The three teams fighting for third are so far off the pace that the dust settles before they reach it. Here’s how the WCC shakes out in the wake of the Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s showdown.
Team of the Week
Guard: Jared Brownridge (sixth appearance) — Santa Clara Broncos
Averaged 20.5 points and three made three-pointers per game last week.
Guard/Forward: Lamond Murray Jr. (sixth appearance) — Pepperdine Waves
A scoring machine, the senior totaled 47 points last week and powered the Waves to victory over BYU with a 30-point performance.
Guard/Forward: Buay Tuach — Loyola Marymount Lions
The Lions pressed Portland relentlessly Saturday, and Tuach (18 points) came up with five steals as a result.
Forward: Yoeli Childs (second appearance) — BYU Cougars
The freshman went for 23 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks in BYU’s win at San Francisco. And to think this dude might not be getting minutes if Kyle Davis was healthy.
Forward: Johnathan Williams (second appearance) — Gonzaga Bulldogs
Often overlooked, the junior transfer from Missouri has posted the highest offensive rating (131.0) of any player in WCC play. He scored 17 points on seven-of-nine shooting, along with grabbing nine rebounds, against Saint Mary’s.
In front of a national TV audience as part of ESPN’s College GameDay, Gonzaga took care of business in its final test of the regular season. The Zags were businesslike in their victory over then-No. 20 Saint Mary’s at McKeon Pavilion Saturday. From here on things look pretty easy for the Zags.
KenPom gives Gonzaga a 99 percent chance of beating San Francisco on Thursday, a 99.9 percent chance of defeating Pacific, a 99 percent chance of winning at San Diego next week and finally, a 98 percent chance of taking down BYU at home in the season finale.
Combine those odds with the fact that playing lesser opponents hasn’t caused the Zags to take their foot off the gas — Gonzaga has won every WCC game by at least 10 points with an average margin of victory of 26.1 points — and 30-0 seems more likely than not.
2. Saint Mary’s Gaels (22-3, 12-2)
Last week: W 51-41 vs. Portland, L 74-64 vs. Gonzaga
This week: 2/16 vs. Loyola Marymount, 2/18 at BYU
Consensus among those in the know around college basketball seems to be that Saint Mary’s is, barring complete collapse, assured a spot in the NCAA Tournament. But last week’s home loss to Gonzaga means the Gaels could end up finishing the season with just one high quality win: Nov. 19 at Dayton. This season was the worst scheduling job, in terms of strength of schedule, in the 16 seasons Randy Bennett has been at the helm.
A win over Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament, if it plays out that way, and the Gaels could fall somewhere in the four to six seed range. Without that, they could be an exceptionally dangerous double-digit seed.
3. Santa Clara Broncos (14-13, 8-6)
Last week: L 61-58 at San Francisco, W 64-47 at Pacific
This week: 2/16 vs. Pepperdine, 2/18 vs. San Diego
So, teams 3, 4 and 5 in the rankings and standings went 1-1 last week. As long as you can explain your reasoning you could reasonably put them in any order. My approach: look at their remaining schedule, project their final record and rank accordingly. Since these are power rankings they should be forward-looking, yeah?
Santa Clara’s remaining games: teams 7, 8 and 9 in the standings at home and second place on the road. Projected record: 11-7. They win the tiebreaker over BYU because they didn’t give up 99 points in a loss at Pepperdine.
4. BYU Cougars (18-9, 9-5)
Last week: L 99-83 at Pepperdine, W 68-52 at San Francisco
This week: 2/16 vs. San Diego, 2/18 vs. Saint Mary’s
BYU’s remaining games: teams 8 and 2 in the standings at home, and teams 10 and 1 on the road. Projected record: 11-7.
The Cougars lost to Pepperdine for the fifth time in their last eight games on Thursday, continuing an inexplicable streak of poor road performances. BYU this season is 3-4 in true road games. They’re young, sure, but they’re too talented to be losing in such uninspiring fashion. I see them winning against San Diego and Portland, while losing to Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga. But hey, that Portland team might be dead last in the WCC but they led for most of the game two weeks ago in Provo, and the rematch is in Portland, so who knows.
5. San Francisco Dons (18-9, 8-6)
Last week: W 61-58 vs. Santa Clara, L 68-52 vs. BYU
This week: 2/16 at Gonzaga, 2/18 at Portland
San Francisco’s remaining games: teams 1, 10, 6 and 7 in the standings, all on the road. Projected record: 10-8.
On Thursday, the Dons took down Santa Clara at home which, coupled with BYU’s stunning loss at Pepperdine, moved them into a tie with the Cougars for third place in the WCC standings. Which, they promptly gave up with a home loss to the Cougars. San Francisco now sits tied for fourth with Santa Clara and, after a four game home stand, must play four straight on the road to end the season. Brutal.
6. Pepperdine Waves (9-17, 5-9)
Last week: W 99-83 vs. BYU, W 65-60 at San Diego
This week: 2/16 at Santa Clara, 2/18 at Loyola Marymount
Marty Wilson’s first five seasons in Malibu saw the waves win 10, 12, 15, 18 and 18 games, respectively. And as a result he’s proven himself to be a quality coach and program builder. This season was surrounded by question marks, however, since he would have to replace two studs in Stacy Davis and Jett Raines.
Things got worse when point guard Amadi Udenyi went down with a season ending injury in the Waves’ sixth game of the season. The Waves opened the season 4-1, but then dropped 14 of their next 15. Now though, Wilson has the Waves winning again. They’ve won four of their last six, including three straight.
7. Loyola Marymount Lions (12-13, 5-9)
Last week: L 90-60 vs. Gonzaga, W 66-60 vs. Portland
This week: 2/16 at Saint Mary’s, 2/18 vs. Pepperdine
The Lions’ previous three games have been in the mid-70s in possessions: 76, 74 and 75. They’ve scored 64, 60 and 66 points in those three games. You don’t need to be a math genius to recognize that that averages less than one point per possession.
8. Pacific Tigers (9-18, 3-11)
Last week: W 61-58 vs. San Diego, L 64-47 vs. Santa Clara
This week: 2/16 at Portland, 2/18 at Gonzaga
The Tigers have lost eight of nine, but picked up a win over San Diego last week, which could be enough to keep them from a last place finish. They have three-straight road games before the season finale against Loyola Marymount in Stockton.
9. San Diego Toreros (11-15, 4-10)
Last week: L 61-58 at Pacific, L 65-60 vs. Pepperdine
This week: 2/16 at BYU, 2/18 at Santa Clara
Losses in six of their last seven, including four straight, and a daunting four-game stretch to close out the season lies ahead.
10. Portland Pilots (9-17, 2-12)
Last week: L 51-41 at Saint Marys, L 66-60 at Loyola Marymount
This week: 2/16 vs. Pacific, 2/18 vs. San Francisco
The Pilots showed well against Saint Mary’s in Moraga, but eventually came up short on Thursday for their 11th-straight loss. Number 12 came Saturday at LMU. First year man Terry Porter gets a pass though: it’s not easy to win games in year one at a middling program when you lose your best player/starting point guard.