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WCC Power Rankings: Cougars climb after big rivalry wins

Yoeli Childs and the BYU Cougars got their season back on track last week.

NCAA Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Saint Mary’s vs BYU Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga lost, BYU beat Utah, and the two “San” teams continue to coast along under the radar. Let’s get caught up on everything of importance from the West Coast Conference.

Team of the Week

G - Isaiah Wright: Senior, San Diego
Averaged 16.5 points and 4.5 assists to power the Toreros to two wins last week.

G - Charles Minlend (second appearance): Sophomore, San Francisco
Scored 17 points and pulled down a career high 11 rebounds in the Dons’ win over Cal.

G - Jordan Ford (second appearance): Junior, Saint Mary’s
Scored 23 points against Bethune Cookman and 28 against New Mexico.

F - Yoeli Childs (second appearance): Junior, BYU
Three straight games scoring exactly 31 points for the big man who makes it look easy.

F - Rui Hachimura (fourth appearance): Junior, Gonzaga
Scored 21 points against Tennessee after scoring 26 against Washington and hitting this game winner:

Power Rankings

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (9-1)
Last week: W 81-79 vs. Washington, L 76-73 vs. No. 7 Tennessee
This week: Dec. 15 at North Carolina
Previous: First

Undefeated no more. Gonzaga played a really good Tennessee Volunteers team on a neutral court in Phoenix and came up three points short. I’m not sure what the takeaways are. It was a fantastic game between two top-10 teams. Gonzaga’s depth was an issue, and it will continue to be an issue until Geno Crandall (hand) and Killian Tillie (ankle) return sometime around the start of the year. So, that said, let’s just take a look at the best thing that happened in the game:

2. San Francisco Dons (8-1)
Last week: W 79-60 at California
This week: Dec. 13 vs. Eastern Washington, Dec 16 vs. Cal State Fullerton
Previous: Second

San Francisco is a program on the rise, but this might not be the Dons’ year. And that’s not their fault.

The team is 8-1 with its lone loss coming to a top-25 Buffalo team on a neutral in Northern Ireland, by four points. San Francisco had games with Stanford, Cal and Arizona State this season. Unfortunately, the Pac-12 is garbage. Stanford and Cal are terrible and Arizona State will probably end up being just okay. So, these home-and-home series that San Francisco somehow managed to secure just don’t look that great right now. Plus, this year just happens to be the year that two of the games were set to be played at San Francisco, which diminishes the value of those games even more, résumé-wise.

But the real gut-punch is that the Arizona State game didn’t even happen. And the Sun Devils don’t seem willing to reschedule it, even though it was cancelled due to wildfires.

I’m going to tip my hat to the USF athletic department. Kyle Smith was a dynamite hire. The program is being aggressive and scheduling the way it needs to. And this year, the team is more than capable of winning games in the NCAA Tournament.

Even if it doesn’t pay off this season, the rest of the league needs to take notice. This is the blueprint for success at this level.

3. San Diego Toreros (8-2)
Last week: W 73-61 at San Diego State, W 82-68 vs. Cal State Northridge
This week: Dec. 12 at Oregon, Dec. 15 vs. Northern Colorado
Previous: Third

The Toreros need Yauhen Massalski (7.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game) to return for the Oregon game. If he does, and they win, San Diego will have a legitimate shot at an at-large. The Ducks aren’t as good as people thought they would be, as evidenced by last month’s home loss to Texas Southern. But it’s still a true road game against good a Pac-12 opponent.

I mentioned San Francisco drawing the blueprint for success at this level. San Diego has basically done the same thing. The Toreros have already played at Washington, versus Colorado, at Mississippi and at San Diego State. They’re 2-2 in those games, too. Oregon on the road, Washington State on a neutral, and at home against Grand Canyon are just some of the games between now and WCC play. That’s a wonderful schedule, and a pretty solid performance against it so far.

4. BYU Cougars (7-4)
Last week: W 95-80 vs. Utah State, W 74-59 vs. Utah
This week: Dec. 12 vs. Portland State, Dec. 15 at UNLV
Previous: Seventh

The Cougars are back!

Nick Emery’s return was as impactful as it needed to be — if you ignore his 0 point, 1 rebound performance against Utah. TJ Haws looked like a joyful child, who also happens to be really good at basketball, last week. And Yoeli Childs is an absolute monster:

Back-to-back convincing wins over in-state rivals have brought back a BYU season that was teetering on the brink. The Cougars close out the month with three straight road games against UNLV, San Diego State and Mississippi State. If the team we saw last week shows up in those three, the at-large conversation can begin again in Provo, which, after a 5-4 start, is a miracle.

5. Loyola Marymount Lions (9-1)
Last week: W 59-49 at Cal State Fullerton
This week: Dec. 15 at Portland State
Previous: Fourth

I can’t tell you if Cal State Fullerton is going to be respectable or not. The computers say that for a Big West team, they’re up there. But they’re also 3-6 with some bad losses on a road-heavy schedule. All that said, I can tell you the Titans are an uptempo team. And Loyola Marymount went into their gym and held them to a season low in possessions and a season low in points.

The Lions have an identity. They’ll grind you down. Sometimes, like when they lost to UCLA, they grind themselves down, too. But they’re on their grind, all the time.

6. Saint Mary’s Gaels (6-4)
Last week: W 93-61 vs. Bethune Cookman, W 85-60 vs. New Mexico
This week: Dec. 10 vs. Cal State Fullerton, Dec. 15 vs. LSU
Previous: Sixth

Jordan Ford continues to be really good as the rest of this team continues to be inconsistent. But last week the Gaels went 2-0, so, fine. But, a win at home over Bethune-Cookman and in Los Angeles against a New Mexico team that lost 100-65 to New Mexico State are not impressive in any way.

Other than, of course, that they are wins and not losses. Which, right now, the Gaels needed more than anything. Take what you can get in a rebuild.

7. Pacific Tigers (7-4)
Last week: W 74-69 vs. Texas Permian Basin
This week: Dec. 10 vs. Long Beach State, Dec. 16 at Cal State Northridge
Previous: Eighth

A five-point win at home against a non-D-I team? The only positive takeaway is that the game is over and they didn’t lose and nobody got hurt.

8. Portland Pilots (6-5)
Last week: L 87-78 at Portland State, W 76-67 vs. Sacramento State
This week: Dec. 15 vs. Grambling State
Previous: 10th

JoJo Walker averaged 19.5 points over two games last week. The sophomore guard is now averaging 13.8 points per game this season, which is huge. He scored over his current season average on just three occasions last year. The Pilots have a handful of capable dudes, but the team just hasn’t really put it together yet.

9. Pepperdine Waves (6-4)
Last week: L 90-83 vs. Cal State Northridge, L 75-71 at UC Riverside, W 69-66 vs. Jackson State
This week: Dec. 15 at Southern Utah
Previous: Fifth

It was a disastrous week for the Waves. Cal State Northridge and UC Riverside are both really bad. The Waves entered last week at 5-2, and looked to be a couple steps ahead of those teams. Well, maybe not. They did hit six wins for the season though, matching last year’s total.

10. Santa Clara Broncos (4-6)
Last week: L 68-66 vs. Idaho State, W 82-54 vs. Sonoma State
This week: Dec. 13 vs. Mississippi Valley State
Previous: Ninth

The Broncos have yet to beat a team ranked in the top 300 of KenPom, though they did come close against No. 251 Idaho State at home. Yikes.