College basketball tips off November 6th with WCC matchups like Idaho State traveling to Gonzaga and BYU at Nevada. With the season right around the corner, lets take a deeper look into the West Coast Conference.
10. Portland Pilots
Portland will most likely finish at the bottom of the WCC standings come March but they will be returning six of their seven top scorers from last season so that’s a positive. Portland isn’t much of a basketball school but Terry Porter (head coach of the Pilots; 2x all-star with the Trailblazers; Portland legend) has the program going towards the right path. Porter snagged a transfer named Crisshawn Clark from Pittsburgh who will be eligible to play this season after sitting out last year due to transfer rules. Although Clark didn’t play at Pittsburgh because of a knee injury, he could be an immediate impact for the Pilots due to his athleticism and length as a 6’4 wing player.
Key Player: Marcus Shaver Jr. (SO, G)
2017-2018 stats - 12.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1 SPG
Marcus Shaver Jr. lead the Pilots in scoring as a freshmen and will again be directing the offense for the youngest team in the WCC. He is the primary ball-handler and playmaker for the Pilots so you have to keep an eye on him when the Gonzaga Bulldogs play him at Portland on January 18.
Key Game to Watch: Portland @ BYU on January 10th
Welcome back to the WCC, Lorenzo Romar! Romar had his first head coaching job with Pepperdine from 1996 to 1999 before becoming the University of Washington head coach from 2002 to 2017. Lorenzo is the perfect fit to lead a Pepperdine program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2002. We know Romar as a great recruiter so expect him to be bringing hidden talent to play in Malibu. He actually already grabbed a couple of transfers from Oregon, juniors Keith Smith and M.J. Cage. Although they will have to sit out this season, Romar already has Pepperdine looking towards a bright future.
Key Player: Colbey Ross (SO, G)
2017-2018 stats - 14.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.0 SPG
Colbey is another young player that had an outstanding freshmen year and will, again, be the leader on this Pepperdine squad this season. Ross can score pretty much wherever he wants on the floor. He is a three-point threat but don’t fall for his pump-fake cause he can take it to the rack.
BIG BALLER ALERT: Told you Lorenzo was a good recruiter. He convinced Andre Ball, cousin of Lonzo Ball, to take his talents to the beaches of Malibu. I saw Andre win a California state championship with his three cousins at Chino Hills in 2016. Although most people at Sleep Train Arena (previous arena of the Sacramento Kings and host of the California state championships at the time) came to see Zo, Gelo and Melo, Andre showed glimpses of his potential. I expect Andre to have a breakout freshmen campaign at Pepperdine.
Key Game to Watch: Gonzaga @ Pepperdine on February 21st
Mike Dunlap, the head coach of the Lions, has had four straight years with a losing record and it’s looking like another forgettable year for the Lions. Dunlap will still have his leadership intact with senior point guard, James Batemon. Batemon, who was named to the 2nd-Team All-WCC Team last season, averaged 17.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.6 APG, and 1.2 SPG in his junior year.
Key Player: Eli Scott (SO, G/F)
2017-2018 stats - 12.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.3 APG
Maybe that name sounds familiar because he too was apart of the “Big Baller” Chino Hills team that went undefeated and won a California state championship in 2016. The 6’5 Scott put up spectacular numbers in his freshmen campaign while being named to the All-WCC Freshmen Team last season. When watching Eli Scott, I see an undersized but just as strong Draymond Green. Batemon and Scott look like a great 1-2 punch who both have a great basketball IQ and shouldn’t be taking lightly this season.
Key Game to Watch: LMU @ UCLA on December 2nd
The Tigers out of Stockton were the surprise team of last season with a 9-9 WCC record and wins over BYU as well as San Diego (twice). Unfortunately, Pacific did lose one of their big players named Mike Reynolds (13.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.0 SPG) who is a grad transfer at Oklahoma now. The Tigers also lost the WCC’s Defensive Player of the Year in Namdi Okonkwo so it could a rebuild year for Pacific. Damon Stoudamire (13-year NBA veteran, Pacific head coach) looks to lead his team to a winning record in WCC play with the help of his junior forward, Jahlil Tripp (10.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.2 SPG in 2017-2018). With the way this guy is progressing, he could be putting up triple-double numbers by his senior year.
Key Player: Khy Kabellis (RS JR, G)
2016-2017 stats - 11.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.1 SPG
Khy had to sit out last season as he was a transfer from North Dakota State. Kabellis, with his smooth left-handed stroke, looks to add three-point shooting to a Pacific team that desperately needs it.
Key Game to Watch: Pacific @ Nevada on November 9th
This Broncos program is definitely going in the right direction with the guidance of head coach, Herb Sendek. Herb has been to NCAA Tournament 8 times while coaching at programs like Miami (OH), North Carolina State, and Arizona State (where he was the head coach of James Harden). Sendek has an impressive overall record of 441-331 in his 25-year career as a head coach and looks to lead the Broncos back to the NCAA tournament, a program that hasn’t been there since 1996 when Steve Nash had 28 points in the first round upset win over #7 seeded Maryland.
Key Player: KJ Feagin (SR, G)
2017-2018 stats - 17.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 4.0 APG
This guy can straight up score the ball at will. The 1st-Team All-WCC selection is going to the man on this team once again and I think will lead the WCC in scoring (especially since Jock Landale and Elijah Bryant went professional). Expect to see a lot of him because in 2017-2018, Feagin played about 90% of Santa Clara’s total minutes.
Key Game to Watch: Washington at Santa Clara on November 18th
Make sure to check out the rest of the 2018-2019 WCC Preview (#5-1) in three days on October 16th right here on “The Slipper Still Fits”.
*Arden Cravalho is a senior at Gonzaga University... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho