The non-conference schedule is coming to an end and fans are starting to get a clear picture of which teams are for real and which teams are more hype than productivity. The Zags had themselves a nice week, rolling over Incarnate Word and defeating Jesuit rival Creighton on Friday.
Looking at the rest of the conference, it is nice to see five other teams with winning records. However, the competition level has not been great for our conference friends, and it looks once again like the conference will be a two(ish) headed monster heading into league play, with BYU hanging around the number three spot. There are a few teams (San Diego, San Francisco) who could potentially challenge BYU for that spot, but Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s will ride alone at the top once again in 2017-2018.
BYU played two away games last week but stayed within state lines, squaring off against Utah Valley and Utah State. Not surprisingly, they came away with two victories. BYU scheduled a pretty weak non-conference schedule this season, another disappointment for a conference trying to improve their brand and send more teams to the NCAA tournament. Alabama and Utah are the only Power 5 opponents for the Cougars this season. They already lost to Alabama and will face Utah December 16. Four of their 13 non-conference opponents reside in Utah as the Cougars have not shown much willingness to travel long distance to play anyone. Until this changes, BYU will need to finish first or second in the WCC to have any chance of making the NCAA tournament. The Cougars, who are led by Yoeli Childs 16.9 points per game, will host Illinois State and Weber State next week. They should be 8-2 heading into the game against PAC-12 Utah in a few weeks.
Loyola Marymount (4-3)
LMU earned their token win over a Division-II opponent this week, defeating Cal-State LA 87-66. Reserve freshmen Eli Scott had 17 in the contest and is now averaging 13.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The Lions then went up north to face PAC-12 opponent Oregon State, dropping a close one 78-74. LMU got down big in the first half and stormed back to make it a close game. That kind of resolve will help LMU in WCC play. LMU will host Portland State on Wednesday before traveling to play Cal-State Northridge on Saturday.
Pacific went on a nice little run last week, winning three in a row to put them over .500 on the year. They opened the week against MAAC opponent Canisius and rolled over them 80-58. Sophomore Jahlil Tripp had nine points, nine rebounds and 11 assists in the contest.
The Tigers then toughed out a 57-55 win against UC-Riverside. Tripp had 11 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in that one. Finally, Pacific rounded the week out with an embarrassing 105-68 win over Division-II Arkansas-Fort Smith. The Tigers had six players in double figures, led by freshmen reserve Lafayette Dorsey’s 17.
Pacific hits the road this week, driving a few minutes south to face UC-Davis and then facing Wyoming on the road.
Pepperdine had a tough week, losing two close games and dropping their record to a lowly 2-6. The Waves hosted the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah last Wednesday. The Thunderbirds rained threes all over Pepperdine, dropping 15 of them in their 88-82 victory. Sophomore Kameron Edwards had 25 for the Waves. Pepperdine then traveled north to face the Cal Poly Mustangs and former Zag Luke Meikle. Edwards and freshmen guard Colbey Ross each had 21 but the Waves lost 91-81. Meikle had 11 and four for Cal Poly.
The Waves will need to start shooting at a higher efficiency to start seeing some wins. They are shooting 32% from three and 67% from the line on the season. They will look to right the ship next week against a pair of Big West teams. They’ll square off against UC-Riverside on Tuesday and Long Beach State on Saturday.
Portland has gone 1-2 since we last checked in with them. They finished out the PK80 with a tough 82-69 loss to Depaul. The Pilots came out of the gate sluggish but had a strong second half to mount a mini comeback. Franklin Porter, son of head coach Terry Porter, had 16 points and made all four of his three-point attempts.
Portland got a mid-week confidence boost against NAIA opponent Multnomah, defeating them 112-65. Porter had 21 and JuCo transfer Josh McSwiggan added 18.
Finally, UP took on red-hot Boise State on Sunday, losing 77-54 thanks to a triple-double by senior Chandler Hutchison.
Portland will take on Cal-State Fullerton and San Jose State next week.
Saint Mary’s (6-2)
As much fun as it is to see SMC struggle this year (especially after they were picked ahead of Gonzaga this season) deep down we all know it is bad for the conference and for the Zags when they lose. After losing to Washington St. in the Wooden Classic, the Gaels dropped the third place game to Georgia in overtime, 83-81. The loss was not because of Jock Landale, who had a monstrous 33 points and 12 rebounds in the contest. The Gaels struggled to play defense at the end of the game, a skill they will need to acquire if they want to challenge the Zags this season.
Saint Mary’s bounced back and beat PAC-12 opponent Cal on the road, 74-63. Calvin Hermanson had 22 and Landale and Emmett Naar each added 13. The Gaels will host Sacramento State and SeattleU next week, two home games that provide them little benefit if they are won and very serious ramifications if they are lost. Hopefully for the conference SMC is able to win the games they need to win from here on out to keep the conference a two-bid league this season.
Santa Clara (3-5)
Santa Clara was sitting at 1-5 after their rough Thanksgiving trip. Fortunately, their upcoming opponents included two teams who were winless. They remain that way, as Santa Clara was able to earn two wins and push their record to a more respectable 3-5. The Broncos stomped on 0-7 Northern Arizona, earning an 89-57 victory. Santa Clara dropped 17 threes on the Lumberjacks in the contest. Junior KJ Feagin had 16 points, making 4/5 from downtown. Santa Clara then hosted the 0-9 Golden Lions of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, winning 72-57. Junior guard Matt Hauser went 7-of-10 from downtown en route to 21 points.
Santa Clara is dangerous from downtown, but their lack of size (their leading rebounder is 6’4 grad transfer Henry Caruso) will hold them back this season. The Broncos only have one game next week, hosting Big Sky opponent Portland State on Saturday.
University of San Diego (5-2)
San Diego started the season off 5-0 but dropped two close games last week. They faced local rival San Diego State and played them very tight, eventually falling 66-57. Portland State transfer Isaiah Piniero had 19 in the loss. San Diego was only able to get to the line seven times in the contest, making four.
The Toreros squared off against the 6-2 Gauchos of Santa Barbara on Saturday and lost 67-57. Piniero and Olin Carter each had 14. USD was able to get to the line 23 times, but only managed to make nine. 39% from the free throw line is not going to get you many wins.
San Diego has another tough draw at New Mexico State this week before hosting Northern Arizona on Saturday.
University of San Francisco (3-3)
The curse that impacted Bay area basketball over Thanksgiving seems to have spread to the Dons. They dropped both their games last week, first to Big West foe UC-Santa Barbara and then to nationally ranked Arizona State. Freshmen Souley Boum and senior Chase Foster each had 17 against the Gauchos, but the Dons shot 6-for-33 from downtown in the loss. The Dons then traveled to face 20th ranked Arizona State and got rolled 75-57. San Francisco shot 28.3% from the field and were outrebounded 46-34. Arizona State is the only remaining undefeated PAC-12 team and made quick work of USF. The Dons will look to shake off their rough week and get their winning record back this week. They square off against 4-4 Central Arkansas on Monday and then host Big Sky opponent Eastern Washington University on Thursday.