Welcome to our second WCC Power Rankings of the 2014-15 season. The non-conference schedule is starting to wind down, and we’re getting an idea of how teams are looking heading into WCC play. The next couple weeks will be the last chance for teams to tune up, and a lot of potential contenders are emerging. A whopping 8 of the 10 teams in the conference are above .500, so it could be a wide open race when we hit mid-December.
#10 – PACIFIC: The Tigers are doing everything right so far, but they just don’t have the schedule to bump them up just yet. They might be 6-3 and riding a 3 game winning streak, but they have yet to beat anyone of note. They are looking better however as they had multiple double-digit scoring performances last week, and only one of them was by TJ Wallace. Alec Kobre had a masterpiece of a game against Cal State East Bay scoring 23 points in 24 minutes.
Pacific might be hitting their stride at the right time, and they need to win a couple tough games ahead to really prove themselves. We will know a lot more about them after they face strong mid-major opponents Western Michigan this Sunday and Nevada on December 18th. If they look good in those games, we will start to believe in the Tigers and consider moving them out of this bottom spot.
Nov 27, 2014; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Josh Richardson (1) reacts after he shot a three pointer over Santa Clara Broncos guard Brandon Clark (3) during the second half at HP Field house at Wide World of Sports Complex. Tennessee Volunteers defeated the Santa Clara Broncos 64-57.Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
#9 – SANTA CLARA: Of the bottom three teams that represent the low tier in the WCC this season, Santa Clara might end up being the best. They may rely too heavily on Brandon Clark and Jared Brownridge, but the duo has been so ridiculously good and reliable that it hasn’t been much of a problem. They comfortably beat a San Jose State team last week that has given other WCC teams fits this season, and the dangerous duo of Clark and Brownridge led the Broncos in scoring as usual. Santa Clara has had 19 double-digit scoring performances this season, and 14 of them have been by Clark or Brownridge.
The loss of Yannick Atanga will continue to sting all season, and the Broncos have been outrebounded in every game since they played Utah State on November 19th. The last time Atanga appeared in a game? You guessed it: Utah State. We can’t expect Clark and Brownridge to be on fire every single night, and it’s still really hard to see them winning consistently when that happens. They have been fortunate it hasn’t happened yet, hopefully it doesn’t catch up to them.
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 didn’t have anything going in their loss to USC last week, and at 3-4 they have fallen to last place in the conference. Evan Payne is still putting up elite scoring numbers, but the supporting cast is struggling. They have a talented and potentially deep team with a lot of potential, but like Santa Clara and Pacific they have the same issue. When they’re too top-heavy and not getting more support for their stars, they falter.
LMU visits Northern Arizona on Saturday before they prepare to visit Stanford next week in their big marquee non-conference game. They hung with a couple good teams in Boise State and UC Irvine, and they are seasoned with previous Pac-12 games against the Trojans and Arizona State. If the version of the Lions that has 3-5 guys giving good contributions behind Payne shows up more often, they are a quality team.
#7 – SAN DIEGO: The Toreros almost crept up the rankings this week despite losing both their games. They looked very competitive in losses to powerhouses San Diego State and UCLA, and they could have beaten the Bruins with a stronger finish. Guys like Brandon Perry and Jito Kok are starting to emerge which is a great sign. But Chris Anderson has gone cold, and Duda Sanadze is still limited by plantar fasciitis and they have missed his numbers.
It’s frustrating to see this team compete and look like they can pull off an upset but then fade late in the game. We could see more of the same this week when they visit UC Santa Barbara, one of the better mid-majors in California. We know the Toreros can compete, but an actual win would be nice here. If they fall just short yet again, they might be firmly stuck in this lower half heading into conference play.
Dec 3, 2014; Boulder, CO, USA; San Francisco Dons center Mark Tollefsen (23) shoots over Colorado Buffaloes forward Wesley Gordon (1) in the second half at the Coors Events Center. The Buffaloes defeated the Dons 72-55. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
#6 – SAN FRANCISCO: The Dons were on opposite sides of a blowout last week losing big to Colorado before blowing out Houston Baptist. The good news is that they are blowing out weaker teams. The bad news is that they are getting blown out by stronger teams. The margins of defeat in their three losses have been 15, 7, and 17 points.
For what it’s worth, the Dons were just like this last year in non-conference play. They had some blowout losses and were a quiet 7-5 before they hit WCC play and became a breakout team. Tons of talent is there, so you can’t count them out yet. The core of Kruize Pinkins, Mark Tollefsen, Tim Derksen, and Matt Glover is one of the best core groups in the conference. They have a lot of talent, and their lower ranking here is only due to their average record against an average schedule. But we are far from writing them off just yet.
Nov 19, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; Pepperdine Waves forward Jett Raines (45) grabs a rebound against the San Jose State Spartans during the second half at San Jose State Event Center. The Waves won 63-44. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
#5 – PEPPERDINE: The Waves jump the Dons for now as they are cruising along without any slip-ups so far. They are 5-1 after a pair of wins last week, and their only loss is against a very legitimate Iowa team on the road. Stacy Davis, Jett Raines, and Jeremy Major continue to form an excellent core. And they have been joined by the emergence of Atif Russell and freshman Shawn Olden. This team is still very young, but the continue to impress with their raw talent.
This week the Waves visit Arizona State on Saturday, and we will really know what they’re made of after that. They have the ability to make it a competitive game, and if they keep it close even in a loss it should really put the rest of the WCC on notice. Either way, Pepperdine is a really good team and just as scary as the other quality mid-tier teams like San Francisco and Portland.
Feb 5, 2014; Spokane, WA, USA; Portland Pilots guard Kevin Bailey (00) shoots the ball over Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Gary Bell Jr. (5) during the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
#4 – PORTLAND: Speaking of the Pilots, they continue to live up to their preseason hype as a potential breakout team. They lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Oregon State, but at 6-2 they are off to a great start.
Like Pepperdine, the Pilots have a strong core that is being bolstered by some breakout players. Thomas Van Der Mara, Kevin Bailey, and Alec Wintering anchor the team. But they have been energized by the improved play of Volodymyr Gerun and freshman D’marques Tyson. They get the #4 spot on the strength of having a slightly more impressive resume than fellow talented and deep teams Pepperdine and San Francisco.
This week they have what should be an easy game before a big one looms next week against UNLV. It seems like all the WCC teams are approaching big games that will really test them, and the Pilots certainly are in the same boat with the Rebels. A competitive game will say a lot about them, but they don’t need it as much as the lower teams. Portland already looks for real, and they might be the best team out of this middle group. Even better than San Francisco potentially.
It’s worth watching how they do without Kevin Bailey who is “anywhere from day to day, to week to week” according to Eric Reveno after suffering an injury that cost him most of the Portland State game and all of the Oregon State game. He could have made the difference against the Beavers, and hopefully he returns to health soon with conference play looming.
#3 – SAINT MARY’S: The Gaels dropped their first game of the year to Boise State last week, not a bad loss to one of the better teams in the Mountain West. They even picked up a single top 25 vote in one of the polls this week. Wins over New Mexico State and UC Irvine look good, and the Gaels definitely look like they are a level above the middle-tier teams. They have been quietly cruising along looking very strong while marquee games for BYU and Gonzaga have gotten all the attention.
They get what should be an easy game against Northern Arizona before heading across the country to face Saint Joseph’s next week in New York. With Gonzaga having already blown out St. Joe’s this year, it will be a good comparison game to see how the Gaels fare against them. Saint Mary’s is a solid team, but they haven’t really broken out. They’re better than most of the conference, but they haven’t looked good enough to suggest they will be a serious threat to BYU and Gonzaga quite yet.
Dec 6, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Brigham Young Cougars guard Kyle Collinsworth (5) shoots the ball during the second half against the Hawaii Warriors at EnergySolutions Arena. Brigham Young Cougars won the game 90-70. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
#2 – BYU: The Cougars continue to flash their dynanmic offense that is among the best in the nation. They hit the 90+ point mark in both their wins last week including one over a solid Utah State team. They still haven’t scored less than 75 points in a game this season, and they still haven’t lost to anyone except elite opponents Purdue and San Diego State in overtime. This is an excellent team that may sniff the top 25 at this rate, and they’re still the biggest threat to Gonzaga.
They have a challenging finish to their non-conference schedule starting this week against Utah on Wednesday. They also face Stanford and UMass before opening conference play by hosting Gonzaga. That matchup is huge and comes at an interesting time. With neither team having a WCC game under their belt yet, that game could go a lot of ways. The Cougars are pretty unstoppable when they’re hitting all their shots, so if they stay hot heading into that one it could be a barn burner. With Gonzaga looking so good, stealing an early win from them would be huge.
Dec 6, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs center Przemek Karnowski (24) shoots over Arizona Wildcats center Kaleb Tarczewski (35) during the first half at McKale Center. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
#1 – GONZAGA: The Bulldogs didn’t see their top ten national ranking move at all after their very tough loss to Arizona, and that’s no surprise. They led most of the game, and if it weren’t for some bad breaks in overtime they would have won it. This team is still deep, talented, and among the best in the country. And even in the loss to the Wildcats, they did nothing but affirm that standing.
Rival Washington State should be their next victim as they look to bounce back on Wednesday, and they should pull off a win at UCLA next week. They should be rolling again heading into that BYU game, which will be needed as the Cougars are very dangerous playing at home. But it’s still not enough for Bulldogs fans to be worried right now, especially with how well they played at Arizona. If the Bulldogs grab that early win in conference play, they can hit cruise control knowing they’re far and away the best team in the conference