Checking In On… the WCCPosted by rtmsf on December 27th, 2011
Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.
- Gonzaga (9-2) completed its pre-WCC season out of conference schedule (still a December 31 game against Xavier in Cincinnati to go) on a roll, dispatching Oral Roberts (67-61), Arizona (71-60), Butler (71-55) and Air Force (70-60) at home, to get ready for an attempt at a 12th straight WCC title beginning on Wednesday against struggling Portland. The Zags have apparently settled on an all-freshman starting backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr., and why shouldn’t they considering how the newcomers have performed so far? Pangos capped off his initial slate of college games by dropping 23 points on Air Force. With a solid rotation, a consistent front line and new energy in the back court, the Zags are ready.
- BYU (10-3) barely lost its chance to post a big upset against 6th/7th-ranked Baylor, losing 86-83 after a spirited game marked by the debut of guard Matt Carlino. Carlino, sitting out an imposed benching following his transfer from UCLA, scored 18 points against Baylor in 22 minutes of action, then followed up with 10 points in a Cougar win over Buffalo (93-78), and 22 points in an 89-75 rout of UC Santa Barbara. A mostly-veteran team like Gonzaga, BYU is ready for its initial WCC season with its rotation solidified and only one injured player, 6’8″ junior forward Stephen Rogers, who hurt his knee in practice before the Baylor game.
- Saint Mary’s (11-2) missed a chance to garner a signature win when it, too, fell to Baylor 72-59 on a neutral court in Las Vegas. The Gaels bounced back on the next night, however, dispatching Missouri Valley Conference contender Missouri State 77-61 behind emerging post man Brad Waldow (17 points). Coach Randy Bennett’s goal in the preseason was to settle on the center position, and he seems to have done that with Waldow’s performance in the Las Vegas Classic tournament, for which he was named to the all-tournament team. Waldow will alternate in the post with junior Mitchell Young and senior Kenton Walker II, but all other Gael positions are set with veterans. Senior forward Clint Steindl rolled an ankle in the Missouri State game, and it is not known how long he will be sidelined.
- San Francisco (9-4) did nothing to encourage its fans over the looming WCC season by losing to a 5-7 Holy Cross team 88-83 in Worcester, MA. A 66-36 win over lowly Menlo College, didn’t help either, although the Dons welcomed guard Michael Williams back to the lineup after sitting out a few games to concentrate on his studies.
- Santa Clara (7-4) also underperformed last week, needing overtime to dispatch 4-6 Pacific (78-76), then stumbling 72-71 on the road against lightly-regarded Houston Baptist (5-7). Just as unnerving as the loss was the sight of outstanding sophomore guard Evan Roquemore missing two free throws that would have given Santa Clara the lead with 1.9 seconds left.
- Pepperdine (6-5) was the only team to improve its position in the last week, balancing a home win over Montana State (59-36) with a road loss to Washington State (67-56) to move from a tie for seventh place into sixth. It’s veterans who are doing it for Pepperdine, led by senior center Corbin Moore, senior forward Taylor Darby and junior guard Joshua Lowery.
- Loyola Marymount (6-6) continued to perplex, dropping a 77-61 road contest to tough Florida State and then ending a disastrous two-game road trip with a 69-45 loss to 2-7 Morgan State in Baltimore. Max Good is still without injured star forwards Drew Viney and Ashley Hamilton.
- San Diego (5-7) continues to play respectably, despite three losses last week – 68-62 to a good South Alabama team in Las Vegas, 65-61 to UC Santa Barbara at home, and 75-55 to Stanford on the road.
- Portland struggled through the last of its non-conference slate by losing 80-65 to Montana at home, and 72-67 to Utah and 78-60 to Nevada on the road.
It won’t take long to resolve the early power positioning in the WCC, as Saint Mary’s kicks off the season against BYU on December 29 in Moraga. Gonzaga may already have a 1-0 mark before the Gaels and Cougars tangle, as it welcomes Portland to the McCarthey Athletic Center the previous evening. On the other hand, what better way for Eric Reveno’s Pilots to declare an end to their pre-season woes than by upsetting the Zags?
Other opening games find San Francisco at home to face Pepperdine on the 29th and Loyola on the 31st. This will be an important opportunity for the Dons to distance themselves from two opponents who could challenge for a top-tier finish.
Santa Clara has an opportunity to right itself with a final non-conference game on the 29th against Eastern Michigan in its own Cable Car Classic, and makes its conference debut on January 5 against Portland in Portland. San Diego has to travel to Provo, Utah, to kick off the conference season against BYU in the Marriott Center.