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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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 7th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With a month to go in the non-conference season, we are starting to sort out the contenders from the pretenders. This weekend provides some additional match-ups that will give us a better indication of which teams we should watch out for come March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Colorado at #10 Kansas  2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

This Weekend Colorado Tries to Beat Kansas for the First Time Since 2003

  • You might call this game a renewal of a Big 12 rivalry but the reality is that it has been far from a “rivalry.” Kansas has not lost to Colorado since the 2002-03 season. While this will be the first time that CU plays Kansas as a member of the Pac-12, coach Tad Boyle is 0-3 against the Jayhawks since taking the helm in Boulder two seasons ago. The big question for the Buffaloes will be how they handle KU center Jeff Withey. A few weeks ago, CU was able to slow down another seven-footer in Isaiah Austin when they defeated Baylor. However, Withey is not a freshmen trying to fit himself into “The Pierre Jackson Show.” He’s a senior who has proven to be a dominant force on defense and a capable offensive threat. Withey also cleans up on the glass, particularly on the defensive end. Colorado needs to figure out how to grab some of those misses lest it become a long night. Keep an eye on the three-point shooting of Colorado guards Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie. Both are threats from deep and both need to be on target to have a chance to win this one.

Temple vs. #1 Duke  3:15 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Last season, Temple beat Duke in Philadelphia on the backs of Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Khalif Wyatt. Hollis-Jefferson and Wyatt combined to go 15-22 from the field in a somewhat surprising upset of the Blue Devils. The Owls also did it without this season’s leading scorer, Scootie Penn. However, when you compare this Duke team to last season’s team, they are more balanced and more patient without Austin Rivers dominating the ball. The Blue Devils have scoring threats all over the floor and point guard Quinn Cook is proving to be an excellent distributor. Additionally, Mason Plumlee has been superb. The key for the Owls will be figuring out a way to stop Plumlee in the paint. Unfortunately for Temple, scoring can come from anywhere when playing the Blue Devils. They are too balanced and too battle tested at this point to drop one to the Owls this year.
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The Other 26: Week One

Posted by IRenko on December 1st, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Greetings, readers, and welcome back for another year of The Other 26, RTC’s weekly foray into the mid-major world, now securely ensconced on a microsite that shares its name. College hoops seemed to start earlier this year than it ever has, producing a November that was packed with much more action than the few preseason tournaments to which old geezers like me are accustomed. That means that there is quite a bit of ground to cover, and precious little time to waste. Let’s get right to it after the jump, with our first installment of the TO26 Top 10, a look back at which teams caught our eye with strong (and not so strong) starts, and a look forward to this week’s most compelling TO26 match-ups.

Looking Back:  Strong Starts

  • The Rest of the Mountain West – Coming into the season, UNLV and San Diego State received well-deserved hype and top 20 rankings.  But it’s clear that they’re going to have quite a bit of competition in conference play. New Mexico has barely shown the effects of losing their frontcourt tandem Drew Gordon and A.J. Hardeman. They have notched several solid wins en route to a 7-0 record, defeating UConn, George Mason, Davidson, and Mercer — all teams with realistic NCAA Tournament hopes. Fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years, and with a cast of strong returnees and transfers, Colorado State entered the season with reasonably high expectations. But their ability to adjust to new coach Larry Eustachy remained an open question. Well, question answered. The Rams are undefeated at 5-0, posting wins over strong mid-major teams Montana and Denver and pounding the Washington Huskies by 18 points on the road. But, wait! The MW’s depth does not end there. Leon Rice’s Boise State squad, which plays just one senior, is off to a 5-1 start and is coming off of a 13-point win over Creighton on the road. Meanwhile, Wyoming and Air Force are a combined 13-1 on the season.  Throw in competitive newcomers Nevada and Fresno State, and UNLV and San Diego State may not have an easy conference game all year.

Elias Harris Leads a Potent Gonzaga Frontcourt (US Presswire)

  • Gonzaga – Gonzaga came into the season with a Top 25 ranking, so they’ve not exactly snuck up on anyone. But they’ve nonetheless impressed, collecting wins over West Virginia, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Davidson by an average of more than 20 points. Throw in three more lopsided victories, and the Zags are sitting pretty at 7-0 and little sweat to show for it. Kelly Olynyk has emerged from his redshirt year as a genuine frontcourt force. Along with Elias Harris and Sam Dower, he gives the Bulldogs three skilled, athletic bigs. Throw in freshman post anchor Przemek Karnowski, and the Zags have four big men averaging nine or more points. While this frontcourt foursome has managed to outshine the heralded backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell on the offensive end, what’s been most impressive about Gonzaga’s start is its defense. Mark Few’s teams have steadily improved at that end of the floor over the past few years, and it could be the key that finally unlocks their door to the Final Four. Read the rest of this entry »
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume III

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 26th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

  • I LOVED… Ohio State. Maybe I’m jumping on the bandwagon too early, but I grew to really enjoy this team by the end of last year and feel strongly that they have two unique pieces in Aaron Craft and DeShaun Thomas. An elite (albeit annoying, in my view) point guard and a versatile wing scorer are two of the more important components in the college game, and any team that possesses them has a chance to be a tough out.
  • I LOVED… as I do every year, trying to figure out how deep this Gonzaga team can go. Each season I really get a kick out of trying to imagine the Zags playing against good competition all year, eventually accepting the reality that they don’t, and then trying to piece together a mental image of what team will show up in March when they inevitably get hit in the mouth by a legit squad with good guards. Still, it’s hard not to like Mark Few’s lineup this season. Not many teams will shoot it better than Gary Bell, Jr. and Kevin Pangos, and even though Elias Harris is turning 32 or so next week, he’s an active presence on the glass to complement a VERY underrated Sam Dower. I guess the Zags can’t be a sleeper in the traditional sense, but this might be their best (and most well-balanced) team in a while.
  • I LOVED Tom Crean showing no shame with his stick of Wrigley’s finest. How can you not love this? If strict adherence to the five-second rule and the world’s weirdest/creepiest Tweet ever doesn’t appeal to this generation’s high-schoolers, I don’t know what does.

  • I LOVED… reading this Sports Illustrated article on Michigan’s Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Glenn Robinson III. It seems like we get plenty of stories every year about father-son relationships gone bad, but this was a rather refreshing example of two kids that have really gone about things the right way and made it through the tougher parts of living in the shadows of their NBA All-Star dads. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 02.23.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 23rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

#8 Duke at #17 Florida State – 7:00PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • Duke lost to FSU on their home court at the buzzer the last time these two played. Going on the road to exact revenge and keep pace with North Carolina for the ACC lead looms large for the Blue Devils. There are two key areas that Duke needs to focus on in order to beat the Seminoles – three-point defense and getting to the free throw line. While the Blue Devils have the top three-point defense in the ACC, they let the Seminoles hit 50% from downtown in the first game. It’s a key area of focus because in 3 of the 4 Duke losses, they have allowed an eFG of over 60%. Additionally, keep a close eye on their ability to get to the line. When Duke does not get to the line frequently they are vulnerable. Their three worst free throw rate performances of the season are all losses.

    Can FSU Knock Duke Off Again?

  • Florida State was able to beat Duke in their previous match-up with its strongest shooting effort of the season. For a team that is known for its defense, FSU is the best shooting team in the ACC. Their three-point shooting has gotten much better in conference play to give their eFG a big boost. Only Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Clemson have been able to hold the Seminoles under 50% eFG in a single game. They must watch the turnovers though as they are turning the ball over at a rate of 22.3% in ACC play.
  • This game will come down to free throws and three-point defense. Both teams rely on free throws to win ball games. When taken away with good defense and no fouls, they lose. With so many of Dukes shots coming from beyond the three-point line (40%) and FSU’s recent success from downtown, the team who defends the three better should win.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.09.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 9th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The conference showdowns have been spectacular thus far. We have learned how dominant Kentucky is, that Kansas isn’t ready to give up the Big 12 crown yet, and that Duke-UNC is amazing theater nearly every time. Tonight, the WCC take center stage as the old guard and the upstart do battle out west.

Dellavedova looks to repeat his performance from earlier in the season against Gonzaga tonight.

#11 St. Mary’s at #24 Gonzaga – 11:00 PM EST on ESPN2 HD (****)

  • St. Mary’s has won 12 games in a row and is 3-0 against their biggest conference threats, BYU and Gonzaga. A win on the road against Gonzaga will give the Gaels a three-game lead in the West Coast Conference and all but wrap-up the regular season conference crown. In their first go around with the Zags in Moraga, St. Mary’s shot 61.7% from two-point land. Hitting a high percentage of two-point shots has been the proven method to beat Gonzaga. The Gaels were led by Matthew Dellavedova in their win against the Bulldogs earlier this season. Dellavedova had 26 points on 10-16 shooting. Look for a steady does of Dellavedova from both outside and inside, along with some assistance from Brad Waldow, who dropped 17 on Gonzaga in the first game. Dellavedova will be the barometer for St. Mary’s. If he’s knocking down good looks early, Gonzaga will have a tough time beating the Gaels.
  • Gonzaga needs their defense and their bigs to step-up in this game if they want a shot at another WCC crown. While Elias Harris picked-up 17 points in the previous match-up, Robert Sacre and Sam Dower were a combined 2-11 from the field. These two players cannot disappear from games if the Zags want to win. Watch their play on offense closely. Sacre has to demand the ball in the post and take advantage of his size.
  • The game hinges on Gonzaga’s defense. They simply cannot allow St. Mary’s to hit such a high percentage of two-point shots. While it is important for them to continue to defend the three, too many made shots from inside the arc kill the Zags. Additionally, they must keep the Gaels off the glass on offense. With a significant size advantage in the starting line-up, this should not be an issue but is certainly worth watching. Finally, Gonzaga needs to create turnovers. If Dellavedova is not being pressured enough, he will do exactly what he did in the last game.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.02.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 2nd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Gonzaga at Brigham Young – 11:00 PM EST on ESPN2 HD (****)

  • Gonzaga is basically in a must-win situation if they want to have a shot at the regular season West Coast Conference title. If they can beat BYU tonight on the road, they will then get both BYU and St. Mary’s at home over the next few weeks. If they lose, they will drop two behind SMC in the loss column with a month to go, making it extremely difficult for the Bulldogs to win another WCC regular season crown. GU is by far the best defense in the WCC, so it is certainly possible for Mark Few’s team to win in Provo. This team is reminiscent of the UCLA teams that made the Final Four under Ben Howland in that their defense is good enough to survive very poor shooting nights and still win. Mark Few’s team is 6-1 when their eFG% is under 50%. The teams that have been able to beat Gonzaga have killed them from inside the arc, though. With the size that GU possesses, this seems unlikely. However, when you look at their losses to Michigan State, Illinois, and St. Mary’s, each of those teams shot between 55% and 62% from two against the Zags. Keep a close eye on how Elias Harris, Robert Sacre, and Sam Dower defend the interior.

    Matt Carlino and BYU Will Get Another Shot At St. Mary's In Provo (AP)

    Matt Carlino (10) Is Going To Play A Big Role In BYU's Critical Matchup Against Gonzaga

  • BYU has already been beaten twice by St. Mary’s, so their regular season title chances are essentially done. They are positioning themselves for either a run in the WCC Tourney or an at-large bid. A win against the Zags will go a long way to help their cause. The game could be shaping up to be a size versus speed matchup. At 73 possessions per game, BYU likes to get up and down the court. They need to tire out the bigs from Gonzaga and get easy transition buckets if they want to win this game. Keep a close eye on 6’8” forward Noah Hartsock and guard Matt Carlino. Hartsock needs to go inside-outside on the GU big men and Carlino needs drive and dish to create easy two point baskets for his teammates.
  • Do not expect a lot of second chance points in this game, as both teams are excellent on the defensive boards. However, the team that is able to grab a few extra offensive boards will have an advantage. Give the edge to the Zags in that area because of their size. The game will ultimately be decided by BYU’s ability to make two-point shots. They are going to have to hit between 55% – 60% of their interior shots to win. Not an easy task against the size and defensive toughness of Gonzaga.

Other Games to Watch:

  • Duke at Virginia Tech (8:00 PM EST on ESPN HD): Until Virginia Tech can show they are able to win consistently, they cannot be considered a serious opponent against any of the top tier ACC teams. The game is in Blacksburg, but nothing indicates they can win because they can’t shoot.
  • Oral Roberts at South Dakota State (8:00 PM EST): Nobody is giving any TV love to the top two teams in the Summit League, so you can’t TiVo it. Maybe there is local coverage that I’m missing. Regardless, ORU has won 13 consecutive games including a 22-point beatdown of San Diego State during the streak. Look for Nate Wolters and company to step-it up at home, where they are undefeated this season.

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2014

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 26th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take 

 

Looking Back

  • Suddenly there is a fourth guest at the party. Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU had dominated WCC play in the pre-season and until the halfway point of the conference race, but last Thursday Loyola Marymount rudely interrupted their revels. An 82-68 thumping of BYU in a half-full Marriott Center in Provo sent notice that Max Good’s squad is healthy and hungry to compete for a top spot with the Big Three.
  • Good is enjoying the benefit of having star forwards Drew Viney (15.9 PPG) and Ashley Hamilton (12.5 PPG) in the lineup at the same time, and is receiving outstanding point guard play from Anthony Ireland (15.9 PPG), who was good enough to win Player of the Week honors in the WCC. Ireland’s line in the LMU win over BYU and a subsequent 74-62 win over Santa Clara was remarkably similar: 27 points and five assists against BYU, 25 points and five assists against Santa Clara. That earned him the Lou Henson Award for National Player of the Week from CollegeInsider.com in addition to the WCC honor.
  • The additional factor allowing LMU to separate from its opponents is contributions from other players besides its three leaders: LaRon Armstead, the rugged (6’5”, 200 lbs.) senior forward from Los Angeles, is averaging nine points per game and has been a big factor in the Lions’ success since he recovered from a concussion several games ago. Armstead moved into the Lions’ starting lineup for the first time against BYU and contributed 12 points and six rebounds. Another bruiser from Los Angeles, 6’7”, 240-lb sophomore forward Alex Osborne, has also come on strong lately, racking up nine rebounds and five points in 22 minutes against Santa Clara.

Drew Viney (34) and LMU Are Slowly Fighting Their Way Towards The Top Tier Of The WCC

Power Rankings

  1.  Saint Mary’s (19-2, 8-0) quietly moved up in the national rankings last week, to #20 in the ESPN/Coaches Poll and #21 in the AP poll, thanks to steady wins over Pepperdine at home (61-47) and Santa Clara on the road (93-77) that gave the Gaels their best start in school history. Overshadowed by Ireland’s stellar week was Gaels’ point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who averaged 20 points and six assists in his team’s two wins, including a clinic in the high pick-and-roll against Santa Clara. Time and time again, Dellavedova cruised into the lane against the Broncos and either dropped in runners or found teammates Rob Jones or Brad Waldow for easy buckets. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the West Coast Conference correspondent for RTC.

Reader’s Take 

 

Looking Back

  • Holding serve was the key note last week, as Saint Mary’s slapped down the second of its main competitors for the WCC title, Gonzaga, by a convincing 83-62 margin in Moraga. That followed the Gaels’ first-week trouncing of BYU by 98-82, also at home. Playing the cards dealt to them by an unbalanced conference schedule, the Gaels now have a one-game edge on both rivals before facing them on the road.
  • For Saint Mary’s, the nine-team schedule – reflecting the addition of BYU to the ranks – was front-loaded with rivals (and home court-loaded as well). Gonzaga and BYU, on the other hand, have yet to face each other and both had to travel to Moraga for their initial showdown with the Gaels. The WCC held on to its true round-robin form, however, so each team plays each other twice, meaning Gonzaga and BYU will have their shot at revenge. The Gaels travel to Provo on January 28 and to Gonzaga on February 9; BYU and Gonzaga tangle in Provo on February 2 and in Spokane on February 23.
  • Everything that has transpired in the first three weeks of conference play indicates that the league championship and seeding for the March 1-5 conference tournament in Las Vegas will be determined by those three teams.

Dellavedova and the Gaels Held Serve, Now What?

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s (17-2, 6-0): The key matchup in Thursday’s game with Gonzaga was supposed to be in the frontcourt, where the Zags’ trio of Robert Sacre, Sam Dower and Elias Harris was reputedly superior to the Gaels’ mixed bag of post players along with stalwart power forward Rob Jones. Sly ol’ Randy Bennett, however, had been tinkering with his post players throughout the pre-conference schedule and by league time had it figured out. The three-headed contingent of redshirt freshman Brad Waldow (6’9”), senior Kenton Walker II (6’9”) and junior Mitchell Young (6’8”) outscored and outrebounded Sacre and Dower by an overwhelming 31 points and 17 rebounds to 12 points and eight rebounds. Read the rest of this entry »
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What To Make Of Gonzaga?

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2012

In the history of college basketball, Gonzaga’s string of 11 straight conference titles is second only to UCLA’s streak of 13 straight Pac-8 titles during the heyday and immediate aftermath of the Wooden era. Gonzaga, a small Jesuit school in Spokane, Washington, with an undergraduate enrollment of less than 5,000 students and no real history of basketball success prior to its first NCAA Tournament in 1995, has put itself into the same paragraph as one of the most dominant teams in sports history, even if the Bulldogs are playing on a different level than the Bruins were.

However, there is no doubt that recently Gonzaga’s dominance in the West Coast Conference has been challenged. Saint Mary’s has emerged as the conference’s most serious contender to the Zags’ throne, twice in three years finishing just a game back in the conference. And last year, with just three conference games remaining and SMC holding a two-game lead, the Zags saw the Gaels somehow lose to San Diego (a 6-24, last-place WCC team) and then knocked off Saint Mary’s in their head-to-head matchup to salvage a tie for the regular season title. It’s been creeping closer and closer, but could this finally be the year where Gonzaga fails to win the WCC? After losing by 21 points at Saint Mary’s on Thursday night, it is certainly a possibility.

Robert Sacre, Gonzaga

Gonzaga Has Been Dominant In The WCC, But They'll Need Robert Sacre's Best To Win The Title This Season (photo credit: Associated Press)

Saturday, the Zags got back on track by heading to Los Angeles and squeaking out a road victory over Loyola Marymount, using a second-half opening 17-4 run predicated on eight forced turnovers to erase a two-point halftime deficit. But they had to hold on as the Lions fought back and turned it into a one-possession game for much of the final five minutes. Toughness has been a question mark for the Zags with junior forward Elias Harris even calling out his team for being outhustled and outcompeted by the Gaels, but on Saturday the Zags won down the stretch with toughness, hustling to loose balls and playing smart and hard-nosed defense. “In a game like this, it is about toughness,” said head coach Mark Few. “I thought we strung together some nice stops and got a little more confidence in our defense.”

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Set Your TiVo: 01.12.12

Posted by bmulvihill on January 12th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Tonight we’ll see two match-ups that may be previews to conference championship games in the ACC and the WCC. All four teams are in the RTC Top 25 and both games should be fantastic. Let’s take a look at how things break down.

Senior forward Mike Scott takes his efficient offensive skills into Cameron Indoor for UVA's toughest test of the season (The Sabre)

#19 Virginia at #8 Duke – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN HD (****)

  • Virginia has only lost one time this season and is looking for its 13th consecutive win. Playing at Duke will be UVA’s toughest test of the season. The Cavaliers play at a sloth’s pace. While their offense is nothing more than average, their defense has been stellar. They are holding teams to 27% from beyond the arc and are in the top 10 in the country in defensive rebounding. Although offense is not the Cavaliers’ strong suit, 6’8″ forward Mike Scott is one of the most effective scorers and rebounders in the country. Considering how slowly Virginia plays, Scott should be considered one of the top big men in the country. Keep a close eye on how he matches up with Duke’s Mason Plumlee. It should be a great battle between two future NBA forwards.
  • Duke still possesses one of the top offenses in the country. The Blue Devils shoot an outstanding 41.7% from downtown. Much like Virginia, Duke knows how to get to the line. The free throw battle in this game will be extremely important. In both of Duke’s losses, two key statistics emerged. They did not get to the line and their opponent shot the lights out. On the season, the Dukies have a free throw rate of 51.5%, which is good for third in the nation. In losses to Ohio State and Temple, Duke had a free throw rate of 25% and 27%, respectively. Virginia does not put teams on the line, so it will be interesting to see how the free throw situation plays out.
  • While it appears that this game will come down to Duke’s offense versus Virginia’s defense, the UVA offense actually may hold the key to the win. In Duke’s two losses, OSU and Temple both had an eFG of over 60%. Look to see if Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski can hit his threes. Zeglinski is the Cavaliers’ top three-point shooter, hitting 31-of-74 attempts (41.9%). Also, keep an eye on Duke’s offensive rebounding. The Cavaliers’ defense will contest Duke’s three-point shots and the Blue Devils are a poor offensive rebounding team. If Mike Krzyzewski’s squad goes one-and-done too many times, the Cavaliers could pull the upset at Cameron Indoor. However, it may be too much to expect for the Virginia offense to win in such a tough environment.

#16 Gonzaga at #25 St. Mary’s – 11:00 PM EST on ESPNU HD (****)

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2012


Michael Vernetti is the West Coast Conference correspondent for RTC.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

Welcome to the wacky world of nine-team scheduling. WCC members knew some changes were coming with the addition of BYU to the league, but it has taken two weeks of conference play to absorb all that was required to make the odd-numbered format work. Here’s what the 2011-12 season has introduced:

  • Monday night games in addition to the regular Thursday-Saturday format
  • Asymmetrical scheduling, meaning teams play some opponents twice before playing others at all
  • Front-loaded key games for some, delayed timing of key games for others

For whatever reason, Saint Mary’s has seen most of the anomalies in the early-going: a Monday night game in the same week as a crucial showdown with Gonzaga; a home game against Pepperdine which will complete the Gaels’ schedule with the Waves before they play Loyola Marymount even once. And with Thursday’s tilt with Gonzaga, the Gaels will have hosted both of its two top rivals for the league championship (98-82 win over BYU on Dec. 29) while those teams have yet to play each other.

Pending the result of tonight’s crucial contest with Gonzaga, the Gaels have weathered the changes well. They had only one game last week, a clunky 78-72 victory over energized San Diego at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, and dispatched San Francisco handily Monday night (87-72) in Moraga, thanks to a scorching 67.3% shooting performance, including 57.9% from three-point land. The Gaels were carried by WCC Player of the Week Rob Jones against San Diego (31 points, 12 rebounds) and by Matthew Dellavedova (27 points, four assists) against San Francisco.

Brandon Davies And BYU Are Ranked #3 In Our Latest Power Rankings (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s (15-2, 4-0 WCC)—is the first WCC team to play four games. The Gaels have overpowered both BYU and San Francisco at home, while struggling to contain San Diego’s freshman backcourt combination of Christopher Anderson (7.5 PPG/4.4 APG) and Johnny Dee (14.5 PPG) in the victory over the Toreros. The Gaels’ other win was a convincing 74-45 pasting of Pepperdine in Malibu. Jones (15.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 10 double-doubles) and Dellavedova (15.2 PPG, 6.5 APG) continue to lead the Gaels, with sophomore guard Stephen Holt (9.5 PPG, 3.5 APG) hovering around the double-figure mark in scoring. Holt, a dangerous defender at 6’4″ with quick hands, also leads the WCC with 34 steals on the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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