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Around The WCC: 1/25-2/1 Edition

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The following order is based on current spot in the WCC.

Portland (15-7; 6-1): I would like to be the first to welcome the Portland Pilots back to WCC relevancy. In the biggest week of Portland Pilots basketball since...forever....the Pilots swept USD (69-55) and St. Mary's (84-66) to take a stranglehold on second place in the WCC. This Portland team is a terrific reflection of Eric Reveno, as it plays with tremendous grit and toughness. Nik Raivio is making a case to be the WCC player of the year after his performance last week. Raivio opened the week with a 17 point and 9 rebound performance against USD. He followed that up with an outstanding 27 point and 5 rebound showing against St.Mary's. The scariest part about this team.....they will return everyone next year.

Schedule This Week: 2/5 vs. Gonzaga

St. Mary's (18-3; 5-2): This must go down as one of the toughest weeks in St. Mary's basketball history. The Gaels came into the week with a 15 game winning streak, and the confidence that they could take the WCC crown from Gonzaga. However, after a great 1st half against the Zags, the Gaels found out that they had lost star PG Patty Mills not only for the game, but for the next month. After the disheartening 69-62 loss to the Zags, the Gaels were dominated in every facet of the game in a 84-66 loss to Portland. While Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson played well in the defeat, this team has no chance to succeed if their guards don't step up and help try and replace the injured Patty Mills. 

Schedule This Week: 2/5 vs. USF; 2/7 @ Santa Clara

San Diego (12-10; 4-3): If there is one team that understands what St. Mary's is going through, it's the USD Toreros. While the Toreros looked like they could be competitive without the injured Brandon Johnson, this team has a leadership void without its superstar. You can't blame Billy Grier for trying to slow down the game, the Toreros looked lifeless on the offensive end in losses to Portland (69-55) and Gonzaga (64-47). Against the Zags, not one Torero was able to score in double-figures. I hope that Gyno Pomare can find some of that magic he had in the remarkable late-season run last year, but I'm not sure this team has the mentality to be successful.

Schedule This Week: 2/5 vs. Santa Clara; 2/7 vs. USF

Santa Clara (11-13; 3-4): After opening WCC play with an embarassing 4 game losing streak, the Santa Clara Broncos have quietly reeled off 4 straight wins, and have put themselves in contention to finish in the top half of the conference. The Broncos are starting to play with more confidence, and they took care of business against LMU (82-56) and Pepperdine (64-52) last week. During this winning streak, the Broncos have received terrific play from James Rahon to complement the incredible John Bryant. Rahon scored 25 points in the victory over LMU, and then followed that up with a quiet 11 points against Pepperdine. As for John Bryant, he had 12 points and 22 rebounds against LMU, and dominated the game against Pepperdine with 19 points and 17 rebounds. In the process, he became the leading rebounder in the NCAA this season.

Schedule This Week: 2/5 @ USD; 2/7 vs. St. Mary's

Pepperdine (5-18; 2-5): Despite limited success so far this season, the Waves have continued to play hard, and this week it finally paid off. Behind a career-high 32 points from the outstanding freshman Keion Bell, the Waves went in to San Francisco and defeated the Dons by a score of 69-67. Although they couldn't quite manage the sweep, the Waves played Santa Clara very tight in the 64-52 loss. Keion Bell is a special player in this conference, and I really like the young nucleus that Tom Asbury has at his disposal. I expect the Waves to surprise a couple more teams this season, and to be a contender next season.

Schedule This Week: 2/7 @ LMU

USF (9-13; 1-6): I don't know what has happened to the USF Dons in conference play. After a fairly strong non-conference performance, this team has been nothing short of embarrassing the past month. One player you can't blame for the struggles is Dior Lowhorn. Lowhorn played terrific in both the 69-67 loss to Pepperdine (28 points and 10 rebounds) and the 73-53 victory over LMU (23 points and 14 rebounds). While Santa Clara has found some support for John Bryant, the Dons continue to be a one man show. Until that changes, this team will continue to under achieve and struggle.

Schedule This Week: 2/5 @ St. Mary's; 2/7 @USD

LMU (1-22; 0-7): I have run out of adjectives to describe the play of LMU. Unlike Pepperdine, which has continued to play hard despite its struggles, the Lions appear to have thrown in the towel on this season. The Lions weren't competitive in either of their games last week, as they lost to both Santa Clara (82-56) and USF (73-53). Even the terrific play of Vernon Teal, who scored 20 points in the loss to Santa Clara, and 16 in the loss to USF can't make up for the mediocrity that has enveloped it's program. I understand the difficult circumstances that this team has had to face, but it's still upsetting to see this team appear to quit as the season comes to an end.

Schedule This Week: 2/7 @ Pepperdine