The West Coast Conference has been nice this year. Since Santa Claus is generous with those who are nice, why don’t we take a look at what he might give the 10 teams in the league for Christmas? But first, the five guys who were really nice on their own around the WCC last week.
Team of the Week
G - James Batemon: Senior, LMU
Scored 30 points against Boise State and hit the game winner with one second to play.
G - Jordan Ford: Junior, Saint Mary’s
Scored 28 points in both of the Gaels’ games last week.
F - Isaiah Pineiro: Senior, San Diego
Dropped 30 points and this dunk on Washington State.
F - Rui Hachimura: Junior, Gonzaga
Scored 43 points last week on 17 of 20 shooting from the field (85 percent).
F - Josh Martin: Senior, Santa Clara
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound big man led the Broncos in minutes (47) and pulled down 18 rebounds in the double-overtime win against USC.
1. San Francisco Dons (12-1)
Last week: W 76-60 vs. Northern Arizona, W 74-65 vs. Stanford
This week: Dec. 29 at UC Santa Barbara
Wish: One more big game.
First of all, let me just say that I am a big fan of San Francisco’s approach to scheduling. After back-to-back 20 win seasons to start the Kyle Smith era, the Dons continue trending in the right direction. And, they’re scheduling like they want to be taken seriously. Landing home games and multi-year series with Pac-12 teams is a wonderful sign for a mid-major program on the rise. It just sucks that this year, with probably their best team in decades, the Dons schedule kind of fell apart.
Stanford is down, Cal is down, and the marquee home game against Arizona State didn’t happen because of wildfires back in November. Reports surfaced indicating that San Francisco was willing to charter a flight and play the game in Tempe, but ASU appears to be scared. Somewhat reasonably so. San Francisco is good. That game is now officially not going to happen, at least this season. Here’s this from the USF official website: “USF improves to 2-0 over the Pac-12 opponents this season. That is where their record will remain as the game against Arizona State has been officially postponed until Dec. 2019.”
San Francisco is No. 44 in KenPom (one spot behind Arizona State) and No. 26 in the NET (higher than any Pac-12 team by nearly 20 spots). They have the quality of an at-large team, but maybe not the résumé. And that’s a shame.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (11-2)
Last week: W 89-55 vs. UT-Arlington, W 101-40 vs. Denver
This week: Dec. 28 vs. North Alabama
Wish: Improvement on the defensive end.
D-I Universe is expanding. Duke moving up, Texas Tech heading left, Gonzaga trending right. pic.twitter.com/P7jCSpUqFe— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) December 21, 2018
Gonzaga has climbed to No. 3 in KenPom since Pomeroy tweeted that, but the ascent from sixth was not on the back of the Zags’ defense. Gonzaga owns the nation’s most efficient offense, per KenPom, but comes in at No. 60 in adjusted defensive efficiency.
3. San Diego Toreros (10-4)
Last week: W 82-75 vs. Washington State (Las Vegas), L 110-103 (2OT) vs. Drake (Las Vegas)
This week: Dec. 29 vs. Grand Canyon
Wish: To have the old Yauhen Massalski back.
Over the first six games of the year, Massalski, a sophomore center, was averaging 8.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Then, on Nov. 28 at Mississippi, he got injured and missed three games. Since coming back, Massalski has not been close to the player he used to be.
4. Saint Mary’s Gaels (8-6)
Last week: W 85-56 vs. Bucknell, L 71-68 at Western Kentucky
This week: Dec. 29 at San Jose State
Wish: To learn how to share.
Once upon a time the Gaels played wonderful, unselfish offense so beautiful that our own Kyle Cajero called it a work of art.
This year, that’s not the case. The Gaels have assisted on just 44 percent of their made field goals this season, which ranks 325th in the nation and is by far the lowest rate the team has posted in the KenPom era.
Until Saturday, every team Western Kentucky had faced this season recorded at least 10 assists against the Hilltoppers. Saint Mary’s managed just eight.
5. BYU Cougars (8-6)
Last week: L 90-81 at San Diego State
This week: Dec. 29 at Mississippi State
Wish: Consistency on the defensive end.
In their eight wins this season the Cougars are giving up 66 points per game. In their six losses, the Cougars are giving up 91.5 points per game. Those six teams rank No. 23, No. 79, No. 121, No. 128, No. 152 and No. 169 nationally in points per game. So, not exactly teams that light it up. But they managed to do so against the Cougars.
6. Loyola Marymount Lions (11-2)
Last week: W 70-69 vs. Boise State, L 60-53 at UC Riverside
This week: Dec. 28 vs. UC Davis
Wish: Better shooting.
LMU doesn’t have much to complain about, considering it is sitting with as many wins as it managed all of last season and it isn’t even Christmas yet. But the Lions could well be undefeated if they had a few shooters on the roster.
In their loss at UCLA, the Lions shot just 29 percent from the field and on Saturday at UC Riverside, they shot 43 percent. On the season, they’re managing just 44.3 percent shooting. Which is to say, they could well be undefeated, or they could have a few more losses on their record.
7. Pacific Tigers (9-5)
Last week: L 83-71 at Boise State
This week: Dec. 29 vs. UC Irvine
Wish: A signature win.
The Tigers have played road games against four decent-to-excellent teams this season: Nevada, UNLV, Fresno State and Boise State. They’re 0-4 in those games. They don’t have a single win over a team with a winning record.
Fortunately, the WCC will provide ample opportunities to pick up some quality wins over the next few months. And, if they can knock off a good UC Irvine squad next week, the Tigers might be a sleeper team in the league once again.
8. Santa Clara Broncos (7-6)
Last week: W 102-92 (2OT) vs. USC, W 77-56 vs. Idaho
This week: Dec. 29 vs. Washington State (Spokane)
Wish: To have truly turned a corner.
Santa Clara looked truly awful at the start of the season with four straight losses, including one at home to Prairie View A&M. But since then, the team is 7-2 and playing much, much better. The Broncos’ most efficient offensive performance during that rough opening stretch was a 0.931 points per possession showing against Washington.
The Broncos have been more efficient than that in each of their last nine games. And, in all seven wins, they’ve scored over 1.0 points per possession.
9. Pepperdine Waves (6-7)
Last week: L 82-67 at Oregon State, L 67-66 at Long Beach State
This week: Off until Dec. 31 vs. Alabama A&M
Wish: A healthy Kameron Edwards.
The injury bug has decimated the Waves in recent seasons. In each of the previous two years the Waves lost at least 81 player-games because of injuries. This year, it’s basically just been Edwards who has been out. But, he’s arguably the Waves’ best player and undeniably last season’s top scorer (14.7 points and 6.4 rebounds). This year, in just three games, he’s averaging 17.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. He’s now missed nine straight contests.
10. Portland Pilots (7-7)
Last week: L 67-56 vs. Seattle, W 54-39 vs. Florida A&M
This week: Dec. 29 at Cal State Fullerton
Wish: For it all to just be over already.
If we’re being honest, the most impressive thing Portland has done this season could well be holding a team below 40 points. But for that to be impressive, you have to take it completely out of context. So, let’s do that.
But seriously, this season is lost. And that sucks, but it’s okay. The Pilots are young. There’s not a senior on the roster. Maybe most of these guys come back next season and the Pilots can take a step forward. Hold onto hope, Portland.