The top is set, but teams six through nine are still jockeying for position as we enter the final third of the WCC season.
Team of the Week
Guard: Nigel Williams-Goss (seventh appearance) — Gonzaga Bulldogs
Powered Gonzaga to a win in Provo with 33 points, most of which were scored on a bum ankle.
Guard: Ronnie Boyce (third appearance) — San Francisco Dons
Averaged 17.5 points, five rebounds and three assists in two wins last week, and he keeps coming off the bench.
Guard: TJ Haws — BYU Cougars
The freshman showed no fear as he scored a career-high 29 points against No. 1 Gonzaga on the biggest stage of his career.
Guard: Brandon Brown (third appearance) — Loyola Marymount Lions
The senior guard led the Lions to victory over San Diego with 18 points, six rebounds, six assists and no turnovers.
Forward: Lamond Murray Jr. (fifth appearance) — Pepperdine Waves
Murray Jr. has scored in double figures in all but two games this season. Last week he averaged 24 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
On Thursday, the Zags rode point guard Nigel Williams-Goss to victory over BYU in Provo. His monster second half performance came on a sprained ankle. We only learned that just before Gonzaga’s next game, when Williams-Goss was seen not warming up with the team. He was ultimately left out of the starting lineup and stuck on the bench for the full 40 minutes.
Despite his absence, Gonzaga ran the Broncos out of Spokane. There’s a lot of talent on this team.
Case in point: Williams-Goss was named as one of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, Jordan Mathews was named as one of 10 finalists for the Jerry West Award, and Przemek Karnowski was named as one of 10 finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award.
2. Saint Mary’s Gaels (21-2, 11-1)
Last week: W 74-70 at Pacific, W 71-27 at San Diego
This week: 2/9 vs. Portland, 2/11 vs. Gonzaga
Ball movement and beautiful offensive basketball have been the calling cards of this Saint Mary’s team. Rightfully so, as the Gaels rank third in the nation with an offensive efficiency rating of 119.9 (Gonzaga is second at 120.1). They’re no slouches defensively, either. I’ll admit, I used to think that their defensive prowess was more a result of their exceptionally slow tempo; Saint Mary’s averages 60.1 possessions per 40 minutes, the absolute fewest in Division I. But then they held San Diego, in the same building that the Toreros scored 88 points in a win over BYU last month, to 27 points. It was the second time this season the Gaels have held an opponent to nine first half points.
Jock Landale was named one of 10 finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award.
Oh yeah, and it looks like Saint Mary’s, after a decade of prominence under Randy Bennett, has finally made it. ESPN’s College GameDay announced that it will be covering Saturday’s home game against arch-rival Gonzaga.
For over 266 consecutive minutes Gonzaga had not trailed. Then Santa Clara came to Spokane and traded blows with the nation’s best team, eventually taking a two possession lead on the Zags.
Jared Brownridge (18.5 ppg) managed just 13 points and the Broncos’ upset attempt fell apart in the end, just as it has for every other team to play Gonzaga this season.
Once again, Santa Clara went 5-7 without sophomore KJ Feagin (13.6 ppg, 5.4 apg. The Broncos have gone 8-5 since his return from injury.
4. BYU Cougars (17-8, 8-4)
Last week: L 85-75 vs. Gonzaga, W 73-62 vs. Portland
This week: 2/9 at Pepperdine, 2/11 at San Francisco
It took two Portland bigs fouling out and an 18-1 run over the final minutes for BYU to avoid a second embarrassing home loss this season. Eric Mika (20.5 ppg) and Yoeli Childs (8.6 ppg) continue to be efficient big men ...oh who am I kidding, they’re beasts game after game. But beyond that there isn’t much you can count on with the Cougars. When those two don’t get much support, things can get ugly.
Example: Saturday vs. Portland. BYU went 3-of-16 from three and very nearly lost.
Eric Mika was named one of 10 finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award.
5. San Francisco Dons (17-8, 7-5)
Last week: W 77-56 vs. Pepperdine, W 74-64 vs. Loyola Marymount
This week: 2/9 vs. Santa Clara, 2/11 vs. BYU
The Dons’ two best players, Ronnie Boyce (14.5 ppg) and Charles Minlend (10.5 ppg), play roughly 50 percent of available minutes. If they were foul-prone or lumbering bigs, then okay. But they’re guards. First year head coach Kyle Smith’s lineups continue to baffle me. Though, I’m no coach and he’s sitting with 17 wins so what do I know? But, of those 17 only two have come against teams ranked in the top-150 at KenPom. USF is clearly above who they’re above and below who they’re below in the WCC race.
6. Loyola Marymount Lions (11-12, 4-8)
Last week: W 72-53 at San Diego, L 74-64 at San Francisco
This week: 2/9 vs. Gonzaga, 2/11 vs. Portland
The Lions used to play close games. Last week their games were decided by double-figures. The results were roughly the same (hovering around .500), but the excitement is fading. Fortunately for the Lions, none of the teams below them have done much besides string together losses.
7. Pepperdine Waves (7-17, 3-9)
Last week: L 77-56 at San Francisco, W 82-72 vs. Pacific
This week: 2/9 vs. BYU, 2/11 at San Diego
Against Pacific, for just the fourth time this season, the Waves attempted over 20 threes. They went 10-of-21 from distance Saturday and won. They normally don’t take many, and they normally lose. This isn’t a coincidence. They’re in the top-fifth nationally in three point percentage (37.6%).
8. Pacific Tigers (8-17, 2-10)
Last week: L 74-70 vs. Saint Mary’s, L 82-72 at Pepperdine.
This week: 2/9 vs. Portland, 2/11 vs. Gonzaga
Seven straight losses for the Tigers, who lost a heartbreaker Thursday to Saint Mary’s. Pacific played incredibly disciplined basketball against the Gaels. Most impressively, the Tigers managed to score more points than we’re used to them doing, or teams doing against Saint Mary’s.
9. San Diego Toreros (11-13, 4-8)
Last week: L 72-53 vs. Loyola Marymount, L 71-27 vs. Saint Mary’s
This week: 2/9 at Pacific, 2/11 vs. Pepperdine
Against Saint Mary’s the Toreros scored just 27 points, the fewest by any team in Division I this season. That happened at home.
In their own building they managed just 27 points. Again, just 27.
10. Portland Pilots (9-15, 2-10)
Last week: L 60-45 vs. Santa Clara, L 73-62 at BYU
This week: 2/9 vs. Saint Mary’s, 2/11 vs. Loyola Marymount
Ten straight losses for the Pilots. They held a lead on BYU for nearly the entire game but gave up a late 18-1 run. Was it the first signs of life for the post-Alec Wintering Pilots or yet another case of BYU playing to the level of its opponent? Probably both.