Things haven't gone well of late for Pepperdine in McKeon Pavillion (courtesy of Andrew Nguyen).

Previewing Pepperdine at Saint Mary's

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Or where Josh and I talk about the state of West Coast Conference…

ST: Pepperdine at Saint Mary’s. Pepperdine coming in off a win at home versus Portland while the Gaels defeated Pacific at McKeon Pavilion. What is your initial thought on this game?

JH: Pepperdine can send some shock waves around the conference with a win in Moraga. The Waves don’t have an overly impressive win – Portland is borderline – since beating BYU on the opening weekend of conference play. A win would help immensely. Oppositely, the Gaels can make some ground on either BYU or Gonzaga with a win, considering they are facing off against each other.

ST: To me, the Gaels, the Zags, and the Cougars are clearly the Top-3. Since BYU has joined the WCC, it has always been “how will BYU, SMC, GU finish in the Top-3 and who is the best of the rest?” So far, Pepperdine can make an argument for being that fourth best team. This game will show whether it is in fact Top-3 and everyone else, or if the league has some parity.

JH: Completely agree. With USF falling to BYU and Gonzaga beating Pepperdine this week, a win over the Gaels for Pepperdine could be the last chance to prove that Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU do not have a stranglehold on the top spots anymore.

ST: See I disagree. I think they do have a stranglehold on that top spot but the difference between 3rd place and 6th, 7th isn’t as wide as it will be.That said, Gonzaga and BYU have good transfers and recruits coming in while Saint Mary’s just announced a new gym expansion so all the pieces are there for them to continue to be the Top 3 for a long time. This game is a barometer for the WCC. In the short-run, Saint Mary’s needs a win in order to keep a multi-bid (if not even a 3 bid) hope alive. In the long-run, teams like Pepperdine need to start knocking off teams like Saint Mary’s on the road for the conference to grow into a perennial 3-4 bid league.

JH: A win over Saint Mary’s would put Pepperdine at 6-3 in conference play, and would leapfrog them in the conference standings. In the Waves next 3 games are against Pacific twice and LMU. The Gaels play BYU during that stretch. I wouldn’t be so sure that Pepperdine is not in the hunt for a top 3 spot. Let me ask you this, changing the subject a little, do you think the WCC being a one-bid league this season would be good for the conference, from a long-term and short-term standpoint?

ST: Absolutely not. I think that teams like BYU and SMC not getting killed for having conference losses like at LMU and vs. Santa Clara would be a huge step for the conference. Ideally Santa Clara and LMU would have high RPI’s from navigating a difficult and successful non-conference schedule and the committee overlooks those losses. That should be the ultimate goal of the WCC. That is what separates the good leagues from the others.

JH: Following up on that response, do you think the “parity” in the WCC this season is a result of the top-3 being down from a year ago or the bottom 7 showing improvement?

ST: A combo of both. I think that there are some good young players on teams like Portland, Santa Clara, and Pepperdine that make it interesting and I find it odd (kind of) that teams like San Diego, LMU, and Pacific are struggling. Granted, Pacific has had a rough schedule off the bat but still.

JH: Let’s get back on track a bit, what match-up are you looking forward to in this contest?

ST: Pepperdine offense versus Saint Mary’s defense. The Gaels defense has been getting obliterated which is weird to me. Marty Wilson has a lot of talent but he isn’t quite sure how to use all of that talent to their potential. If the Gaels can take care of Stacy Davis, then it would force someone else to step up (perhaps Lane?) and beat them. But I would like to see the Gaels play better defense which in turn would improve their offense.

JH: I’m excited to see Pepperdine’s guards against Saint Mary’s’. Both backcourts can shoot very well and both get after it on the defense end. This will be a pleasure to watch.

ST: I would like to see the Gaels shut down guard penetration and force the opponents front court to beat them. Anthony Ireland is around the corner, as well as trips to San Diego (Dee & Anderson) and BYU (Collinsworth & Hawes) loom ahead. If guard defense improves, I believe everything will fall into place. Prediction?

JH: Although I am a fan of this Pepperdine team, I think winning at McKeon is too daunting of a task. Gaels take it 82-75.

ST: I think Saint Mary’s steps it up on defense, pulls away late: 70-56.

Tags: Basketball College Basketball Pepperdine Pepperdine Waves Saint Mary's Saint Mary's Gaels St. Mary's Gaels WCC West Coast Conference

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