The WCC enters week four with a 46-18 record overall, which is really pretty good. Especially when you see how far perennial powers Saint Mary’s and BYU have fallen in our rankings.
It’s been a weird, and weirdly successful start to the season in the wild, wild West Coast Conference. Let’s take a look.
Team of the Week
G - Tahj Eaddy: Sophomore, Santa Clara
A bright spot for the Broncos, the transfer from Southeast Missouri St. averaged 21.5 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists per game last week.
G - Zach Norvell: Sophomore, Gonzaga
Averaged 17.7 points over three games in the Maui Invitational, capped by a 4-7 shooting performance from deep in the title game to help take down Duke.
F - Dameane Douglas: Freshman, LMU
Broke out with 17 points and 10 rebounds on 6-7 shooting against Florida A&M.
F - Rui Hachimura: Junior, Gonzaga
Named Maui Invitational MVP after averaging 22.3 points per game and posting an insane 20 point, 7 rebound, 5 assist and 3 block line against Duke.
C - Matt McCarthy: Senior, San Francisco
The big man came off the bench to record a 14 and 14 double-double against Harvard, and then a 16 and 10 double-double against Dartmouth.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (7-0)
Last week: W 84-78 vs. Illinois, W 91-74 vs. Arizona, W 89-87 vs. No. 1 Duke
This week: Dec 1 at Creighton
Things had gotten out of hand and everyone was talking about Duke. Phrases like “NBA Draft,” “multiple top-five picks” and “they could beat the Cavs” were being tossed around like projectiles on a battlefield. It was hell.
But now, again, there is peace and there is quiet. Thanks to Gonzaga.
After a messy win over Illinois and a comeback victory against western rival Arizona, the Zags dispatched Duke in the Maui Invitational Championship and everybody shut up. Actually, that’s not quite true. Sports media went crazy about how Duke lost, and then they shut up.
This is, after all, college basketball. And a team made up of really good college basketball players defeated a team made up of NBA Draft picks who are not yet eligible for the NBA Draft. That makes sense. Order has been restored. College basketball is college basketball. It’s not purgatory for 18-year-old NBA prospects, despite what the Blue Devils would have you think. God bless Gonzaga basketball.
2. Loyola Marymount Lions (7-0)
Last week: W 76-74 vs. Central Connecticut, W 71-63 vs. Florida A&M
This week: Nov. 29 vs. Bethesda, Dec. 2 at UCLA
This is new. I’ve been putting together weekly WCC power rankings since the start of the 2015-16 season and never before has a team other than Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s or BYU risen to number two.
Also, never before have the Lions opened a season with seven wins and no losses. They haven’t so much as won seven straight games at any point in a season since 1991. There’s a lot going on here that we aren’t used to.
The Lions have already passed a few tests this season, but none as big as Saturday’s trip to crosstown rival UCLA.
3. San Francisco Dons (6-0)
Last week: W 61-57 vs. Harvard, W 84-65 vs. Dartmouth
This week: Nov. 30 vs. Stephen F. Austin (Belfast, UK), Dec. 1 vs. Buffalo/Milwaukee (Belfast)
Another team off to an historically impressive start. Kyle Smith’s Dons are 6-0 for the first time since the late glory days of USF basketball in the early ‘80s. The win over Harvard last week was the team’s first win against a comparable opponent this season. And it looks even better now that the Crimson have gone into Saint Mary’s and stolen a game from the Gaels.
Up next for USF is a trip across the pond to Belfast for tough games against SFA and, potentially, Buffalo.
4. San Diego Toreros (5-1)
Last week: W 70-64 vs. Colorado, W 76-58 vs. Jackson State
This week: 11/28 at Mississippi, 12/1 vs. Long Beach State
The Toreros continue to take care of business. They defeated a Colorado team that came to town on the back-end of a home-and-home — just take a minute to appreciate how cool it is that a Power 5 team scheduled a home-and-home with a quality mid-major that isn’t an in-state rival — before blowing out a lowly Jackson State squad.
Now the Toreros head to Mississippi for their third game of the season against a high-major opponent.
5. BYU Cougars (5-2)
Last week: W 105-78 vs. Rice, L 76-62 vs. Houston
This week: 11/28 at Illinois State, 12/1 at Weber State
BYU got absolutely handled by Houston, at home, over the weekend. The visitors dictated the tempo and got the shots they wanted. Meanwhile, BYU continues to be unable to get basically anything to fall from behind the arc.
The Cougars have shot above the D1 average from three (33.7%) in just two games this season. Both came at home, and the combined record of the two teams is an impressive 2-10 vs. D1 opposition. This is the worst three point shooting team Dave Rose has ever coached.
6. Saint Mary’s Gaels (3-3)
Last week: L 80-63 vs. Utah State, L 61-57 vs. No. 15 Mississippi State, L 74-68 vs. Harvard
This week: 11/28 vs UC Irvine, 12/1 vs. California
Well, it is a rebuilding year.
Not one of the Gaels losses last week was especially bad. The Utah State and Mississippi State games took place in Las Vegas, and Mississippi State was a top-15 team at the time. Harvard isn’t a bad program, and the Crimson look solid this season, but that one is a bit of a head-scratcher considering it was a home game for the Gaels.
The offense just is not clicking right now for Randy Bennett. Poor shooting doomed his team, which failed to score over 1 point per possession in any of last week’s three games. That happened only twice last season.
7. Pacific Tigers (5-3)
Last week: L 96-70 at UNLV, W 74-54 vs. UC Riverside, L 73-71 vs. Abilene Christian, W 65-57 vs. Elon
This week: 11/28 at Fresno State, 12/1 vs. Air Force
A busy feast week saw the Tigers split their four games right down the middle. Nothing really shocking about it, either. It gets tougher this week, though, as the Tigers travel to face Fresno State, a program that seems to have found some mild sustained success in recent years.
Pacific will play five Mountain West teams this season. The Tigers have already lost to Nevada and UNLV. They face off this week against Fresno State and Air Force before traveling to Boise State late next month. I am a fan of this much interconference scheduling between two of the better mid-major leagues.
8. Pepperdine Waves (4-2)
Last week: DNP
This week: 12/1 vs. Abilene Christian
The Waves took Thanksgiving weekend off, so they should be well rested for what should be a pair of sneaky good games this week.
Pepperdine handled Idaho State, which got blasted by Gonzaga in the season opener but bounced back with a road win over Boise State before slipping up to the team ranked just above the Waves in these rankings. Abilene Christian is a veteran team (unlike Pepperdine) that shoots the three ball better than just about anyone. That’s the recipe for a road win in college hoops. I mean, just ask the team directly above Pepperdine in these rankings.
9. Portland Pilots (5-3)
Last week: W 77-57 vs. Lewis and Clark, W 73-56 vs. USC Upstate, W 72-67 vs. Cal Poly, L 91-68 vs. Texas State
This week: 11/28 at Colorado
Looking only at the record, the Pilots seem respectable. But, that five in the win column is made up of two non-D1 teams and three sub-300 KenPom teams. And the losses? Hawaii, North Texas and Texas State. Not much.
10. Santa Clara Broncos (1-5)
Last week: L 80-66 vs. Minnesota, W 71-63 at San Jose State
This week: 11/29 vs. Jackson State, 12/1 vs. Northern Arizona
Well, at least they have something in the win column now. And Tahj Eaddy, as we talked about in the Team of the Week, is turning into a real player.