WCC Power Rankings – December 1st


Welcome to West Coast Convo’s first WCC Men’s Basketball Power Rankings of the season! With a couple weeks of games to digest, we have a good idea of how teams are looking out of the gate. Here’s our initial pecking order in the WCC based on our first impressions from these early games.

#10 – PACIFIC: Tigers fans may cry foul with this bottom ranking as their team is 4-3 and ahead of two teams in the early standings. But with all the teams still close together this early, scheduling is dictating a lot. Three off the four wins for Pacific were cupcake games, and the verdict is still out on Mercer who the Tigers defeated for 3rd place in the Great Alaska Shootout. To their credit they have hung with every team they have played including Washington and what looks like a good UC Irvine team, but right now we haven’t seen much from the Tigers to jump them out of the bottom spot where we projected them at the start of the year.

The big issue still is after losing so many scorers from last season, who will step up and support their one returning player with quality numbers in TJ Wallace? He is doing his job being the anchor putting up a quality 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game so far, but nobody else has been a consistent contributor. Dulani Robinson is doing his best as the only other player averaging double figures with 10. 9 points per game, but they can’t do it alone. We’ve seen some good performances from other guys here and there, but too often it’s been Wallace and nobody else carrying the team. That won’t bode well if that keeps up.

March 8, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Santa Clara Broncos guard Jared Brownridge (23) dribbles against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard David Stockton (11) during the second half in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference tournament at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

#9 – SANTA CLARA: I nearly put them higher because of their excellent early season schedule, but as the only WCC team under .500 right now it’s hard to jump them over a lot of teams. That being said, they’re doing everything they can to compete, and you can’t fault them for their early losses. Every one of their four defeats is against a legitimate opponent including major power conference teams like Michigan State and Tennessee. They deserve credit for playing one of the toughest early schedules of any of the lower-level teams in the conference.

Like Wallace and the Tigers, the Broncos need to support their stars more. Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark have been All-WCC level performers early, but they are the only two Broncos averaging double-digit points. I like their supporting cast a little better than the Tigers however, and guys have shown potential especially down low which will  help the already dynamic backcourt. How they deal with the injury to Yannick Atanga that is reported to possibly cost him most or all of the season will be worth watching.

Nov 15, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Loyola Marymount Lions guard Evan Payne (1) attempts a shot defended by Boise State Broncos guard Robert Heyer (22) during the second half at Albert Gersten Pavilion. The Boise State Broncos defeated the Loyola Marymount Lions 77-69. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

#8 – LOYOLA MARYMOUNT: The Lions have looked good at times and bad at times. They have played a weak schedule overall except for games against Boise State and Arizona State they lost. They were another WCC team to lose to UC Irvine as well, so that might not look as bad if the Anteaters end up being for real. But even in their wins, they Lions haven’t looked amazing. Their biggest margin of victory is 22 points over NAIA San Diego Christian, a team that is regularly beaten by 30-40 points by Division 1 teams. The Lions need to do more against weak competition.

Continuing our familiar theme, the Lions are having trouble supporting their star. Evan Payne is establishing himself as one of the best guards in the WCC averaging 21.7 points per game in the early going, but nobody else has been able to be a consistent contributor. I like their talent a lot as guys like David Humphries, Ayodeji Egbeyemi, and Godwin Okonji have shown potential, but it hasn’t been consistent. They also are still looking for a good floor general who can provide assists. We predicted Chase Flint would take a large role in that, and he has. But his 16 assists and the 17 by team leader Simon Krajcovic are far from enough to make a consistent impact. The potential is there, things just need to sort themselves out pretty soon.

Jan 4, 2014; Provo, UT, USA; San Diego Toreros guard Christopher Anderson (00) dribbles the ball against the Brigham Young Cougars in the first half at Marriott Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

#7 – SAN DIEGO: The Toreros are another team that we can forgive a little for having such a tough early schedule. To come out of this first stretch at 4-3 is solid as it could have been much worse. Unlike some of the lower teams, the Toreros have hung with every single opponent including quality losses to Boise State and Xavier. They also have one of the better early wins for these bottom teams having beaten 2013-14 MAC Champions Western Michigan, although they lost a tough one to them in a rematch on Sunday. They also have a good win over Princeton. Unlike some of the lower ranked teams that are just hanging with good teams, the Toreros are actually pulling out some decent wins.

Johnny Dee is doing his thing averaging 21.1 points per game. Chris Anderson has been a revelation with a ridiculous 60 assists over seven games to go along with his newly found scoring ability at 10.3 points per game. Thomas Jacobs has shown flashes of double-double potential, Jito Kok appears to finally becoming as good offensively as he is defensively, and this is all happening with Duda Sanadze off to a slow start and key transfer Brandon Perry and the new freshmen having not yet found their stride. That’s what makes the Toreros dangerous. They have a good and deep core, and most of it hasn’t even fully gotten going yet. But they’re still hanging with teams. Once they’re hitting on all cylinders, they could be very dangerous.

Nov 24, 2014; Iowa City, IA, USA; Pepperdine Waves forward Stacy Davis (5) shoots against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the 2nd half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa won 72-61. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

#6 – PEPPERDINE: The Waves haven’t had a bad start at 3-1 with their only loss coming to a very good Iowa squad on the road, but they also have played less than the other teams and haven’t been challenged much. Beating San Jose State by 19 points after the Anteaters pushed Portland to overtime was a good sign, but it’s too early to tell what the Waves will be like after no major games besides Iowa. To their credit it was a well-fought game against the Hawkeyes, and they looked as good as they did in their wins over weaker opponents.

What’s exciting about the Waves is that they are actually getting a good team effort compared to the lower-ranked teams. Stacy Davis is still the star with 16.5 points and 8 rebounds per game, but others are stepping up in a big way. Jett Raines has stepped up in a huge way with 13.3 points and 9 rebounds per game, and the tandem of Raines and Davis is going to be very fun to watch. Jeremy Major is also averaging double figures, and they have a number of role players who have looked good including freshman Shawn Olden, Amadi Udenyi, Lamond Murray Jr, and Atif Russell. Highly regarded freshman A.J. John is also slowly finding his stride as he gets more minutes. This is such a talented core that will be in a lot of games, and they should move up the rankings as they play more.

Jan 18, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Dons forward Kruize Pinkins (15) takes a shot against the San Diego Toreros during the second half at War Memorial Gymnasium. The San Francisco Dons defeated the San Diego Toreros 64-62. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

#5 – SAN FRANCISCO: It’s early, but we haven’t seen much from the Dons to be excited about yet. They are being held to a higher standard admittedly because of last season and their expectations, so considering they haven’t done much is a bit of a concern. Their big test early was to head to the Gulf Coast Showcase to play some decent teams, and they left with only one win over an average Hawaii team. They were blown out by Florida Gulf Coast and faded late against Evansville. They have blown out teams in their wins, but they were against weak opponents. That being said, it’s a good sign that their talent is still at a high level. The lower-ranked teams aren’t blowing out anyone even in their wins against weak opponents.

Kruize Pinkins and Mark Tollefsen have been excellent as expected, and Tim Derksen and Matt Glover have also been solid forming a very good core. The depth however looks like a concern as a number of guys who were expected to be key contributors have gotten off to slow starts. This includes Corey Hilliard, Uche Ofoegbu, and high-profile transfers Montray Clemons and Derrell Robertson. Them getting going will be key if the Dons don’t want to under-perform as the competition gets tougher.

March 6, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Portland Pilots guard Kevin Bailey (00) shoots against Loyola Marymount Lions guard Taylor Walker (0) during the first half of the WCC Basketball Championships at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

#4 – PORTLAND: Portland looks really good so far. They were resilient in an overtime win over San Jose State, and they had a great trip to the Challenge is Music City with quality wins over Murray State and Drake. They do have their obligatory cupcake wins from early on, but 5-1 at this point is very positive as they are closing out games when the below teams haven’t. It’s why they sit at 3rd in the WCC standings right now. While that position in the standings should equalize at some point, the Pilots still look very good early.

As expected guys like Kevin Bailey, Alec Wintering, and Thomas Van Der Mars have been solid core players early on. Bryce Pressley and Bobby Sharp haven’t put up as big of numbers, but they are contributing the same as last year. The real revelation has been some emerging stars who make the Pilots even deeper. After coming off the bench last year, former West Virginia transfer and Ukraine native Volodymyer Gerun looks fantastic putting up 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a full-time starter. Freshman D’Marques Tyson also looks excellent and is second on the team with 12 points per game.

Not only are the Pilots winning, they’re doing it with new players taking the lead. Once the established stars also start contributing on the same level, this team should be very good. They might quietly have some of the best depth of these middle-tier teams, and they could make some serious noise after picking up some big upsets last season in WCC play. They’re certainly a team to watch.

Nov 24, 2014; Lahaina, Maui, HI, USA; Brigham Young Cougars guard Tyler Haws (3) shoots a three pointer against the San Diego State Aztecs during the 2014 EA Sports Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center. San Diego State defeats Brigham Young 92-87 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

#3 – BYU: Cougars are an excellent team, and they can hang with anyone in the nation. A couple shots go their way and they are probably undefeated and nationally ranked. Their only losses have come in overtime to powers San Diego State and Purdue, so they are doing everything right currently. Their offense looks amazing with their lowest output so far being 75 points in a win over Seattle Pacific. Their defense is a little more suspect, but that won’t be a problem in most WCC games as their size and scoring will overwhelm most smaller teams.

Tyler Haws is being Tyler Haws so far, and Kyle Collinsworth looks healthy and every bit the versatile player he was last season before tearing his ACL late in the year. The real key has been the emergence of guards Anson Winder and Chase Fischer. With Matt Carlino transferring to Marquette, it’s amazing to think the Cougars might actually be better now in the backcourt with the hot shooting of these two. They both have deadly strokes from long range, and this team can absolutely rain down shots which is leading to their high-powered offense.

Luke Worthington and Nate Austin are doing a good job in the frontcourt covering for the injured Jamal Aytes, and that’s all they need to do with the depth at guard. This team has weaknesses, mainly their defense and reliance on outside shooting, but so far they haven’t let those become problems. They will be right there at the top of the standings, and like we saw in the Maui Invitational if some shots go their way, they could be a real contender.

#2 – SAINT MARY’S: Should the Gaels be ahead of the Cougars? Honestly probably not. BYU has played a much tougher schedule and is a couple overtime shots from being undefeated, while Saint Mary’s hasn’t played anyone amazing. But they’re undefeated and blowing out some teams with what looks like a good squad, so for now at least they’re number two in the rankings. That could easily change once they drop their first game. They have blown out every team they played except a close win over UC Irvine, and they destroyed Cal Poly after the Mustangs made that miracle run to the NCAA Tournament last year.

Brad Waldow is looking like one of the best centers in the nation with 21.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He keeps them in every game and makes the Gaels really dangerous against smaller teams who don’t have that anchor inside. Kerry Carter looks elite after the loss of Stephen Holt to graduation. Carter is putting up 16 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Aaron Bright has been solid as expected averaging double-figures after transferring from Stanford. And the Gaels are getting good support from guys like Emmett Naar who has a team-high 35 assists.

Minnesota transfer Joe Coleman has been dealing with some injury issues, so once he gets going the Gaels will be even better. This is a quality core of players that is among the most talented in the conference, and based on the UC Irvine game they can rise to the occasion in tight games. So once they start getting into more of those tight contests, they should still do well even though right now they have been cruising. This is an elite team that will bounce back from their down year.

Nov 22, 2014; Spokane, WA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) reacts after getting hit in the face against the Saint Thomas Aquinas Spartans during the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs won 109-55. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

#1 GONZAGA: Could it be anyone else? Not only are the Bulldogs undefeated and the best team in the WCC, they might be one of the best teams in the nation. They aren’t just beating quality opponents, they are destroying them and everything else in their path. Highly regarded SMU on national television? A 16 point victory that could have been larger. Georgia and Saint John’s in Madison Square Garden? 12 and 7 points win and the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship. This team is talented, deep, and complete. If they get past Arizona, people might be talking about them running the table.

Five players are averaging double figures including three newcomers. Kyle Wiltjer looks like one of the best forwards in the nation. Domantas Sabonis is a rebounding machine and might be among the best freshmen in the nation. Kevin Pangos is Kevin Pangos and looks like one of the best guards in the nation. And that’s before we even talk about Byron Wesley, Przemek Karnowski, Gary Bell Jr, and Angel Nunez. We’d also be talking about freshman Josh Perkins if it weren’t for his unfortunate broken jaw suffered in New York that may sideline him for a while.

How do you stop this team? They have every facet of the game covered at an elite level. They are going to steamroll through the regular season, and it’s hard to believe any other team has a chance. The WCC might be decided already, and the rest of the conference might just be fighting for scraps. It will be very interesting to see how the Bulldogs are doing when they roll into March. This could finally be their year.