It’s been a weird year in the WCC. The league as a whole is stronger than normal. Though the normal standard-bearers aren’t all that responsible. There are two teams with ten wins and neither are named Gonzaga, BYU or Saint Mary’s.
1. San Francisco Dons (10-1)
Last week: W 85-63 vs. Eastern Washington, W 68-54 vs. Cal State Fullerton
This week: Dec. 19 vs. Northern Arizona, Dec. 22 vs. Stanford
San Francisco’s ascent this season has been staggering. I had The Dons as the No. 5 team in my preseason WCC power rankings. KenPom slotted them at No. 136, but now they sit at 48th. Out west, only Nevada, Gonzaga, Oregon and Arizona State rank higher. They’re a legitimately really good team. Just ask this guy, who knows a thing or two:
The Dons are the nation’s fifth most efficient team on the defensive end, holding opponents to just 0.843 points per possession. That’s just a hair behind fourth rated Virginia, and the Dons do it without playing a disgusting style of basketball. USF averages just shy of 80 points per game this season. A defensive team that is fun to watch? Certainly a team to keep an eye on.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (9-2)
Last week: L 103-90 at No. 12 North Carolina
This week: Dec 18 vs. UT Arlington, Dec 21 vs. Denver
Come April, when we look back on the season, I have a feeling Gonzaga will be seen as one of the five best teams over the entirety of the year. Maybe even the best. But right now the Zags are sitting on back-to-back losses for the first time since February 2014. And they’re losing games because they simply refuse to rebound the ball.
Maybe it’s fatigue. Gonzaga’s offense is among the very best in the nation. The Zags just went through a brutal two weeks that saw games at Creighton, versus Washington, Tennessee on a neutral and at North Carolina. And they’re not at full strength. Starters account for 77.6 percent of minutes played, according to KenPom. Only 19 teams in the nation are more reliant on their starting five than Gonzaga. Whatever the reason, the Zags are getting destroyed on the glass and it’s cost them two games in a row. At this point I truly believe I could pull down a couple offensive rebounds against these guys if you put me in for a few minutes in the second half.
3. Loyola Marymount Lions (10-1)
Last week: W 85-58 at Portland State
This week: Dec. 19 vs. Boise State, Dec. 22 at UC Riverside
The Lions have held opponents below 60 points in seven of their 11 games to start the season. They’ve done that in back-to-back road games, too. Defense travels. Last week’s drubbing of Portland State saw the Lions score 1.22 points per possession. It was their second most efficient performance of the season on that end against a D-1 team. So, offense can travel, too. Especially when you have a guy like James Batemon who just gets buckets.
4. San Diego Toreros (9-3)
Last week: L 65-55 at Oregon, W 85-65 vs. Northern Colorado
This week: Dec. 22 vs. Washington State (Las Vegas)
San Diego went into Oregon and lost a game they needed to win to keep their at-large hopes alive. The Dons are now 0-3 in true road games against Power 5 teams. They scheduled, but just haven’t performed. They’ve got a game against a Washington State program this weekend that is Power 5 affiliated, but truly awful.
5. Saint Mary’s Gaels (7-5)
Last week: W 81-66 vs. Cal State Fullerton, L 78-74 vs. LSU
This week: Dec. 19 vs. Bucknell, Dec. 22 at Western Kentucky
The Gaels came up short against a quality LSU team on a neutral floor in Las Vegas over the weekend, but they showed a lot of fight. Jordan Ford almost literally stole the game from LSU over the final minutes, picking the Tigers pockets on multiple occasions as Saint Mary’s mounted a comeback. The Gaels don’t have any bad losses, but they also don’t have a single quadrant one win.
6. Pacific Tigers (9-4)
Last week: W 74-68 vs. Long Beach State, W 79-77 at Cal State Northridge
This week: Dec. 22 at Boise State
The Tigers rank seventh in the nation in free throw percentage this season, having connected on 77.9 percent of their chances at the stripe. They went 19 of 20 against the Beach and then 25 of 28 against Fullerton. Nearly a quarter of the Tigers points come from free throws. Guys like Roberto Gallinat and Lafayette Dorsey have a knack for drawing fouls at a high rate and cashing in.
7. BYU Cougars (8-5)
Last week: W 85-66 vs. Portland State, L 92-90 (OT) vs. UNLV (Las Vegas)
This week: Dec. 22 at San Diego State
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how BYU’s offense was broken. The Cougars just couldn’t hit threes. Now, it seems their defense is broken too. The Cougars just can’t stop teams from hitting threes.
In BYU’s five losses this season, 3PFG:— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) December 16, 2018
BYU: 6, 8, 6, 5, 6
Opponents: 8, 11, 13, 11, 13
Points from threes in BYU’s five losses:
Margin: -75 (15 ppg)
Those opponents, by the way, rank 122nd, 163rd, 141st, 236th and 332nd nationally in 3pt% this season, per KenPom. Not good.
8. Pepperdine Waves (6-5)
Last week: L 78-69 (OT) at Southern Utah
This week: Dec. 17 at Oregon State, Dec. 20 vs. Long Beach State
Six wins through 11 games. Last season the Waves recorded six wins through 32 games (the entire season).
9. Santa Clara Broncos (5-6)
Last week: W 82-54 vs. Mississippi Valley State
This week: Dec. 18 vs. USC, Dec. 21 vs. Idaho
The Broncos blew a team out! But, that team is No. 350 in KenPom. There are 353 teams. Santa Clara’s four D1 wins have come against teams ranked 350, 346, 325 and 314.
10. Portland Pilots (6-6)
Last week: L 70-58 vs. Grambling State
This week: Dec. 17 vs. Seattle, Dec. 21 vs. Florida A&M
Lost at home to a team from the SWAC. This week they’ll have a chance to lose at home to a team from the MEAC.