CIO… the West Coast ConferencePosted by CNguon on December 24th, 2012
Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.
- Whither success? As of last Tuesday (December 18) things were looking bright for the WCC in its annual power struggle against the other non-power conferences. The conference record of 60-31 added up to a .659 winning percentage and only one member, Portland, had a losing record (4-6). Things took a downward turn with last week’s games, as the WCC went 7-10 and dropped the winning percentage to .606. The biggest contributor to the downturn was San Francisco, which dropped three-out-of-three to go under .500 (5-6) for the first time this season. Loyola Marymount (5-6) and San Diego were also underwater as of yesterday. Conference leaders Gonzaga (11-1), Santa Clara (11-2), Saint Mary’s (8-3) and BYU (8-4) were leading the way, while Pepperdine remains the surprise team with a 7-5 record.
- Stat Attack: Conference statistics through December 18 reflected team performances, with Gonzaga leading in scoring margin (+20.9), scoring defense (59.8 PPG) and field goal percentage (52.0%). Saint Mary’s, largely on the strength of its 120-67 blowout of Jackson State, led in scoring offense – 81.3 PPG to Gonzaga’s 80.8 PPG – and the Gaels also topped the league in free throw percentage (78.7%) and three-point field goal percentage (41.0%). How is Santa Clara sustaining its consistent preseason performance? Partly by leading in four categories: assists (18.0 per game), steals (9.4 per game), turnover margin (+7.0 per game) and assist/turnover ratio (198 assists to 121 turnovers, for a 1.6 ratio). Loyola point guard Anthony Ireland continues to lead the league in scoring with 20.7 PPG, followed by Tyler Haws of BYU at 20.3 PPG, Kevin Foster of Santa Clara at 20.2 PPG, Matthew Dellavedova of Saint Mary’s at 19.5 PPG and Brandon Davies of BYU at 19.2 PPG. The most impressive individual stat in the early going is San Francisco forward Cole Dickerson’s 13.1 rebounds per game, which places him among the nation’s leaders.
- Gonzaga (11-1): The Zags stayed home and took it easy last week, cruising to a 74-52 win over the Campbell University Fighting Camels out of the Big South Conference.
- Santa Clara (11-2): Santa Clara’s redemption tour continues unabated, as the Broncos knocked off Alcorn State and Wagner last week to win its own Cable Car Classic.
- Saint Mary’s (8-3): The Gaels got injured guard Stephen Holt back for their Sunday contest against Northern Iowa in sunny Cedar Falls, Iowa, but it wasn’t enough as the Panthers of the Missouri Valley Conference triumphed 82-75. The Gaels traveled in the teeth of the fierce winter storm that ravaged the Midwest last week, forcing a postponement of the game from Saturday to Sunday.
- BYU (8-4): The Cougars tuned up for a match against Baylor with a 96-62 romp over Eastern New Mexico, but the momentum didn’t carry over to Waco, Texas, as the long and athletic Bears pulled away for a 79-64 victory.
- Pepperdine (7-5): The Waves beat Alabama State 66-58 but lost to host Tulane 69-54 in the Tulane Classic in New Orleans.
- Portland (7-7): The Pilots took advantage of a three-game home stand to even out their record with wins over Portland Bible, Cal State-Bakersfield and North Florida before heading to the Continental Tires Las Vegas Classic to take on Colorado State. They were thumped by the Rams 70-53, but bounced back to drop the Bradley Braves, who had been 8-3, by a score of 57-55 to stay at .500.
- San Francisco (5-6) and Loyola Marymount (5-6): The Dons extended their losing streak to five with losses to San Diego State (80-58) and Mississippi (85-78) at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, following a 73-63 home loss to Holy Cross. Loyola dropped its two most challenging preseason games, first to Mississippi at home, 73-70, then to St. Louis, 65-44, on the road. The Lions are still searching for a signature win in the 2012-13 season.
- San Diego (6-8): San Diego, having evened its record at 6-6 last week, ran into trouble in the Holiday Hoops tournament in Las Vegas, first dropping a hard-fought game to Oregon State, 86-79, then losing to James Madison, 62-59.
It’s the home stretch before the WCC season kicks off on January 3, and league members are taking different approaches to that milestone:
- Gonzaga, as is its wont, has the most challenging remaining non-conference schedule, with a home contest against Baylor on Friday (December 28), then a New Year’s Eve tussle with Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Those Zags really know how to bring in the New Year.
- Santa Clara is upping the difficulty ante with a Saturday game against undefeated and top-ranked Duke at the Cameron Indoor Center in Durham, North Carolina.
- Saint Mary’s is hosting an Ivy League reception in the final week of non-conference action, taking on Yale on Sunday and Harvard on New Year’s Eve. The Gaels will tune up for the Ivy Leaguers with a game against Rhode Island and the Hurley brothers, head coach Dan and the more famous associate head coach, Bobby, on Wednesday.
- Other teams are generally taking it easy, epitomized by San Francisco’s Saturday home contest against Division II Dominican. If that doesn’t break a five-game losing streak, nothing will.
- Also easing to the starting gate is Portland, with a home game against Texas-Pan American on Saturday.
- Pepperdine will be at home against Fresno Pacific on Friday.
- San Diego will be home against Morgan State on Saturday at the Slim Gym.
- BYU hosts Northern Arizona on Thursday, then heads to Salt Lake City for a game against Virginia Tech on Saturday.