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3 thoughts from WCC play’s opening night: Get ready for a wild ride

Opening night did not disappoint.

NCAA Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Gonzaga vs San Francisco
Dons point guard Frankie Ferrari.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Conference play commenced in the WCC on Thursday night and it was wild. Sure, sometimes these games don’t tip-off until 11 p.m. EST , but that’s no excuse. But if for some reason you did happen to miss the action out west, we’ll happily get you caught up on the scores and storylines from the opening night that was in the West Coast Conference.

Scores

Saint Mary’s Gaels 72, San Francisco Dons 76
San Diego Toreros 56, Santa Clara Broncos 68
Loyola Marymount Lions 62, Pepperdine Waves 77
BYU Cougars 90, Pacific Tigers 87

The Logjam Cometh

San Francisco (13-2, 1-0), Loyola Marymount (12-3, 0-1), San Diego (11-5, 0-1) and Pacific (10-6, 0-1) all entered conference play with double-digits in the win column. On opening night all four faced teams with eight or fewer wins, but the double-digit teams went 1-3 on Thursday.

Santa Clara (9-6, 1-0), which began the season 0-4 but has gone 9-2 since, was in control throughout against San Diego.

Pepperdine (8-7, 1-0), a sub-200 KenPom team at tip-time, absolutely throttled LMU.

BYU (9-7, 1-0), which has lost three games in a row on two occasions already this season, went on the road and took down the Tigers.

Gonzaga is the clear favorite in the league, and San Francisco proved itself to be the second-best team by holding off Saint Mary’s. Beyond that, there’s really no telling what’s going to happen from spots three all the way down to nine (sorry, Portland).

San Francisco’s Statement

As I mentioned above, the Dons proved Thursday night that they’re the league’s clear number two. It’s felt that way for a while now, as San Francisco put together a body of work in the non-conference considerably better than any team below them.

But on Thursday night they proved they could do it in league play as well, which is when it counts.

Sure, Saint Mary’s has more losses than we’re used to seeing this time of year — which is equal parts rebuilding and tougher scheduling — but the Gaels are still a well-coached team that is well-liked by the computers. KenPom had Saint Mary’s ranked at No. 43 coming into the game, one spot higher than San Francisco, and the result didn’t change that. But forget the metrics for a moment.

Saint Mary’s has been, for over a decade, the perennial close-but-no-cigar team in the West Coast Conference. San Francisco wants to be that team this year — well, the Dons probably want to win the league but let’s be real about things. So, what do they do on opening night? They hand the Gaels an L and steal Saint Mary’s spot in second.

Backcourt Duels Everywhere You Look

In the first game of the night Frankie Ferrari and Jordan Ford set out in a street race. Ferrari scored 19 points and dished out 7 assists while Ford poured in 24 points and went full Late Game Jordan Ford™ to make things interesting in the final moments.

In the nightcap TJ Haws (24 points) and Roberto Gallinat (22 points) went back and forth on both ends of the court scoring on each other in increasingly tough and physical ways. Gallinat took a bit of a beating, catching an elbow from Haws and a shoulder a few minutes later as well as the loss in the end.

San Diego’s Tyler Williams poured in a season high 19 points, only to be outdone by Santa Clara’s Tahj Eaddy who dropped a career high with 30.

Every team in the West Coast Conference has at least one guard who can light it up on a game-by-game basis. It’s almost shocking that LMU versus Pepperdine wasn’t led in scoring by either Colbey Ross or James Batemon, who rank fifth and sixth in the league in scoring at just over 19 per game, respectively. Not to mention neither the Pilots — whose four leading scorers are guards — or Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell Jr. (16.9 points per game) were in action on Thursday.