The Pacific Tigers are sitting right in the middle of the West Coast Conference standings. Holding onto a 6-4 record, the Tigers are prepping themselves for conference play, which is somehow only a few weeks away.
Looking back at Pacific’s season so far, there are a few things to note about their team as we inch closer to WCC action and try to determine how they will hold up once the non-conference schedule is finished.
Last year, Pacific started out conference play with four straight losses to the likes of Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga, Portland, and San Francisco. Not exactly the easiest slate of WCC opponents to start things off, but nonetheless, things looked ugly. It wasn’t until their matchup against Santa Clara in mid-January that the Tigers were able to put a tally underneath their conference W column. They finished the season with a 6-13 record against conference foes.
Pacific went to the semifinal round of the CIT Tournament before being knocked off by Murray State.
This year, the Tigers are looking to start off WCC action on a more positive note, and they’re set up perfectly to do so. The first three conference opponents battling against Pacific are San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Loyola Marymount, each of whom are currently sitting below them in the standings. This will give the Tigers a fantastic opportunity to make a statement in the West Coast Conference. Starting things out at 3-0 would help them tremendously as they prepare to take on Saint Mary’s and BYU.
In terms of non-conference play, Pacific has done a great job at beating the teams that they’re supposed to beat. When you look at their record, there isn’t a loss where you wince and think, “How in the world did that even happen?” They’ve taken down opponents such as Idaho State, Western Illinois, and the Mercer Bears, who stunned the Duke Blue Devils in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Of Pacific’s four losses, two of them came to the #16 Washington Huskies and Colorado State Rams, both of whom remain undefeated in non-conference play in the 2014-15 season. The remaining two defeats were at the hands of the UC Irvine Anteaters and Western Michigan Broncos.
Undoubtedly the most impressive player for the Tigers has been T.J. Wallace. The hometown sophomore guard is averaging 14.4 points per game; quite the improvement in comparison to his 7.0 PPG last season.
Junior guard Dulani Robinson has also been solid for Pacific so far, averaging 11.9 PPG and 3.4 APG.
Here’s where it gets a little worrisome – along with leading the team in points scored, Wallace is also leading his squad in rebounding, averaging 6.7 RPG. This is a great testament to his relentless hustle and effort that he displays every time he steps foot on the court. But… why is a 6’3″ guard leading his team in rebounds? Where are the contributions from the power forwards and centers?
Well, not here apparently. Gabriel Aguirre, the 6’11” senior forward from Brazil is the team’s second-leading rebounder with 5.3 RPG. This is not going to fly over well when conference play rolls around. I give major credit to Wallace for giving such a great effort on the boards every night, but he can’t be the only guy putting in the extra hustle.
Aguirre and 7-foot senior, Sami Eleraky, who is averaging 5.2 RPG in 21.6 minutes, are going to need to step it up on the glass if the Tigers want any hope of competing with the crop of the WCC. If they can’t improve their rebounding averages soon, then guys like Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis, Thomas van der Mars, and Brad Waldow are going to have a field day against the Tigers.
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But if Pacific’s big men can begin to up their efforts on the glass and players like Wallace and Robinson can continue to impress with their scoring abilities, Pacific has a shot. They have a few question marks as of right now, but they also have some solid players that can guide them through WCC action.
The Tigers host a 2-7 Nevada team that shouldn’t cause them too many problems and a Fresno State squad that may provide a bit more of a challenge. After facing up against these two Mountain West opponents, Pacific begins conference play against the University of San Francisco.