The Gonzaga Bulldogs open up conference play on Thursday, and that brings in the annual cries for the team moving to a better conference/people saying Gonzaga doesn’t deserve anything because WCC/etc etc etc/who cares/tired old talk about the West Coast Conference. For better or for worse, the Zags exist in the WCC, so all we can do is take a look at how the rest of the conference is doing.
We all know Saint Mary’s is good. They are ranked and Jock Landale is one of the most underrated players in the entire nation. BYU has had an up and down season so far, but they still have Eric Mika and an offense to be reckoned with. But how about the rest of the conference?
To a certain extent, there is a bit of improvement since last season. Last season, the average Ken Pomeroy rating for a team in the WCC was 161.4. This season, so far, it has been boosted to 152.3. By no means a powerhouse, but the WCC is starting to get a bit more parity in the ranks after Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU.
Ken Pomeroy Rankings
Let’s do a quick dive into each team in the conference.
Saint Mary’s Gaels, 10-1
The Gaels are having a fantastic season, largely in part of Jock Landale’s insane production this season. He is currently the fourth-highest rated player by Ken Pomeroy in the “At least 28% of possessions used” category. Landale is currently averaging 17.9 points per game while shooting a freakish 63.6 percent from the floor. Between him, and the fact the Gaels also a run two point guard offense with Joe Rahon and Emmett Naar, the Zags have a huge hill to climb in Moraga this season.
This time around, Randy Bennett has at least played theoretically enough of a non-conference schedule to land his team at at-large bid if that is how the season shakes out. The Gaels own a road win over a battered, yet still good, Dayton Fliers squad and also took a win over Stanford on the road. The loss against UT Arlington isn’t that bad, but the Gaels can still ill afford multiple bumps on the road in WCC. They’ll need wins over either Gonzaga and BYU, most likely on the road, to ensure the bubble doesn’t pop.
BYU Cougars, 9-4
Dave Rose is still pushing the tempo to unholy levels in Provo, but unfortunately for the Cougars, their offense isn’t as good as it was in previous years. Eric Mika, Nick Emery, and TJ Haws provide plenty of offense, but the team doesn’t provide a lick of defense. That glaring problem with one-half of the game of basketball is readily apparent in a 114-104 loss to UTAH VALLEY.
Because of losses like that, and a few others, the Cougars have to win the WCC Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament. The only other way is presuming they sweep both the Zags and the Gaels and fall in the championship game. The Cougars scheduled hard, but their best win right now is Colorado at home. Other than that, they lost to every single decent team they scheduled, and did we mention they also lost to UTAH VALLEY AT HOME.
San Francisco Dons, 10-3
Pop quiz: name a single player on San Francisco not named Chase Fisher or Ronny Brice. No cheating.
Seriously, the Dons have one junior and one senior on the squad. Every single other player on this team is either a freshman or a sophomore. They got a few gems in all of those young ‘uns, especially freshman guard Charles Miniead. The Dons have kept with teams because they shoot the living hell out of the ball. The Dons have the No. 13 eFG% in the nation and are the No. 11 three-point shooting team on top of that. They will not be an easy out in the War Memorial Gymnasium, that is for sure.
Portland Pilots, 7-5
One thing you gotta give the Pilots credit for: Alec Wintering is one hell of a guard. The senior is doing absolutely everything for Portland, averaging 21.5 points, 4.8 assists, 6.1 assists and two steals per game. Unfortunately, he also averages five turnovers per game while on the court for 37.5 minutes. Joined by sophomore guard Jazz Johnson at 17.7 points, junior forward Gabe Taylor at 14.4 points and D’Marques Tyson at 10.1 points, you have a pretty potent offense for new coach Terry Porter.
The issue is the same it usually is at Portland. After you get through the starting five (or in this case four), the talent drop off is pretty steep on the bench. There aren’t too many options for Porter to run past his starting five, who in the traditionally WCC way are also shooting lightning bolts from their hands from three-point range. The Pilots own a win over Oregon State, but the rest of the big games on the non-conference schedule resulted in losses. It is going to be one of those years for the Pilots.
Loyola Marymount Lions, 7-4
If there was ever a year for Loyola Marymount to make a WCC run, this would be it. Four of the five starters are seniors, but there isn’t enough offense here to make a serious impact in the WCC. Senior guard Brandon Brown is having a nice year, averaging 15.4 points per game, and senior center Stefan Jovanovic will be one of the few inside players in the conference who will potentially give the Zags fits.
The Lions have come close to making statements, however. They nearly beat Connecticut at home early in the season before Connecticut completely dropped off the face of the Earth. Their best win right now is on the road against Colorado State.
Santa Clara Broncos, 6-7
Another pop quiz: can you name anyone on Santa Clara not named Jared Brownridge? Don’t worry if you can’t. I’m not sure new Broncos’ coach Herb Sendek can either. Brownridge currently leads the WCC in minutes played, and like it has been for his four years at Santa Clara, the team’s success depends on how good of a night he is having.
The Broncos came close to upsetting Arizona (again), but eventually fell by eight points. Brownridge scored a mere 25 points in the contest and then followed it up with 36 points against Vanderbilt. From the bottom of my heart, I will miss watching Brownridge play.
Pacific Tigers, 6-7
The Tigers gave a good indication of how freakish the UCLA Bruins offense would be after they gave up 119 points on opening night. Things have never really recovered for Pacific, they don’t own a single halfway decent win to their name. But things aren’t all that bleak in Stockton. The Tigers are one of the better defensive rebounding teams in the WCC, a rather impressive feat considering Jacob Lampkin is their tallest regular player at a booming 6’9.
Unfortunately, their team eFG% of 44.2 ranks No. 322 in the entire nation. If there is one thing that WCC teams usually do, it is shoot the ball rather well. Pacific doesn’t do that, and they are going to have some real issues in conference play because of it.
Pepperdine Waves, 4-8
Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson didn’t have a whole lot of plans for his post-Stacy Davis career apparently. The Waves are currently mired in a seven-game losing streak. There are a few bright spots for Pepperdine—they can shoot the three pretty well. Unfortunately, their opponents are shooting the three better than they are (44.2 to 42.1 percent)! The Waves also have one of the worst field goal attempts to free throw attempts ratios in the nation and struggle mightily with turnovers.
This is a team that doesn’t have much of a clue how to play defense anymore. Considering once again that if there is anything WCC teams can usually do well is shoot the ball, it is going to be a long conference slog for the Waves.
San Diego Toreros, 7-5
The Toreros are a severely undersized team, starting a front court consisting of 6’7 Cameron Neuabeuer, 6’8 Juwan Gray, and 6’6 Brett Bailey. As can be expected with that little size, San Diego isn’t a very good offensive rebounding team. They make up for it in other fashions, however.
First off, the Toreros take care of the ball. They don’t turn it over too much, which allows them to try and aim for the three-pointer or take a drive into the hoop. San Diego has one of the weirder point distributions in the WCC. 39.1 percent of their total points comes from threes (No. 22 in the nation), 39.6 percent come from twos (No. 342) and 21.3 percent come from free throws (No. 97). San Diego struggles with jump shots, but they can hit outside shots, or free throws, where they shoot 74.2 percent as a team.