Another wild week in the WCC with multiple upsets. Just when you think you have a team figured out, they go and do something that makes you doubt your assessment. Lots of left to be decided with March fast approaching. On to the latest edition of our WCC Power Rankings!
Jan 24, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; Pacific Tigers forward Gabriel Aguirre (11) tries to back down Gonzaga Bulldogs center Przemek Karnowski (24) during the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
#10 – PACIFIC: The Tigers are buried at this point with no room left to recover. Just a couple wins better and they would be near the middle of the pack, but their current stretch has no wiggle room. They weren’t competitive against Saint Mary’s last week, and things won’t get better soon. Road games at San Diego and BYU this week aren’t looking good for wins, and then they get Gonzaga.
We’ve seen Pacific come a long way from the team that was T.J. Wallace and nobody else for the first half of the season, but it’s still looking like a last place finish for the Tigers. But with their youth and all this experience they are getting, the future looks good.
Feb 7, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Dons center Mark Tollefsen (23) celebrates after scoring the final two points of the first half to tie the game with Gonzaga Bulldogs at War Memorial Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
#9 – SAN FRANCISCO: What a nightmare for the Dons. Their win over Pepperdine in late January was supposed to be a turning point for their season. But instead, they’ve followed it up with 5 straight losses that have them just 1/2 a game out of last place and 1 game away from having the worst overall record in the conference. They played competitive at Gonzaga on Saturday, but that won’t be much consolation as the breakout season of last year fades further into history.
Despite everything, the Dons get a manageable stretch to finish the season. They have winnable games against Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount followed by a rematch against Pepperdine who the Dons already beat. They finish with Saint Mary’s and last place Pacific, meaning there is some room for wins down the stretch. And with how tight the standings are, a strong finish could lead to a lot of movement up the standings.
Jan 10, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; Santa Clara Broncos guard Jared Brownridge (23) attempts a free throw against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs won 79-57. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
#8 – SANTA CLARA: The Broncos continue to be the streakiest team in the conference. After their upset of Pepperdine in late January, it looked like they were climbing into contention as a surprise breakout team. But they have lost four in a row now as they have plummeted while other teams have gotten hot. After a loss to Gonzaga, they were dominated by Portland this past week as the Broncos fell into their old ways of relying too much on Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark while having little inside presence.
They now embark on a tough three game road stretch followed by home games against Pacific and Saint Mary’s to end the regular season. It could be a disappointing end to a season that was turning into a good one. But like many of the lower ranked teams on our list, they outperformed so far considering their youth and raw talent. The Broncos should be a team to watch next year.
Jan 17, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Loyola Marymount Lions guard Chase Flint (23) reacts during the first half against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Albert Gersten Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
#7 – LOYOLA MARYMOUNT: The Lions have quietly been a very impressive team lately. Once buried and left for dead in last place, they continue to creep up the standings picking up some quality wins nobody would have thought they could get earlier this season. Their latest was an impressive road win against San Diego. The Torero have been red hot and went right back to winning after this game, so it’s a much more impressive victory than San Diego’s record might suggest.
Wit the improved play of this team, only their visit to Gonzaga this Thursday is a guaranteed loss out of their remaining games. And because of how tight the standings have been, the Lions are actually mathematically able to get as high as 3rd place by the end of the regular season. That won’t happen, but the point is that the Lions are a team getting hot at a good time with things so wide open. They could continue to be quite the spoiler all the way into the WCC Tournament. Remember, the Lions had a quiet regular season before an eye-opening run in Las Vegas, and we could see something similar again this year.
Jan 29, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; Portland Pilots guard Kevin Bailey (00) shoots against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Byron Wesley (22) during the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs won 64-46. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
#6 – PORTLAND: The Pilots got very convincing wins over Santa Clara and San Francisco last week, and it was exactly what they needed coming off a tough week facing Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga. With Pepperdine coming off an embarrassing loss on Saturday, The Pilots could keep rolling against the Waves on Thursday and Loyola Marymount on Saturday. Kevin Bailey is playing out of his mind right now, and the Pilots are really hitting on all cylinders like the team that looked so good when they rolled into WCC play.
They need some help, but the Pilots can still fight their way into the top four with a strong finish. Their excellent shooting and strong inside presence should keep them competitive in all their remaining games, and if they could shoot as well as they have lately they will pick up some more wins. They need a perfect finish to get to 20 wins, and they might come close. So there’s a lot left to play for, especially if they can catch the eye of a third-tier postseason tournament. A postseason bid after their struggles would be a heck of a comeback.
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
#5 – SAN DIEGO: It’s been a stark turnaround for the Toreros. They were downright awful through the first half of conference play, but almost overnight they’ve become one of the hottest teams. They suffered a rough loss to LMU on Thursday, but that can be forgiven somewhat with how impressive the Lions have looked recently. Even moreso considering they were without floor general Chris Anderson. And they bounced back by absolutely dominating Pepperdine on the road like nobody, not even Gonzaga, has been able to accomplish.
This is still a really volatile team as nobody can produce consistently, but their superior defense is keeping them in games. And as a result, their recently improved shooting has pushed them past a lot of teams having won four of their last five. The finish is brutal with games against Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, BYU, and Portland, but the Toreros have been playing well enough to beat anyone lately. They should finish squarely in the middle of the pack with a chance to make some noise in Vegas.
Jan 10, 2015; Provo, UT, USA; Loyola Marymount Lions forward Godwin Okonji (22) tries to block the shot of Brigham Young Cougars guard Tyler Haws (3) during the second half at Marriott Center. Brigham Young Cougars won 85-72. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
#4 – BYU: The Cougars have won three of their last four, but they lost the one that really matters. It will be very tough for them to reach third place after Pepperdine completed a season sweep over them, but in terms of talent they do have a vastly superior team. The Waves just match up really well with them. Unfortunately, Pepperdine has a very low RPI which kills the Cougars. To have two losses to them all but assures the Cougars won’t be heading to the NCAA Tournament.
Games against Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga highlight the end of the regular season, which is actually a blessing in disguise. With a WCC Tournament run their only hope at reaching the Big Dance, the Cougars will need these tuneup games so close to Vegas. They will still have a good chance of going deep in the bracket, so don’t count them out just yet. But unless they can make a big run, it will end up being a disappointing year for the Cougars.
Dec 13, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Pepperdine Waves forward Stacy Davis (5) drives to the basket against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second half at Wells-Fargo Arena. Sun Devils defeated the Waves 81-74 Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
#3 – PEPPERDINE: The loss to San Diego puts yet another question mark on what was once a dominant season for the Waves. But they got their main task done last week by sweeping BYU for a season sweep. Both the Waves and Cougars are currently 8-5 in WCC play, so the Waves just need to keep pace to lock up an impressive 3rd place finish. The BYU win was another display of excellent perimeter defense by the Waves. But all that being said, the BYU sweep is a bit deceiving. The Waves match up excellent agains the weaknesses of the Cougars, so the sweep is not as shocking as it seems.
This team is obviously still young and need some seasoning. They won’t get a perfect finish to reach 20 wins, but they have shown a lot and got a ton of great experience. They should get a postseason bid to some tournament, and expectations will be very high going into next year. There’s no reason why they can’t take a big step forward once again next season.
#2 – SAINT MARY’S: The Gaels got a nice and easy week at a good after a tough upset loss to Pepperdine. They had just one game as they cruised past Pacific. Now begins a crucial final stretch where they could play themselves into the NCAA Tournament with a strong finish. They must beat BYU in Provo and Gonzaga in Moraga to have a real chance, but they are playing well enough that it’s not out of the question.
Desmond Simmons, Emmett Naar, and Garrett Jackson have really been firing on all cylinders the past few weeks turning into a solid supporting cast for Brad Waldow and Kerry Carter. It’s been vital with Aaron Bright still out with an ankle injury suffered in the Pepperdine game. How the Gaels without him if he misses the BYU game on Thursday will say a lot about their hopes heading into this final stretch. If they can survive without him, there’s still hope at doing big things in March.
Feb 7, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Kevin Pangos (4) hits a shot from the key during the first half against the San Francisco Dons at War Memorial Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
#1 – GONZAGA: The only major hurdle that remains for the Bulldogs is a visit to Moraga as the Gaels are fighting for their postseason lives. Pepperdine and BYU have not shown enough consistency to think they can win in Spokane, so realistically the Saint Mary’s game the one challenge between Gonzaga and a perfect WCC regular season. It would be a useful achievement as they look to lock up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With how the other WCC teams have looked, they may need to win it all in Vegas to keep a #1 seed. But they haven’t shown any reason to believe they won’t do just that. They have not looked quite as dominant lately as evident by how close San Francisco played them last week, but talent wins out. And this team is on another level than the other teams in this conference. They should get their #1 seed and another chance at postseason glory.