All eyes will be on Saturday’s top-12 clash between the Gaels and Zags in Moraga, but there is intrigue up and down the league right now. BYU and Pacific (!!!) are fighting for third. At the bottom, teams are starting to fall out of contention for a first round bye in the conference tournament. This is February.
1. No. 11 Saint Mary’s Gaels (23-2, 12-0 WCC)
Last week: W 79-43 vs. San Francisco, W 65-62 at San Diego
This week: Feb. 8 at Loyola Marymount, Feb. 10 vs. No. 12 Gonzaga
Saint Mary’s broke a bunch of records last week.
- They’re 23-2, which is the best start in program history.
- They’ve got 18 straight victories, which is the longest streak in program history and the second longest active streak in the nation behind Purdue (19).
- They’re No. 11 in this week’s AP Poll, which is higher than they’ve ever been.
- Emmett Naar dished out his 224th assist of the season on Saturday, breaking the single season record previously held by Matthew Dellavedova.
There’s no need to sugar coat it. This is the best Saint Mary’s team ever. They’re knocking on the door of the top-ten and a win Saturday against No. 12 Gonzaga would vault them well into it.
2. No. 12 Gonzaga Bulldogs (21-4, 11-1)
Last week: W 69-59 vs. San Diego, W 68-60 vs. BYU
This week: Feb. 8 at Pacific, Feb. 10 at No. 11 Saint Mary’s
Here’s something that’s never happened before: The No. 12 ranked team in the country is in the West Coast Conference, and it isn’t even the best team in the West Coast Conference. Gonzaga will face it’s first ranked opponent since playing then No. 4 Villanova in early December when the Zags travel to No. 11 Saint Mary’s on Saturday.
That game will be the Zags’ fourth straight against teams in the top-half of the league standings. Last week saw the Zags gut out tough wins at home over the defensive minded San Diego Toreros and BYU Cougars. This week they hit the road to take on the upstart Pacific Tigers, in a potentially brutal trap game, before facing their arch rivals in hostile territory.
The Zags currently sit off the pace in the race for the league title, and this week is make or break time.
3. Pacific Tigers (12-13, 7-5)
Last week: W 63-45 at Santa Clara, W 81-72 at Pepperdine
This week: Feb. 8 vs. Gonzaga, Feb 10 vs. Portland
Since rejoining the WCC five years ago the Tigers had never won more than six conference games in a season, until now. They’re 7-5 and tied for third place in the league standings.
Over their past nine games, the Tigers have gone 6-3. Only once during that span have they been held below one point per possession, against BYU in Provo. This team has turned a corner offensively; they’re not the same group that got smacked 81-48 in Spokane in their conference opener, which makes Thursday’s game against Gonzaga super intriguing.
4. BYU Cougars (18-7, 7-5)
Last week: L 76-69 at Loyola Marymount, L 68-60 at No. 14 Gonzaga
This week: Feb. 8 vs. Santa Clara, Feb. 10 vs. San Francisco
There’s never any shame in losing to a top-15 team in their gym, especially when you’re talking about Gonzaga in the Kennel. But losing to lowly Loyola Marymount, no matter where the game is played, is really bad. Sure, it was a trap game. Maybe BYU overlooked the Lions because the Zags loomed two days later.
The Cougars got a season low 18 combined points from Elijah Bryant and Yoeli Childs in Spokane. TJ Haws went for 22, but had just seven the game before.
5. San Diego Toreros (15-9, 6-6)
Last week: L 69-59 at No. 14 Gonzaga, L 65-62 vs. No. 13 Saint Mary’s
This week: Feb. 8 at Pepperdine, Feb. 10 at Santa Clara
Yeah, the Toreros lost both games last week. But they lost to two top-15 teams by a combined 13 points. Gonzaga needed the full 40 minutes to get the job done at home and Saint Mary’s just barely escaped a late game comeback attempt in the Slim Gym. The Toreros have taken their lumps in conference play, which will likely keep them out of the NIT, and that’s a shame because they can play with anybody.
6. San Francisco Dons (13-12, 5-7)
Last week: L 79-43 at Saint Mary’s, W 70-59 at Santa Clara
This week: Feb. 8 vs. Portland. Feb. 10 at BYU
Frankie Ferarri had been rolling through conference play. The junior guard scored in double figures in six straight games, until making the drive over to Moraga. Ferarri scored just four points and the Dons stalled against the Gaels.
7. Portland Pilots (10-15, 4-8)
Last week: W 85-76 (OT) vs. Pepperdine, W 68-66 vs. Loyola Marymount
This week: Feb. 8 at San Francisco, Feb. 10 at Pacific
The bottom of the WCC is a crapshoot. Portland played the two worst teams in the league last week, both at home, and barely escaped with victories. The Pilots’ inexplicable win over San Diego a couple weeks back, in which they scored only 55 points, may prove incredibly valuable. Having knocked off two teams below them in the standings, and already owning a season sweep of LMU, Portland stayed in contention for a first round bye in the conference tournament.
8. Santa Clara Broncos (8-16, 5-7)
Last week: L 63-45 vs. Pacific, L 70-59 vs. San Francisco
This week: Feb. 8 at BYU, Feb 10 vs. San Diego
KJ Feagin (17.5 points per game) scored 21 and 15 points in his games last week. The junior guard ranks fourth in the WCC in scoring. He’s been held under 10 points on just three occasions this year, but all three have come in conference play. BYU, Gonzaga and San Diego, the league’s three best defenses, have hampered him and his Broncos. Which is bad news, since BYU and San Diego are the two teams coming up this week.
9. Loyola Marymount Lions (7-16, 2-10)
Last week: W 76-69 vs. BYU, L 68-66 at Portland
This week: Feb. 8 vs. Saint Mary’s, Feb. 10 vs. Pepperdine
We’ve made it to February 6 and I still have no clue what to make of this team. On Saturday they lost to fellow cellar dweller Portland, just two days after controlling the game against BYU and knocking off the Cougars. The Lions pressed, ran and looked absolutely dominant on Thursday in a way they haven’t all season long.
10. Pepperdine Waves (4-20, 1-11)
Last week: L 85-76 (OT) at Portland, L 81-72 at Pacific
This week: Feb. 8 vs. San Diego, Feb. 10 at Loyola Marymount
The Waves lone WCC win of the season came by one point at home against Loyola Marymount. The Lions now have two wins on the year, so if Pepperdine doesn’t pick them off again this Saturday I would be confident locking the Waves into last place.