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The Other Top 25 Preseason Rankings: No. 20 Pepperdine Waves

The WCC is more than just BYU, Gonzaga, and Saint Mary’s.

NCAA Basketball: Pepperdine at St. Mary’s Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

2019-20 Record: 16-16 (8-8 WCC)

Key Returning Players: Colbey Ross, Kessler Edwards, Jade’ Smith, Sedrick Altman, Andre Ball

Key Losses: Kameron Edwards, Skylar Chavez (COVID)

Key Newcomers: Kene Chukwuka (Pitt), Robbie Heath (West Chester), Majok Deng, Kendall Munson

What if I told you a player in the WCC was averaging nearly 20 PPG, and he wasn’t from BYU, Gonzaga, or Saint Mary’s? That man? He plays for the Pepperdine Waves.

That athlete’s name is Colbey Ross, and he is gosh darn good.

Colbey has started every game since he’s landed in Malibu, scoring single digits only 15 times in 97 starts, shooting .429 from the field.

Colbey ended last season with a statement. In a 2OT loss against probable NCAA Tournament team St.Mary’s in the WCC Tournament, Colbey scored 43 of the 82 Waves points. All but eight of those 72 points return.

Hungry to contend for a tournament bid, can the Waves make noise in a loaded WCC this season?

Three things to watch:

Will another guard step up to the plate?

Yes, Colbey Ross is great and all, but he was in control of 31.4% of the team’s possessions last season. That is good for 34th in the country.

The only other player that was close to him was Kameron Edwards, with 26% of possessions, but he graduated, and he was a forward.

Sophomore Jan Zidek was injured two games into WCC play but held 21.3% of possessions in the games he played. He has potential, but he is, like Edwards in the front court. Ross needs someone to compliment him in the back court.

Ross has led the WCC every year he has played in assist rate (per KenPom), so he is sharing the ball. It is time for another guard to step up to the plate and compliment Ross in the backcourt.

Andre Ball showed some bright spots his freshman year, but redshirted last season due to an injury.

Jade’ Smith also got hurt last season, but showed bright spots, scoring 15 and picking up nine rebounds against Arizona.

Sedrick Altman is probably the most obvious choice, as he made WCC All-Freshman team a year ago. He never really had a big scoring game but averaged an amazing 28.3 PPG in high school.

Regardless of it being Andre Ball (and yes, he’s related to LaMelo), Jade’ Smith, or Sedrick Altman, Ross needs a complimentary all-conference level guard to make this team a contender in such a difficult league.

Colbey Ross is only 24 points away from the all-time scorer at Pepperdine.

I know I might be beating a dead horse, but this kid is just so dang impressive.

He hasn’t even played 100 games, and he’s nearing 1,800 points.

Stacy Davis, who owns the school record, played 125 games. Ross has played 98 so far.

This is not something small. Pepperdine has a stellar basketball history. They’ve made two Sweet 16s and sent 18 players to the NBA. Ross will probably be the next.

This is something to look towards on opening night. It has not been announced who they will play yet, but he’s only 24 points away.

Will their defense compliment their deadly offense?

Last season, the Waves offense was deadly. They were ranked 87th in the nation in offensive efficiency, and in the top 100 of eight other categories.

Their problem was their defense. The Waves ranked 311th in eFG%, and 346th in defensive 3pt%. Their opponents tend to score at will against them, giving up less than 63 points only twice last season.

Lorenzo Romar has had 15 top 100 defenses in 24 seasons as a head coach. Knowing him, he more than likely put an emphasis on it this offseason. It starts with the guards.

X-Factor

Kessler Edwards

Colbey Ross’ excellence tends to take the Pepperdine spotlight, but they have one of the best mid-major front courts in the nation.

2019-20 All-WCC Second Team player Kessler Edwards, especially, is a menace down low.

Edwards was in the top 20 of 11 KenPom categories in WCC play, leading the BYU and Gonzaga led league in Block %. He was also deadly from 3pt range, shooting a stellar 41.7% on the season on 127 attempts. He also had nine double-doubles, including a 17 point and 10 rebound game against Providence, and 24 point, 11 rebound game against BYU.

Those performances have put the league on notice, as the coaches voted him along with Ross on the Preseason First Team.