WCC Power Rankings – February 24th


We have just one week left in the regular season, and the WCC remains very tight through the middle of the standings with quite a bit left to be decided before we get to Las Vegas. Gonzaga has locked up the top seed as expected, but a large number of teams can still improve or hurt their standing through the final week of games.

There are also a number of teams jockeying for postseason bids, so movement in our WCC Power Rankings continues to shuffle around with the finish line in sight. On to the rankings!

Jan 24, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; Pacific Tigers forward David Taylor (24) puts up a shot against 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 got a quality overtime win over a hot Portland team last week to snap an eight game winning streak. It keeps them alive to fight their way out of last place if they can win their final two games and Loyola Marymount stumbles. Unfortunately, the Tigers get a tough Bay Area road trip to Santa Clara and San Francisco to finish the regular season, so getting out of the basement will be a tough task.

The important thing for the Tigers is their impressive growth they underwent this season. Only Gabriel Aguirre is a senior, meaning most of the young core that has come together will be back next year. Led by top scorer T.J. Wallace and supported by core contributors like David Taylor, Dulani Robinson, Eric Thompson, and Ray Bowles, the Tigers have a very talented group that could make Pacific a force to be reckoned with in the coming years. They won’t be down for long.

Feb 12, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; Loyola Marymount Lions guard Chase Flint (23) goes up for a basket against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Kevin Pangos (4) during the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs won 80-51. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

#9 – LOYOLA MARYMOUNT: It was an awful week for the Lions as they went 0-2 at home including an ugly 72-45 blowout at the hands of San Francisco. The Lions have lost five in a row, and it could extend to six with a road trip to Pepperdine this week to conclude their regular season. If Pacific finishes strong, the Lions will have a last place finish to go along with what will be the worst overall regular season record of any WCC team regardless of this week’s results.

On the plus side, the Lions will return a lot of young talent next year same as Pacific. Some key role players will depart like Chase Flint and Godwin Okonji, but Evan Payne will return after developing into a star this year. Marin Mornar and David Humphries have made great strides, and they will provide senior leadership next year. Mike Dunlap needs to recruit well and find some more depth, but the Lions are trending up as the rebuilding process is well underway.

Jan 10, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; Santa Clara Broncos guard Jalen Richard (5) puts up a three-pointer 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 finally snapped their six game losing streak with a win over Loyola Marymount last week, but it was closer than it should have been as the Broncos have fallen a long way since they were in the thick of the race midway through conference play. A lot can still happen in the final week as they could finish as low as 8th or as high as 5th depending on the results. They get a winnable game against Pacific followed by a tougher one against Saint Mary’s, but that should be a good tuneup right before Las Vegas.

Losing star scorer Brandon Clark and key role player Denzel Johson will hurt next season, but they will return a number of good players who were only freshmen this year. Matt Hubbard, Evan Wardlow, and Kai Healy have all shown flashes of potential, and Jared Brownridge should continue to be one of the best scorers in the conference as he is now a seasoned veteran. If Yannick Atanga returns on a redshirt after missing most of this season, the Broncos should be vastly improved on the glass. With how closely they competed in some losses this year, that could be the difference that propels them into the next tier. They could quietly be a breakout team waiting to happen next season.

Jan 8, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; San Francisco Dons guard Devin Watson (21) puts up a shot against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

#7 – SAN FRANCISCO: It’s not quite as impressive as it would be if the Waves were still rolling, but the Dons finished off a season sweep of Pepperdine this week as they went 2-0 at home. It was a key week as it keeps them in the hunt for a 5th place finish. But like the Broncos, they would need a lot of help for that to happen. That won’t be an easy task with two road games to finish the regular season including a trip to Saint Mary’s.

Despite everything, this team can dominate when it’s shooting well. The strong frontcourt led by Kruize Pinkins and Mark Tollefsen has been excellent all year, so when the guard play is at least serviceable they are very dangerous. Nobody wants to see this team in Las Vegas, and there’s potential after last week for the Dons to finish on a high note and try to regain the momentum of last year heading into next season.

Jan 29, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; Portland Pilots forward Gabe Taylor (24) drives the lane against Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

#6 – PORTLAND: The overtime loss to Pacific was devastating, and it’s not just because it’s an upset to an inferior team. The Pilots are fighting off a number of teams for 5th place, and they just opened the door to let someone catch them during the final week. Most notable of those teams in San Diego, who the Pilots are tied with in the standings but hold the tiebreaker thanks to an earlier comeback win. However, the two will meet this Saturday in a game that could decide the #5 spot.

Thomas Van der Mars has been ineffective lately after entering the season as one of the best centers in the conference, and the Pilots have been forced to shoot too much. Despite being effective from the outside, they cannot force themselves into having to shoot to win against better teams. This final week will be big as they get home games against good BYU and San Diego teams. Not only are they playing for that #5 seed, they also have a shot at a postseason bid thanks to their recent hot streak. The Pilots must rally and show why they are still a complete and dangerous team that is tied for the 4th best overall record in the conference.

November 28, 2014; Fullerton, CA, USA; San Diego Toreros forward Brett Bailey (32) shoots a basket against Princeton Tigers during the first half at Titan Gym. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

#5 – SAN DIEGO: The Toreros are going to head into Las Vegas not as hot as they were a couple weeks ago, but it’s not their fault as they have hit a very tough stretch of games. Shocking the world when they visit Gonzaga this week is unlikely, so they must hope BYU wins at Portland to set up a big game against the Pilots in their regular season finale. The Pilots needed a big comeback to beat the Toreros in San Diego, and that’s when USD wasn’t as hot as they have gotten in recent weeks. So the Toreros could still bounce back before the WCC Tournament.

They pushed Saint Mary’s to the limit in a double OT game they should have won on Valentine’s Day, and they have a previous win over BYU that forgives a large loss in Provo last week. This team has been one of the hottest during the second half of conference play, and they are the top team that none of the contenders want to see in Las Vegas. A good run in Vegas could mean a second consecutive postseason tournament appearance. It would be a great way to send off star guards Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson after they set a number of career records in their final season.

Feb 14, 2015; Spokane, WA, USA; Pepperdine Waves forward Stacy Davis (5) attempts a free throw against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs won 56-48. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

#4 – PEPPERDINE: The dominance they had at the beginning of conference play is a distant memory, but the Waves are still going to finish in 4th place despite their recent struggles. At worst they can finished tied with San Diego or Portland, and they will likely get the #4 spot outright as their final game is at home against a Loyola Marymount squad they already beat by double digits combined with both the Pilots and Toreros having tough games this week.

The question on everyone’s mind is what kind of Pepperdine team will show up in Vegas? The one that was steamrolling to a 3rd place finish earlier in the year, or the one that has lost four of their last five and looks like they can be beaten by anyone? Hopes of an impressive finish and NIT Tournament appearance similar to the season San Francisco had last year are long gone, but the Waves can still finish on a high note. And with no seniors on this talented and deep roster, the Waves are ahead of schedule in their development even after stumbling to the finish.

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

#3 – BYU:  Give the Cougars a lot of credit for coming back from the dead in recent weeks. They have won four in a row including destroying Saint Mary’s and avenging their worst loss of the year by beating San Diego last week. They have fought their way back into the NCAA Tournament conversation, which is saying something considering there are many question marks surrounding them.

They are still very much on the bubble, and as of today they have too many RPI-killing losses to realistically make it in over other talented teams. They have a very challenging final couple games on the road at Gonzaga and Portland, and they probably need a deep WCC Tournament run to have any chance of making the tournament. It would be a shame to send Tyler Haws out with an NIT appearance, so the Cougars will keep playing their hearts out down this final stretch. They are nearly dead, but they still have a pulse and are doing everything they can to stay alive.

#2 – SAINT MARY’S: The Gaels have cruised through most of this season looking like only Gonzaga was a serious threat to them in the conference. But they have started to look more and more vulnerable. Their RPI is at #53 and is weighed downed by a lack of signature wins and some very bad losses. They should manage to hold onto 2nd place as there’s little chance they lose twice this week with winnable games at San Francisco and Santa Clara, so they will be in good position heading into Vegas able to avoid Gonzaga until the finals and BYU until the semifinals.

But despite all their efforts, they may need a WCC Tournament title to make the NCAA Tournament. Even BYU is more likely to make the Big Dance thanks to their recent win over the Gaels and a better overall resume. It’s not likely the WCC is a two bid conference unless someone shocks Gonzaga in Vegas and even if nobody does, the Gaels are not the second best team in the WCC right now outside of their physical record. The Gaels must rally in a big way if they want to avoid disappointment after what has been a very good bounceback season.

Feb 19, 2015; Stockton, CA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) shoots a free throw during the second half of the game against the Pacific Tigers at Spanos Center. The Gonzaga Bulldogs defeated the Pacific Tigers 86-74. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

#1 – GONZAGA: The Bulldogs wrapped up another regular season WCC Championship this week, and they will look to punctuate it with another undefeated conference record as they host San Diego and BYU this week. Both of those teams are talented and have upset potential, but it’s not likely to happen in Spokane where the nation’s longest winning streak may be safe until next year.

With a weak RPI for a top three team, the Bulldogs will not be losing focus any time soon. They must win out including the WCC Tournament to avoid calling their potential #1 seed into question. Even one loss likely bumps them out the top line, something the Bulldogs do not want. Since they are infamous for struggling in March, they must set themselves up as best as they possibly can. This is one of their most talented teams ever, so they want to give themselves every opportunity for this to finally be the breakthrough year. And that means keeping their foot on the gas the rest of the way.