CIO… the West Coast Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Top Storylines

  • Zags supreme? The steady rumble of Gonzaga media support reached a higher pitch than usual this preseason, perhaps fueled by the Zags’ strong showing in the NCAA Tournament last March (dispatching West Virginia 77-54 and taking Ohio State to the wire before succumbing 73-66). With everyone back and anticipation building over incoming 7’1″ freshman Przemek Karnowski, the Zags’ success this year seemed foreordained. And their fast start, humbling West Virginia for the second time in eight months, 84-50, and roaring through the Old Spice Classic with wins over Clemson, Oklahoma and Davidson, amped up the volume. By the time Gonzaga faced Illinois last Saturday in Spokane, it was off to its best start in school history at 9-0 and ranked #10 in the AP poll. The Illini, however, under new coach John Groce, have dreams of their own, and were also riding an undefeated start (9-0) and high AP ranking (#13). Illinois spanked the Zags 85-74, temporarily derailing the express train to the Final Four, but didn’t dislodge Gonzaga from the top spot in the preseason WCC poll.

    What else is new? Mark Few has his Gonzaga squad playing at a high level (AP)

  • Welcome back, Traz and Kevin: If ever a team was glad to get back two stars temporarily sidelined, it was Santa Clara and seniors Marc Trasolini and Kevin Foster. Without Trasolini out of action all last year because of a knee injury, and without Foster for the last eight conference games following a drunken driving arrest, the Broncos stumbled to a humiliating 0-16 record in the WCC. Things are looking up for Kerry Keating’s Broncos this year, thanks to a heavy dose of Foster and Trasolini. Foster was named WCC Player of the Month for November after averaging 21.7 points per game, moving past Kurt Rambis to become Santa Clara’s all-time leading scorer and moving to third-place in WCC history for made three-point baskets. Trasolini has also been stellar, averaging nearly 15 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as Santa Clara fights back toward respectability.
  • Cousy for Delly? Saint Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova was among the final five candidates for last year’s Bob Cousy Award given to the nation’s outstanding point guard (North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall won the award in 2011-12) and has been nominated again this year. Can Delly buck the headwinds from players from larger conferences (e.g., Aaron Craft of Ohio State, Phil Pressey of Missouri, Peyton Siva of Louisville) and capture the prize this year? He seems to be building the type of season that would make a great case for it, leading the Gaels in scoring with 18.4 points per game and dishing out 5.6 assists per game, but his non-statistical contributions are even more compelling. Without muscular Rob Jones in the Gaels’ lineup this year, Dellavedova has shouldered both the scoring and leadership roles, twice scoring more than 30 points (32 in a win over Drexel, and 31 in a win against Drake) and holding his team together until newcomer Matt Hodgson settles in on the front line. A lot may depend on how well Saint Mary’s does in the postseason, and Delly will need some help if that is the deciding criterion.

Reader’s Take


Power Rankings

  1. Gonzaga (9-1):Until they ventured into Pullman, Washington on December 5 for their first true road game of the year against Washington State, the Zags seemed to be building toward a dominating season. They let the pesky Cougars, who had already suffered a 58-56 loss to Pepperdine and were picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12, tie them with 14 seconds left, however, and were saved by a last-minute layup by Kevin Pangos to pull out a 71-69 win. Things got worse three days later with the Illinois loss, but Gonzaga has shown intimidating depth on the front line with the rejuvenation of 7’0″ forward Kelly Olynyk, who redshirted last season to work on his game. Olynyk, interrupting teammate Sam Dower’s expected break out season, scored 22 points in the second half against Washington State and 16 against Illinois. The Zags face daunting opponents Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State in the coming weeks, which will either restore them as postseason favorites or dampen their luster heading into the WCC season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking in on… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2010

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Final Pre-Conference Standings (through games of 1/4)

  1. Saint Mary’s         13-2
  2. Gonzaga         11-3
  3. Portland          9-5
  4. Loyola Marymount       9-7
  5. Santa Clara        8-9
  6. San Diego        7-9
  7. San Francisco       5-10
  8. Pepperdine         4-12

Table Set for Early Drama

With several key conference match-ups scheduled in the first two weeks of play, the WCC race could be either very interesting or very boring within a short period. Because of an unusually front-loaded schedule, Gonzaga goes on the road against three conference foes considered most likely to upset them – Portland, Saint Mary’s and San Diego – within a one-week period (Jan. 9-16). If one or more of those teams stops the Zags, the race could be worth watching; if the Zags run the table, it’ll be all over but the shouting.

In the early conference season, the curtain-opening game between Gonzaga and Portland at Portland this Saturday (Jan. 9) looked like one of the most intriguing WCC contests in recent years. Portland’s stumbles against West Virginia, Portland State, Idaho, Washington and Nevada, however, have taken some of the luster off that game. For their part, the Zags won respect and frequent flyer miles with their final two OOC games, an 83-69 win over Oklahoma at home on New Year’s Eve followed by an 85-83 overtime win over Illinois in Chicago barely 48 hours later. The Zags will have a full week to recharge before making the reasonably sort trip to Portland to stare down the Pilots, who must summon all their early-season moxie (wins over Oregon, UCLA and Minnesota) to have a chance.

After Portland, Gonzaga travels to the snake pit known as McKeon Pavilion for a Thursday-night (Jan. 14) barn-burner against Saint Mary’s in Moraga, then continues south to take on San Diego in the Jenny Craig Pavilion on Saturday. It will be quite a week for the Zags, but they have proven impervious to tough travels to tough venues, and all their opponents must bring their A-games to have a chance for victory. A 3-0 Gonzaga squad with its tough road games behind it (except for a potentially intriguing Feb. 18 game against Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles) will not be a pretty sight for WCC teams to behold.

Saint Mary’s stands a good chance of facing Gonzaga with a 2-0 conference mark, as the Gaels open on the road Friday night (Jan. 8) against San Francisco, which has struggled in the pre-conference slate, and then at up-and-down Santa Clara on Sunday afternoon. Saint Mary’s had established McKeon Pavilion as one WCC stop Gonzaga didn’t want to make with consecutive victories there in ’07 and ’08 before stumbling there last year without injured star Patty Mills.  With an NCAA berth hinging on a victory over Gonzaga at some point this year, Saint Mary’s will bring all its Aussie chants, Samhan juju and Randy Bennett strategy to the showdown.

Another Friday night game of interest pits San Diego at Santa Clara, with a possible fourth-place conference finish and first-game WCC tournament bye at stake. San Diego has been difficult to figure out this year, compiling a 7-9 record that includes encouraging wins over Stanford, Oklahoma and Houston, and puzzling losses to Fresno State, Pacific and UC-Riverside. San Diego split its last two OOC games, hanging with a tough Mississippi State team on New Year’s Eve before losing 77-68, then bouncing back to beat Florida A&M 74-64 three days later. The win over Florida A&M was accomplished without 6-2 senior guard De’Jon Jackson and 6-8 freshman forward Chris Manressa in uniform, and their status is uncertain for the Santa Clara game.

Loyola Marymount, one of the hottest teams in the WCC with a six-game winning streak that includes a road win over Notre Dame, will have something to say about that fourth-place spot in the WCC standings as well. The Lions open Friday night against perennial saddle burr Pepperdine in Malibu with a lot at stake: Beach Brat Bragging Rights over the Waves, who have a multi-year home winning streak against them, and a shot at a 3-0 conference record by week two. After Pepperdine, the Lions host San Francisco and Santa Clara, both beatable, in the following weekend’s play. LMU’s moment of truth could come the weekend after that (Jan. 21-23), when they travel to Portland and Gonzaga.

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009


Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.


  1. Gonzaga     5-1
  2. Portland      5-1
  3. San Diego      5-2
  4. Saint Mary’s     3-1
  5. Santa Clara     3-3
  6. Pepperdine    3-4
  7. USF    2-4
  8. Loyola-Marymount    2-5

Looking Back

Zags, Pilots, Toreros Notch Tournament Wins to Lead WCC Teams

It has been a tournament-heavy pre-season for the WCC, and it was in venues ranging from Maui to Anchorage to Anaheim that the early-season leaders made their marks. Gonzaga led the charge by winning the venerable Maui Invitational with victories over Colorado (76-72), Wisconsin (74-61) and Cincinnati (61-59) in a hard-fought tournament championship in overtime on Thanksgiving eve. The Zags had padded their resume with early home wins over Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and Mississippi Valley State, and put the college hoops world on notice that 2009-10 is not a rebuilding year by taking second-ranked Michigan State to the wire in a 75-71 loss in East Lansing, MI on Nov. 17.

In battling Michigan State evenly and winning in Maui, Gonzaga answered the question of how it would replace departed front-line stars Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt. Seven-foot redshirt sophomore Robert Sacre moved commandingly into the post position for the Zags with an eye-opening performance against Michigan State – 17 points in 19 minutes of play limited by foul trouble. In case no one noticed that, they certainly took note of Sacre’s front-line counterpart Elias Harris, who notched 17 points of his own against Michigan State in the first big-game college appearance for the 20-year-old freshman forward who has logged considerable time internationally with the German national team. Harris has emerged as the early star of Mark Few’s collection of international players, which includes Sacre, freshmen Kelly Olynk and Manny Arop from Canada and Bol Kong, also from Canada by way of Sudan.

As much as Sacre and Harris elicited oohs and aahs, it was the Zags’ veteran trio of guards Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson that led them. Bouldin has emerged in his senior year as the indispensible hub through which all things offensive pass for Gonzaga. An intimidating 6-5 guard, Bouldin stage manages the entire offensive show, plus contributes double-figure scoring from both outside and inside. He can spot up for a three-point jumper or take his man off the dribble. Gray, who has struck many observers as a marvelously talented but under-performing member of the Zags offensive show, evidently decided that his junior year was the time to answer the nay-sayers. He has been virtually unstoppable, moving constantly without the ball and receiving Bouldin’s pinpoint passes anywhere from beyond the arc to under the basket. His jump shot is as sweet as ever, but he is infinitely more aggressive and confident this year.  If opponents somehow limit Bouldin and Gray, Goodson might steal the show as he did in the Zags’ impressive win over the fearsome Cincinnati Bearcats in Maui. On a night when Bouldin was struggling on 1-7 shooting and totaled only 6 points, Goodson made key baskets in clutch time to rack up 12 points. Bouldin and Gray shared the MVP trophy in Maui, but Goodson was an unsung hero.

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