred from Utah. He scored a career-high 22 points in his first game as a Torero, to go along with seven assists.
G Emmett Naar, Saint Mary’s Gaels
Naar had spent the past two years in a dual-point-guard system with Joe Rahon. In his first game as the lead point guard, the Aussie dished out 12 assists to just three turnovers.
G Elijah Bryant, BYU Cougars
The onetime CAA freshman of the year at Elon, Bryant blew up for 27 points on 10-11 shooting (6-7 3FG).
F Calvin Hermanson, Saint Mary’s Gaels
The Saint Mary’s sharpshooter went for 24 points on 9-10 shooting (5-6 3FG) and grabbed seven rebounds.
F Yoeli Childs, BYU Cougars
Yoeli Childs has a 4x5 (at least five of four different statistics): 13 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 blocks. It's the 17th 4x5 in BYU history. The last 4x5 was by Kyle Collinsworth on 3/29/16 vs. Valpo in the NIT #BYUhoops— BYU Game Notes (@BYUGameNotes) November 12, 2017
1. Saint Mary’s Gaels (1-0)
Last week: W 85-68 vs. Saint Francis (PA)
This week: Mon. vs. New Mexico State, Wed. vs. Cal State Fullerton, Sun. at San Jose State
The Gaels handled the Red Flash despite getting just two points (1-9 FG) from graduate transfer Cullen Neal. Chalk it up to rust or nerves, it was Neal’s first game in Moraga, but it showed just how balanced the Gaels’ offense is. Emmett Naar dished out 12 assists and Calvin Hermanson made all but one of his 10 shots. And with the hype surrounding Jock Landale this year, his 13-point, eight-rebound line almost seems disappointing. But the low-tempo Gaels played just 66 possessions and there’s only so much to go around in a Saint Mary’s box score.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (1-0)
Last week: W 97-69 vs. Texas Southern
This week: Tues. vs. Howard, Sat. vs. Utah State
The result was expected, and the 28-point win over Texas Southern was Gonzaga’s 14th straight victory in a home opener. The reason we watched was to see how the Zags replaced all the pieces they lost from last season’s title game team. Junior point guard Josh Perkins led the Zags with an aggressive 20 points, while senior forward Johnathan Williams added 16 points and eight rebounds. Those two were the known commodities in Spokane this season. The big news was that the underclassmen looked ready to play from the opening tip.
3. BYU Cougars (1-0)
Last week: W 91-61 vs. Mississippi Valley State
This week: Wed. at Princeton, Sat. vs. UT Arlington
The Cougars had the luxury of opening their season hosting perhaps the worst team in college basketball — Mississippi Valley State sits at 351 in KenPom’s rankings — and I doubt they care about the lack of competition. A 30-point win should sooth the sting that came when junior guard Nick Emery withdrew from school late last week. Elijah Bryant’s game-high 27 points have Cougar fans praying he stays healthy for the whole season. And Yoeli Childs’ line (13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five blocks) is like a flashback to the Kyle Collinsworth days. The sophomore power forward just might have a triple-double in him this season.
4. Santa Clara Broncos (1-0)
Last week: W 120-70 vs. La Verne
This week: Wed. vs. Nevada, Sat. vs. Cal Poly
It’s the smallest of small sample sizes: one game against a non-Division I team. Nonetheless, Santa Clara looked really good. It was the first game without Jared Brownridge, who ended his career as Santa Clara’s second- and the WCC’s fourth all-time leading scorer. After putting up 120 points and seeing six guys score in double figures, replacing Brownridge’s scoring isn’t something to worry about anymore.
5. San Francisco Dons (0-1)
Last week: L 83-71 vs. Long Beach State
This week: Mon. vs. St. Francis (PA), Fri. vs. Sacramento State
This is about as disastrous as an opening night loss can be. Even though their ceiling might be the NIT, the Dons have legitimate postseason aspirations. Drop a home game to a Long Beach State team that isn’t the Beach of years past — Dan Monson’s 49ers used to be in the top-half of college basketball on a yearly basis, but they entered this season at No. 262 in KenPom — and that NIT at-large resume takes a major hit. Thankfully, it’s early November. There’s a lot of work left to do in San Francisco, but plenty of time to do it.
6. San Diego Toreros (1-0)
Last week: W 81-64 at San Jose State
This week: Wed. vs. Robert Morris, Sat. vs. Norfolk State
San Diego’s got two Isaiahs, they’re both good, and it’s awesome. Utah transfer Isaiah Wright scored a career-high 22 points in the opener. Isaiah Pineiro, a transfer from Portland State, went for 13 points and six boards. More importantly, thanks in large part to those two, the Toreros shot the ball well. Going 60 percent from two-point land and 53 percent from deep is a marked improvement after a dismal shooting season a year ago.
7. Pacific Tigers (0-1)
Last week: L 89-80 at Stanford
This week: Wed. vs. UC Davis, Sat. vs. Nevada
Yeah, the Tigers lost by nine at Maples Pavilion. But it caused them to jump 11 spots in KenPom (258 to 247) and knock Stanford from 61 to 65. That was not supposed to be a nine-point game, even if it was played in Stockton. Damon Stoudamire’s team showed a real commitment to getting the ball inside, with 54 of the Tigers’ 68 attempts coming from inside the arc. Maybe the Tigers have found an identity for this season.
8. Pepperdine Waves (0-1)
Last week: L 78-47 at Oklahoma State
This week: Tues. vs. Cal Lutheran, Fri. vs. Northern Colorado
Pepperdine’s offense was completely overwhelmed by the Cowboys in Stillwater on opening night. Senior point guard Amadi Udenyi came into the season 11 assists shy of the program’s top-10 all-time. The Waves as a team managed just six. Freshman Trae Berhow was the lone bright spot, going 4-10 from the field for 13 points.
9. Loyola Marymount Lions (0-1)
Last week: L 85-80 at UT Arlington
This week: Wed. vs. UC Riverside, Sun. vs. McNeese State
UT Arlington picked up road wins over Saint Mary’s and BYU last season with pretty much the same cast they’ve got this year. So for the Lions to fall by just five on the road to that team is actually pretty respectable. All four of the Lions who scored in double-figures were playing their first game at the Division I level.
10. Portland Pilots (0-1)
Last week: L 80-75 vs. Portland State
This week: Tues. vs. Walla Walla, Sun. vs. Oregon Tech
Portland led 75-68 with 2:33 to play, failed to score again, and lost by five. Now the Pilots head into a week with two games, both against non-Division I teams. They can pick up wins while proving absolutely nothing.