The Big Picture
Are these guys actually good?
Take a look at the middle of the WCC and you’ll see a handful of teams with surprisingly good records. Santa Clara sits in third place with a 9-2 record. San Francisco is close behind at 8-2. Pacific and Portland, at 9-3 and 6-3 respectively, are both off to their best starts in years and sit ahead of BYU in the standings.
Those four teams have combined for 32 wins so far. Only one of those 32 wins came against a top-100 KenPom team (No. 85 Yale).
Of those 32 wins, 27 have come against sub-200 KenPom or non-Division I opposition. Santa Clara, Portland and Pacific have three wins a piece against sub-300 KenPom teams. These gaudy records don’t prove much.
Only one of the four teams looks like a sure-fire “actually good” team going forward: San Francisco.
The Dons are tenth nationally with a scoring average of 84 points per game. And the Dons’ resume is by far the best of the bunch. They have the best win (Yale) and haven’t played a single sub-300 team. Their losses, at Hawaii and versus Arizona State, are both reasonable.
The Big Player
Imagine having a player who is averaging 17.1 points per game for his career, who this season is averaging 14.5 shots per game and 18.9 points per game. And now imagine he’s a guard. You’d probably think he’s shoot-first kind of player.
But, what if I told you this player was three assists shy of breaking his school’s career assist record and he’s only a junior?
Yes, we’re talking about Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross — also known as the most overlooked point guard in college basketball.
Ross is averaging 18.9 points and 7.4 assists per game this season. He’s been a starter since day one in Malibu. The dude can flat out ball. He’s 10 games into his junior season and is three assists shy of setting the program career record, currently held by Jeremy Major with 494, set just three years ago.
Colbey Ross is the most under-appreciated guard in college basketball. He’s arguably the best point guard this side of the Mississippi. He plays for Pepperdine, which is not an excuse for not knowing about him.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (10-1)
Last week: W 101-62 vs. Texas Southern, W 83-76 at No. 22 Washington
This week: Dec. 14 at No. 15 Arizona
With a win over Washington on Sunday, the Zags have now defeated its in-state rival 13 of the past 14 meetings. That win gave Gonzaga a seven game winning streak against the Pac-12, and was their second win of the season against a ranked team from the conference. They’ll look to make that streak eight in a row this weekend against Arizona.
2. Saint Mary’s Gaels (9-2)
Last week: W 61-49 vs. Northern Illinois, L 78-68 vs. No. 19 Dayton
This week: Dec. 14 at California
Saint Mary’s gave up a season worst 1.212 points per possession to Dayton. That is slightly below the Flyers’ season average of 1.226, though, which is best in the nation. It’s a silver lining in loss to a really good team.
3. BYU Cougars (8-4)
Last week: L 102-95 (OT) at Utah, W 83-50 vs. UNLV, W 75-42 vs. Nevada
This week: Dec. 14 vs. Utah State (Salt Lake City)
The Cougars have put together a solid resume with wins over Houston, UCLA, Virginia Tech and now Nevada. Yoeli Childs returned from suspension last week and the team looks better than ever. All that said, there’s little room for error for the squad if it wants to make the NCAA Tournament.
4. San Francisco Dons (8-2)
Last week: W 76-64 vs. California
This week: Dec. 14 at Cal State Fullerton
Seven foot senior Jimbo Lull is playing the best basketball of his life. Averaging nearly ten minutes more per game than he did last season, with averages of 12.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, Lull’s usage has gone way up but his efficiency hasn’t really dropped. Plus, he’s shooting threes now.
5. Santa Clara Broncos (9-2)
Last week: L 98-67 at Nevada, W 71-52 vs. California
This week: Dec. 14 vs. Sacramento State
Santa Clara’s best wins this year are Pac-12 bottom dwellers Washington State and Cal, both of which came at home. Not exactly marquee games, but still. The Broncos are now 2-1 versus the Pac-12 this season and 4-3 over the past two years.
6. Pacific Tigers (9-3)
Last week: W 62-59 vs. Cal State Fullerton, W 65-46 at Long Beach State
This week: Dec. 15 vs. Cal State Northridge
Pacific still doesn’t have a signature win. The Tigers don’t even have a good win. But they’ve got a road win now after taking care of business, easily, at The Beach. The Tigers are off to their best start since 2013-14, their first season in the WCC.
7. Pepperdine Waves (4-6)
Last week: W 77-65 vs. Idaho State
This week: Dec. 14 vs. Central Arkansas
Three of Pepperdine’s six losses have come to top-100 KenPom teams, with one more coming to No. 103 UCF. The Waves looked great in a two-point loss to Arizona last month. They’ve also lost to California and at home to Sacramento State.
8. Loyola Marymount Lions (4-5)
Last week: L 76-64 at Colorado, W 83-67 vs. Grambling State
This week: Dec. 13 vs. Prairie View A&M, Dec. 16 at UC Davis
Last week junior forward Eli Scott put up a career high with 31 points against then No. 20 Colorado on the road. Scott’s follow up performance? A 21 point, 11 rebound and 13 assist triple-double.
9. Portland Pilots (6-3)
Last week: L 71-64 vs. Cal State Northridge, L 73-71 vs. Seattle (Kent, WA)
This week: Dec. 13 vs. Evergreen (non-D1), Dec. 16 vs. Florida A&M
The Pilots are the only sub-200 KenPom team in the West Coast Conference right now. Last year they were one of two such WCC teams, except they weren’t just sub-200, they were sub-300. Baby steps in the Rose City.
10. San Diego Toreros (4-7)
Last week: W 68-51 vs. Holy Cross
This week: Dec. 11 at Cal State Fullerton, Dec. 14 vs. UC Davis
Yauhen Massalski is back! The Toreros’ lone returning starter from last season underwent surgery after the season opener. In his return against Holy Cross, the junior big man came off the bench but led the team in points (12) and rebounds (8).