CIO… the West Coast ConferencePosted by CNguon on January 30th, 2013
Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.
Conference sorting itself out? — It’s halfway for some and near halfway for others, so how is the WCC conference race sorting out?
Here’s one viewpoint:
- Gonzaga (6-0 WCC) and Saint Mary’s (6-1) seem locked into a two-team struggle for the regular season title and a showdown in the conference tournament in Las Vegas in March. Gonzaga has been cruising behind Kelly Olynyk’s resurgence in the post, and may not be challenged until it meets Saint Mary’s in Moraga on Valentine’s Day. The Gaels have used a stunning last-second victory over BYU in Provo to propel themselves to a five-game winning streak and a renewed sense of purpose. Architect of the streak has been – who else? – senior point guard Matthew Dellavedova. Not only did Delly personally secure the BYU win with his ESPN #1 highlight buzzer-beater, he has been orchestrating the Gaels’ offense even more brilliantly. His record last week of 21 assists and zero turnovers in two Gael wins has record-keepers looking for comparable stats.
- BYU will protest strenuously that it is not out of title consideration, but a home loss to Saint Mary’s and a road loss to Gonzaga weaken its argument considerably. The Cougars have a chance to play a major role when they face Gonzaga at home on February 28, but that may come too late depending on how they fare in a rematch with Saint Mary’s in Moraga the week before. Picking up a third loss against the Gaels will almost certainly eliminate the Cougs from the title race.
- Santa Clara seems poised to move into the slot right behind BYU if it can retain its consistency. The Broncos faltered with three conference losses in a row but have bounced back with four straight wins. In their favor or posing a huge obstacle is a scheduling anomaly that postpones their first game against Saint Mary’s until February 7 at home. A win there would seriously erode the Gaels’ chances and give the Broncos momentum heading into the last weeks of the campaign.
- The rest of the conference is a bit of a puzzle, with San Francisco and Pepperdine showing intermittent promise and San Diego fading fast. The only thing that seems certain is that Loyola Marymount and Portland will be battling to keep out of last place.
- Gonzaga (6-0, 19-2): The Zags took care of business at home with an 83-63 thrashing of BYU and a 66-52 win over San Francisco that wasn’t as close as the score indicates – the Dons trailed by 23 with less than two minutes left before scoring the last nine points with the outcome never in doubt. The Zags can claim to have stopped both their opponent’s top players, holding Tyler Haws of BYU and Cole Dickerson of San Francisco without a bucket in the two games.
- Saint Mary’s (6-1, 17-4): It’s all starting to jell for the Gaels, as a renewed emphasis on defense and crisp efficiency on offense led to two wins, 81-48 over San Diego and 84-72 over Pepperdine. Beau Levesque is helping the Gaels forget Rob Jones, posting games of 20 points, five rebounds against San Diego and 19 points, five rebounds against Pepperdine. His combined shooting for the two games was 16-21, or 76%. Beau Levesque is helping the Gaels forget Rob Jones, posting games of 20 points, five rebounds against San Diego and 19 points, five rebounds against Pepperdine. His combined shooting for the two games was 16-21, or 76%. For his efforts, Levesque was named WCC Player of the Week.
- BYU (6-2, 16-6): BYU shook off the bad taste of the smackdown by Gonzaga to deliver one of its own to Portland by a score of 85-67. Up-and-down point guard Matt Carlino delivered one of his best games of the year, scoring 24 points and dishing out six assists, while Haws rebounded from the near shutout at Gonzaga (he made one free throw) to score 19.
- Santa Clara (4-3, 16-6): The Broncos had only one league contest last week, following up a home 66-36 romp over non-conference foe Cal State Bakersfield with a 64-50 road win over San Diego. Santa Clara has a winnable game against Portland at home before testing its resurgence against BYU in Provo.
- San Diego (4-3, 11-11): Bill Grier’s crew needs to shake itself if it is not going to see its early conference success turn to ashes in the second half of the season. The Toreros barely showed up against Saint Mary’s, scoring only 48 points, then increased their output by just two points in the home loss to Santa Clara.
- Pepperdine (2-5, 10-10): The Waves might have been expected to come into Moraga with a little trepidation after the Gaels held Portland to 38 points and San Diego to 48 in its two previous games. Feeling good after a 60-57 road win over Loyola Marymount, however, Marty Wilson’s Waves took it right to the Gaels. Surging sophomore guard Jordan Baker was the leader of the Waves attack, scoring 20 points, grabbing five rebounds and handing out four assists.
- San Francisco (2-6, 9-12): The Dons rebounded from their 0-5 conference start to post two wins in a row over LMU and Portland, but ran into a roadblock in Spokane. Gonzaga was having nothing of a possible Dons’ upset, and throttled Rex Walters’ team 66-52.
- Loyola Marymount (1-6, 8-12): There seems to be no bottom for Max Good’s once-proud Loyola Marymount Lions after dispiriting losses to San Francisco on the road and Pepperdine at home.
- Portland (1-6, 8-14): The Pilots showed some offensive punch against San Francisco before losing 75-72, but had no answer for BYU in blowout loss at home.
- It’s an extended week of play in the WCC, beginning with a Wednesday night visit by Saint Mary’s to San Francisco and ending with a Monday (February 4) contest between San Diego and LMU in Los Angeles. The Gaels need to keep winning to remain within a game of Gonzaga, while the Dons will be thinking upset after losing by six in Moraga.
- Thursday finds BYU at Pepperdine, Portland at Santa Clara and Gonzaga at LMU, while a bigger contest looms on Saturday when Santa Clara travels to Provo for a chance to redeem an earlier home loss to BYU. Other Saturday contests find San Francisco at Pepperdine, Portland at Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga at San Diego.