WCC Power Rankings – December 29th


The dress rehearsal is over. It’s time for the teams of the WCC to back up the reputation they have built in non-conference play as we had our first conference matchups this past weekend. There were some big games, and we learned a lot about the momentum teams are carrying into the second half of the season. On to the final WCC Power Rankings of 2014!

Dec 22, 2014; Honolulu, HI, USA; Loyola Marymount forward Patson Siame (14) takes a shot over Wichita State center Bush Wamukota (21) during the second half of the NCAA college basketball game at the Stan Sheriff Center. Mandatory Credit: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

#10 – LOYOLA MARYMOUNT: The Lions weren’t in action on Saturday and will open WCC play instead on Monday when they host Pepperdine. The Waves are much deeper and talented, and you can expect the Lions to likely fall to 4-9 and remain with the worst overall record in the conference. But you can’t write the Lions off just yet. While they rely too much on star Evan Payne, other players have shown flashes of potential. And their extremely tough non-conference schedule has been a big part of the sub-par record. They got roughed up in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, but they got a good win over DePaul in their final game down there. They will take that momentum into three straight home games to start WCC play, so don’t be shocked if they perform better than expected and fight their way into the WCC race and out of the bottom spot in our rankings.

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: Jared Brownridge had a below average game by his standards, and the Broncos fell apart in the second half losing to Saint Mary’s in Moraga on Saturday. If it weren’t for a strong first half and a late push, the final 73-60 score could have been much uglier. It’s not likely this team is far enough along to compete with the contenders this year. But there’s a lot of young talent outside of Brownridge, and they are figuring things out gradually. They could move up into the middle tier of WCC teams with some strong games. They just need to play like they did in the first half against the Gaels more often. Since most matchups won’t be against such tough teams, that’s certainly a possibility. Although the depth of big men in the WCC will be a problem for the Broncos. Lots of teams will have the advantage on them inside, which will be rough when Brownridge and Brandon Clark have off nights.

#8 – PACIFIC: The Tigers nearly had a good upset of San Francisco on Saturday but faded late after leading for most of the game. For a team that is looking better and better, they really could have used that big win to start WCC play and help vault them into contention to finish in the upper half of the standings. Eric Thompson had his first double-digit scoring performance in over a month, and T.J. Wallace was brilliant with 26 points. But that was all the big scoring the Tigers got. There is lots of talent here beyond Wallace and Dulani Robinson. If Thompson, Ray Bowles, Alec Kobre, and Gabriel Aguirre could put it all together at the same time they would be a legitimate threat. But it hasn’t happened yet. They have all flashed big game potential, just not often enough during the same game. If they ever do it, the team they’re playing that day is going to have a tough time. But it’s hard to see them doing it consistently enough to do anything major this year. Although hanging with a good team like USF proves they have the talent to be better.

November 27, 2014; Fullerton, CA, USA; San Diego Toreros guard Christopher Anderson (00) moves to the basket against the Xavier Musketeers during the second half at Titan Gym. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

#7 – SAN DIEGO: The Toreros are still struggling closing out games, and they suffered a very rough loss Saturday against Portland because of it. They led by six points with less than three minutes left, but the Pilots went on a 9-0 run to finish the game and steal a victory. Johnny Dee had an off night which didn’t help, and Chris Anderson had a season-low 2 assists. Unlike some of the lower ranked teams that have gotten lots of big performances from lesser regarded players, the Toreros have gotten almost zero production beyond their stars. Dee, Anderson, and Thomas Jacobs have been solid. Jito Kok and Brandon Perry have had their moments. But outside of them, it’s been nothing of note from the other supporters. Duda Sandze’s being limited by plantar fasciitis has been big, and they miss his intensity and scoring. If they continue to fade late in games, it’s going to be a rough second half for San Diego. They can beat anyone, but they can also lose to anyone playing that way.

Dec 3, 2014; Boulder, CO, USA; San Francisco Dons center Mark Tollefsen (23) shot attempt is blocked by Colorado Buffaloes guard Xavier Talton (3) 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 had a pretty average run through non-conference play and struggled against almost every decent team they played. By trailing most of the game to Pacific and nearly losing that game, they didn’t do much to remove the doubts about them. Kruize Pinkins and Mark Tollefsen are still one of the best frontcourt combos in the conference, but the rest of the team just hasn’t come together the way people had hoped when you looked at the talent on the roster in the preseason. Guys like Matt Glover and Tim Derksen are fantastic role players, but like many of the teams outside the big contenders the Dons just don’t have enough depth to put together a deep 5-7 man rotation that can contribute every night. That being said, this was supposed to be much closer to a complete team than most of the middle tier teams. We will learn a lot about them and how their strong frontcourt stacks up when they travel to face Brad Waldow and Saint Mary’s on Monday.

Nov 19, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; Pepperdine Waves forward Jett Raines (45) goes up for a layup against the San Jose State Spartans during the first half at San Jose State Event Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

#5 – PEPPERDINE: The Waves played a backloaded non-conference schedule, so they were busy finishing up play in the Gotham Classic last week while the rest of the WCC either was resting or starting WCC play. They won their first two games of the week but skidded to back-to-back losses including a bad one to an inferior IUPUI team on Saturday. Atif Russell was held scoreless in the most recent loss, although freshman Shawn Olden is taking on a bigger role and is making up for Russell’s struggles. This is still one of the more talented teams, and most nights their deep core of players is doing well at the same time. They should cruise by Loyola Marymount on Monday to set up a big matchup with Saint Mary’s on New Year’s Day. Stacy Davis battling inside against Brad Waldow will be one of the best matchups of the year.

Feb 5, 2014; Spokane, WA, USA; Portland Pilots guard Bryce Pressley (1) goes up for a shot against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Kevin Pangos (4) during the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs beat Pilots 71-66. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

#4 – PORTLAND: The comeback against San Diego said a lot about the Pilots. First, it proved they are still one of the most likely teams to have a breakout season knocking off a very good Toreros squad in a close game. Second, it showed they have the same clutch mentality that led to upsets of BYU and Gonzaga last year. The resolve they showed late against USD will go a long way when they inevitably get tangled up in more close games. If they can stay with more talented teams, they can make the big shots to pull out some upsets. They can follow the model San Francisco did last year by winning all their games against equal or inferior WCC teams in hopes of putting all the pressure on the contenders to stop them when they have the chance. With their talented roster that is strong in both the backcourt and frontcourt, that’s a real possiblity. And remember, they’re are doing this without Kevin Bailey who has missed five games now with plantar fasciitis. When he’s back the Pilots will be even better.

#3 – SAINT MARY’S: The Gaels showed their might against Santa Clara with a big second half after it was close for a lot of the game. Their talent level is a cut above everyone except BYU and Gonzaga, and they know it. When they turn it on and Brad Waldow is playing well, nobody outside the top two teams in the WCC can stop them. But they can have off nights and keep inferior teams in games, and we saw that against the Broncos. They may be prone to an upset or two the same way they were last year. They can’t afford that if they want to build a postseason resume. You’d like to see them a bit more dominant than they were against Santa Clara. And they will have to be with upcoming games against very good San Francisco and Pepperdine squads. If the Gaels dominate those games it’s a great sign. If they don’t, they might be fighting just to avoid getting knocked out of the top three again like last year when they dipped to fourth.

Dec 13, 2014; Ogden, UT, USA; Brigham Young Cougars guard Anson Winder (20) drives to the basket and past Weber State Wildcats guard Chris Golden (11) during the second half at Dee Events Center. Brigham Young Cougars won the game 76-60. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

#2 – BYU: They can shoot the lights out. We still know that after the Gonzaga game. But shooting can be a fickle thing, and the game against the Bulldogs was a great example. The Cougars got dominated inside, shot their way back into the game, and then got dominated some more as Gonzaga closed it out. You can blame some of that on their frontcourt that is hurting without Nate Austin, but even with Austin it’s a team that is very reliant on their shooters. They have a lot of them so it’s not a big problem, but nevertheless it’s a dangerous game to be playing. They will be right there near the top all the way, but if they have too many off nights they could suffer some eye opening losses. With their best chance to knock off Gonzaga gone, one too many upsets could cost them any chance at the WCC Championship and maybe even an NCAA Tournament berth. They need to bring the intensity they had during the middle of the Gonzaga game every night to make sure they knock off all the lower teams trying break into the upper tier. They cannot look past Portland, Pepperdine, etc or they will get burned at some point like they did last season when they suffered upsets to Loyola Marymount, Portland, and Pacific.

Dec 27, 2014; Provo, UT, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) passes the ball during the second half against the Brigham Young Cougars at Marriott Center. The Bulldogs won 87-80. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

#1 – GONZAGA: The season for the Bulldogs was always going to be defined by two games. The non-conference portion by their trip to Arizona, and WCC play be their trip to BYU. If they passed those tests, there was not much else left to stop them. And they passed both tests with flying colors. They darn near upset Arizona and proved they were among the best teams in the nation, and now they withstood a barrage of the best offense the Cougars had to offer and calmly regrouped to pull out a comfortable win. Running the table in conference play is now a very real possibility, and they will be searching for style points as they try to push themselves into the conversation for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With how weak the RPI can be for a team playing half their games in the West Coast Conference, they need to keep firing on all cylinders. And if they do, there’s really no game left in the conference schedule they shouldn’t win. Being even more talented than usual, some of the lower tier teams won’t be able to upset them even on their best night. It’s Gonzaga’s conference to lose at this point.