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WCC Power Rankings: Gonzaga restores order out west

It took seven weeks, but Gonzaga has returned to the top spot in our rankings.

NCAA Basketball: Pacific at Gonzaga
Rui Hachimura and the Zags are on the rise.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga’s dominant revenge victory over Saint Mary’s on the road last Saturday means there’s a tie atop the league standings. If both teams win their remaining four games, meaning they’re tied at the end of the season, RPI will be used to break the tie for seeding purposes in the WCC Tournament.

RPI sucks. Case in point: Saint Mary’s has a better RPI than Gonzaga despite playing just two potential at-large teams, Gonzaga and New Mexico State.

We don’t use RPI to break ties here.

Power Rankings

1. No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-4, 13-1 WCC)

Last week: W 71-61 at Pacific, W 78-65 at No. 11 Saint Mary’s
This week: Feb. 15 vs. Loyola Marymount, Feb. 17 vs. Pepperdine
Previous: Second

They’re back.

The Zags needed to win on the road against Saint Mary’s to keep hope alive for a sixth straight West Coast Conference regular season title. They did, in dominant fashion, in what was the first top-15 showdown in WCC history.

Gonzaga shut Jock Landale down, holding the frontrunner for WCC player of the year to just four points. Teams have tried doubling Landale all year to no avail. Gonzaga pulled it off with their best defensive performance of the season. The communication and switching was reminiscent of last season’s team that ranked as the best defense in the country, per KenPom.

After a brutal four-game stretch in which the Zags went 4-0, they return home to face the league’s two worst teams.

2. No. 15 Saint Mary’s Gaels (24-3, 13-1)

Last week: W 83-62 at Loyola Marymount, L 78-65 vs. No. 12 Gonzaga
This week: Feb. 15 at San Francisco, Feb. 17 at Portland
Previous: First

The Gaels had held the top spot in our power rankings in each week since the start of conference play. But Saturday’s dismal showing at home against Gonzaga did them in. It ended a 19-game winning streak, which is a program record and was the longest active streak in the nation.

That said, Saturday looks more like a blip than a trend. The Gaels fell just four spots in the AP Poll and are still on track to have their most successful season ever. What could become troubling, however, is the way teams play Landale. It was only a matter of time before teams figured out how to neutralize him. Most won’t be as capable as Gonzaga, which held him to four points on just four shots. But, two weeks prior, Portland held him to six points on four shots.

3. BYU Cougars (20-7, 9-5)

Last week: W 80-58 vs. Santa Clara, W 75-73 (OT) vs. San Francisco
This week: Feb. 15 at Pepperdine, Feb. 17 at San Diego
Previous: Fourth

They needed overtime and some heroic efforts to get there, but BYU survived a tough test from San Francisco on Saturday. The win gave Dave Rose his 13th consecutive 20-win season. And, if only temporarily, kept the Cougars at just two losses to WCC teams not named Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s. Since joining the league in 2011, BYU is averaging three such losses a year.

The win gave the Cougars a one-game lead over Pacific for third place. The Tigers have the easier schedule over the final two weeks, so Saturday could prove pivotal in terms of seeding in the WCC Tournament.

4. Pacific Tigers (13-14, 8-6)

Last week: L 71-61 vs. No. 12 Gonzaga, W 60-58 vs. Portland
This week: Feb. 15 at San Diego, Feb. 17 vs. Santa Clara
Previous: Third

Pacific held Gonzaga to 0.984 points per possession last Thursday; only San Diego State and Texas have played better defensively versus the Zags this season. And, the Tigers aren’t really known for their defense. But they are known for their tenacity, and they made that game ugly and kept themselves in it until the very end against a team that is now top-10 in the country.

Then, on Saturday, the Tigers barely survived against Portland. In conference play, Pacific has just one loss to a team outside of the league’s big three, and that was a two-point game on the road against San Francisco. The Tigers just keep finding ways to get it done.

5. San Francisco Dons (14-13, 6-8)

Last week: W 65-63 vs. Portland, L 75-73 (OT) at BYU
This week: Feb. 15 vs. No. 15 Saint Mary’s, Feb. 17 vs. Loyola Marymount
Previous: Sixth

Two games decided by a combined four points. The Dons barely got past Portland at home before nearly knocking off BYU on the road. They basically had the game in Provo, too. Fans were heading to the doors.

And that’s strange because, you know, Portland’s like, not good, and BYU kind of is good.

“Like, not good” and “kind of good” are both phrases you could use to describe San Francisco this season though, so I guess it’s appropriate.

Freshman Souley Boum (12.6 points per game) has come off the bench in the past three games, despite being the Dons’ leading scorer. Kyle Smith might never stop tinkering with his lineups.

6. Santa Clara Broncos (9-17, 6-8)

Last week: L 80-58 at BYU, W 70-64 vs. San Diego
This week: Feb. 15 at Portland, Feb. 17 at Pacific
Previous: Eighth

The Broncos used a second-half comeback and a career-high 32 points from KJ Feagin to take down San Diego Saturday. They’re tied with San Francisco for sixth place in the standings, but that win over the Toreros could be the tiebreaker that gives them the six seed, and a bye into the quarterfinals of the WCC Tournament.

7. San Diego Toreros (16-10, 7-7)

Last week: W 68-66 at Pepperdine, L 70-64 at Santa Clara
This week: Feb. 15 vs. Pacific, Feb. 17 vs. BYU
Previous: Fifth

West coast darlings of the non-conference, San Diego looked poised to keep its momentum rolling into conference play with a 3-0 start. They’ve won just four times since. Seven of their ten total losses on the season have come since January 6th at Saint Mary’s. They looked good in that game, even held the lead for the majority. They’ve not looked good since, which makes last week’s pair of performances not particularly surprising.

Only once over their first 15 games did the Toreros allow their opponents to score over 1 point per possession. They’ve done that in eight of their previous 11 games. In five of those eight, they’ve allowed over 1.1 points per possession.

8. Portland Pilots (10-17, 4-10)

Last week: L 65-63 at San Francisco, L 60-58 at Pacific
This week: Feb. 15 vs. Santa Clara, Feb. 17 vs. No. 15 Saint Mary’s
Previous: Seventh

The Pilots lost two games last week, both on the road, by a combined four points. This comes one week after winning two games at home, one in overtime and the other by just two points.

9. Loyola Marymount Lions (8-17, 3-11)

Last week: L 83-62 vs. No. 11 Saint Mary’s, W 85-79 vs. Pepperdine
This week: Feb. 15 vs. No. 9 Gonzaga, Feb. 17 vs. San Francisco
Previous: Ninth

Senior guard Steven Haney went for a career high 31 points on Saturday to help the Lions past the Waves. LMU honored its 1987-88 team that went 28-4 at halftime. Those Lions averaged over 110 points per game, so a 31-point performance back then would’ve been hardly notable. 30 years is a long, long time.

10. Pepperdine Waves (4-22, 1-13)

Last week: L 68-66 vs. San Diego, L 85-79 at Loyola Marymount
This week: Feb. 15 vs. BYU, Feb. 17 at No. 9 Gonzaga
Previous: 10th

I can’t think of a worse way to end a brutal, injury-plagued season than playing three of your final four games against BYU, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.