The Santa Clara Broncos ended the regular season with a record of 13-18, and a conference record 6-12. They finished tied for 8th in the standings with Pacific, who they play in the first round of the tournament on Thursday night. They split the season series with Pacific, losing 80-68 in Stockton and winning 70-50 in Santa Clara.
Players To Watch
This tournament could be Jared Brownridge’s coming out party. Fresh off his career high 38 points against Pepperdine and WCC Newcomer of the Year honors, Brownridge finally has the big stage that his talents have earned. He is second in the WCC in scoring behind Tyler Haws, and has only gotten better as the season has worn on. If they are able to get past Pacific, they have the chance to face Gonzaga in the quarterfinals, which will be a nationally televised game, and the biggest stage this young man has played on in his career. Gonzaga guard Gary Bell Jr., an amazing defender, was able to shut him down in their 2 point loss at home earlier this year. However, if Brownridge can rise to the occasion, I look for this to be a very special weekend for both him and the Broncos.
Santa Clara’s achilles heel this year has been it’s rebounding. They rank 8th in defensive rebound percentage and last in offensive rebound percentage in conference play. Pacific and Gonzaga have both exploited their weakness down low in their previous match-ups, and that will definitely be the game plan against them in the tournament, with both teams having a strong inside presence. Jerry Brown has been their most productive inside player, averaging 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds in only 20.5 minutes per game. If Jerry Brown and company can work to stay even on the boards and give them around 20 points in these games, they give their array of guards a chance to shoot their way to an upset.
What To Expect
This could be a very interesting weekend for the Broncos. They have looked great in some games – like their upset at Saint Mary’s and their near upset at home against Gonzaga – but they have also lost some bad game – like the 22-point defeat on senior night against Saint Mary’s and the loss against last place LMU last weekend. Above everything, it is hard to know what you will get with this team every game.
So, for the tournament, that is exactly what I am predicting: Who Knows? For one, I would not be surprised to see Pacific kill them on the boards, Tony Gill putting up 30 and 15, and the Tigers rolling. On the other hand, I can see their posts holding their own, Brandon Clark and Evan Roquemore shooting well, and Jared Brownridge leading a historic tournament run that includes an easy win over Pacific, a shocking upset over a vulnerable Gonzaga team, and a potential semifinal matchup against rival Saint Mary’s. The second scenario may seem like bit of a stretch, but that is why they play the game.
This actually won’t be the Broncos first trip to the Orleans Arena this year, as they played in Continental Tires Las Vegas Classic in December. They lost their first round game against UNLV, then upset South Florida 66-65. Jared Brownridge scored the teams final 5 points and iced the game with 2 free throws with 10 seconds left. Could we see more late game heroics in the Orleans from Brownridge? Maybe. Either way, this is an extremely dangerous team. If they can get hot from three (they shoot more than any other team in the league), the Broncos can make some noise in a watered down WCC.