Here’s who did what in the WCC in the second week of the regular season:
Team of the Week
G: Emmett Naar - Saint Mary’s Gaels (second appearance)
The Aussie has racked up 38 assists to just five turnovers over the Gaels’ first four games. He averaged 8.7 assists and 0.7 turnovers per game last week.
G: Elijah Bryant - BYU Cougars (second appearance)
The most consistent Cougar so far this season, Bryant was BYU’s leading scorer against Princeton (22 points) and UT Arlington (15 points).
F: Jahlil Tripp - Pacific Tigers
A strong start for the sophomore JuCo transfer. Had a breakout game against Nevada with 24 points and 15 rebounds.
F: Killian Tillie - Gonzaga Bulldogs
Over two games last week Tillie connected on 12 of 16 field goal attempts. He missed all three from long range, but those will fall eventually.
C: Jock Landale - Saint Mary’s Gaels
The senior big man averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds in three games last week. Closing in on a very attainable 20-and-10 average.
1. Saint Mary’s Gaels (4-0)
Last week: W 92-74 vs. New Mexico State, W 76-57 vs. Cal State Fullerton, W 79-61 at San Jose State
This week: 11/23 vs. Harvard, 11/24 vs. St. Joe’s/Washington State, 11/26 vs. TBD (Wooden Legacy)
It took four games, but Saint Mary’s has finally found their ideal pace of play. After playing just 61 possessions against San Jose State, the Gaels now rank as the second slowest team in the country, behind only Virginia, for the second year in a row. They’ll spend Thanksgiving at the Wooden Legacy as the outright favorite. Fans should be hoping for those potential matchups with Saint Joseph’s in the semis, and Georgia in the finals, as no other teams in the field can really help boost what is once again a less-than-impressive non-conference schedule.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (3-0)
Last week: W 106-69 vs. Howard, W 79-66 vs. Utah State
This week: 11/23 vs. Ohio State, 11/24 vs. Florida/Stanford, 11/26 vs. TBD (PK80)
Mark Few’s transformation of Gonzaga into an elite defensive team over the past few years culminated last season when the Zags rated as the nation’s most efficient defense, per KenPom.
And then there was last Friday, when Utah State crashed the glass and rained threes to the tune of 42 first half points. Of those 42 points, 24 came from three pointers, and 15 were the result of offensive rebounds. It was the worst defensive performance by the Zags in recent memory. A second half turnaround — Utah State hit just three three-pointers in the second, and scored just three second chance points — led the Zags to victory. But it isn’t enough to overshadow the lazy defense this team played for 20 minutes in their first real test of the year.
3. BYU Cougars (2-1)
Last week: W 65-56 at Princeton, L 89-75 vs. UT Arlington
This week: 11/21 vs. Niagara, 11/24 vs. Alabama, 11/25 vs. UMass
Your brand matters: Part one.
Last week BYU played Princeton in New Jersey, returning a game played last year in Provo. Princeton has been a top-100 team pretty much all decade long. Then they hosted a UT Arlington team with legitimate NCAA Tournament aspirations that knocked BYU out of the NIT last season. Both Princeton and UT Arlington were top-100 teams in KenPom at the time.
Yeah, the Cougars looked awful in what was a blowout loss at home to a team from the Sun Belt. But that had more to do with UT Arlington being good than BYU being bad.
4. San Diego Toreros (3-0)
Last week: W 65-53 vs. Robert Morris, W 71-62 vs. Norfolk State
This week: 11/20 vs. Little Rock, 11/25 at Grand Canyon
Your brand matters: Part two.
BYU had two shots at teams in the top-100 of KenPom last week. As of press time, San Diego has two shots at teams in the top-100 of KenPom over the entire course of its non-conference schedule. And honestly, by the time crosstown rival San Diego State comes to visit the Aztecs might not be top-100 anymore. Same goes for Colorado, which hosts San Diego next month.
Yes, the Toreros look a lot better than they did last season, Yeah, Lamont Smith has this thing heading in the right direction. There’s talent on the offensive end and what looks like chemistry among the players. That is all true and undeniable, but they’ve played three really bad teams. Looking at the metrics, San Diego appears to be a team that is strongest on the defensive side of the ball. But, again, they’ve played three really bad teams.
You see this imbalance so often with mid-majors. Defensive numbers are inflated because the competition these teams face, by simply being from the University of San Diego rather than a brand like Brigham Young, isn’t all that competitive. Simply put, Norfolk State and Robert Morris don’t have the shot-making ability that Princeton and UT Arlington have. And they really don’t have the ability that BYU or Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s have. I can’t put this team in the top three until they show they can hang with a team that is, at worst, competing for a berth in the NIT. Which is unfair, because San Diego can’t help the position it’s in. All they can do is win and keep winning.
5. San Francisco Dons (2-1)
Last week: W 75-63 vs. St. Francis (PA), W 69-56 vs. Sacramento State
This week: 11/21 vs. Sonoma State
The Dons are going to take it easy to close out November. They play two games before December, and only one against a Div. I team. Nobody on their schedule thus far has been remotely good, and yet USF isn’t undefeated. This team was picked to finish fourth in the preseason, and as of now I’ve got no idea how close to accurate that projection will be. We’ll find out on Dec. 2 when they travel to Arizona State.
6. Loyola Marymount Lions (2-1)
Last week: W 76-64 vs. UC Riverside, W 92-86 (OT) vs. McNeese State
This week: 11/22 vs. Incarnate Word, 11/25 at Boise State
That season-opening, five-point loss at UT Arlington suddenly looks a lot better. Loyola Marymount appears to be, like San Diego, a team that was undervalued in the preseason. Let’s just hope last season’s trend of playing to the level of their competition isn’t spilling over into this year. Unfortunately, needing overtime to take down McNeese State at home isn’t a good sign in that regard.
7. Santa Clara Broncos (1-2)
Last week: L 93-63 vs. Nevada, L 63-59 vs. Cal Poly
This week: 11/22 vs. Idaho, 11/23 and 11/25 vs. TBD (Great Alaska Shootout)
Santa Clara scored 120 points in their season opener, against a non-Div. I opponent. In the Broncos’ subsequent two games, both against Div. I opponents, they totaled 122 points. They’re not turning the ball over, so if they can just get some shots to start falling things could turn around real quick.
8. Pacific Tigers (0-3)
Last week: L 62-58 vs. UC Davis, L 89-74 vs. Nevada
This week: 11/21 at Air Force, 11/24 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 11/25 vs. Texas State, 11/26 vs. Canisius
You’ve gotta give it to the Tigers for how they opened the season, visiting Stanford and hosting Nevada. It just didn’t work out that great for them. Now they’ve got a trip to Air Force before back-to-back-to-back winnable home games. The Tigers will likely still be sub-.500 after next week, but they shouldn’t be winless.
9. Pepperdine Waves (1-2)
Last week: W 107-82 vs. Cal Lutheran, L 84-82 vs. Northern Colorado
This week: 11/20 vs. UC Santa Barbara, 11/24 at Texas A&M
Pepperdine will face the WCC’s toughest test of the season on Friday when they travel to Texas A&M. The Waves have almost no shot at winning, but if Amadi Udenyi plays there’s a chance it won’t get ugly. The fifth year senior guard, who earned preseason all-WCC honors from us, has missed the past two games due to a concussion.
10. Portland Pilots (2-1)
Last week: W 89-52 vs. Walla Walla, W 86-59 vs. Oregon Tech
This week: 11/23 vs. North Carolina, 11/24 vs. Arkansas/Oklahoma, 11/26 vs. TBD (PK80)
Two wins against teams that don’t play Div. I basketball. Portland stays put.