West Coast Walkthrough: Jan 9

With West Coast Conference play finally in full swing, we will walk through the past week of conference games, the conference standings and stats leaders, and power rankings. Enjoy the first edition of the West Coast Walkthrough.

NON-CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS

Before conference play began in earnest at the turn of the calendar, a few WCC teams made some splashes in non-conference play. While not as impressive as it first appeared, Loyola Marymount took down UCLA in the Lions' season opener. St. Mary's, Gonzaga, BYU, and San Francisco rolled through their non-conference slates, with Gonzaga getting through the toughest schedule of the four. The Bulldogs capped an aggressive schedule with a road win at ranked Xavier on the final day of 2011. As you know, BYU came thisclose to taking down top-10 Baylor, falling by three points at home to the Bears. At the risk of getting hyperbolic, a BYU win over Baylor would have come very, very close to locking three WCC teams into the NCAA tournament.

OPENING CONFERENCE PLAY

As expected early on, Gonzaga, St. Mary's, and BYU are separating themselves from the rest of the pack. What has been a little surprising, however, is the fates of San Francisco and Portland. After starting the season 9-3, San Francisco has dropped four of its last five, including a home loss to Loyola Marymount. Meanwhile, Portland struggled through a somewhat-difficult non-conference schedule, but has notched two wins early in conference play to get to 2-1.

Loyola Marymount also posted two road wins over San Francisco and San Diego go get to 2-1, positioning the Lions alongside the Pilots in position to try and compete with the top 3.

NOW PLAYING

San Francisco hits the road to Moraga to take on Saint Mary's tonight at McKeon Pavilion. The Dons are looking to avoid going 0-4 to start conference play, while the Gaels' aim is to keep pace with blistering Gonzaga, who they will host on Thursday.

LMU and Portland play San Francisco and Pepperdine this Thursday as well. Wins by the former would keep them afloat the upper half of the conference while simultaneously burying the latter.

BYU is off until Saturday when the Cougars host Santa Clara, who will be coming off a Thursday battle with San Diego in a game that determines who gets an early ticket out of the conference cellar.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Gonzaga at Saint Mary's. The winner gets claim to sit atop the conference this Thursday at 9:00 pm MT on ESPN2.

POWER RANKINGS

1. GONZAGA (13-2, 3-0 WCC) -- The Zags fared quite well in a good non-conference slate. Admittedly, the teams weren't quite as good as you would have hoped, with the Pac-12 down (Washington State and Arizona) and with Butler in hangover status. But wins over Notre Dame and at Xavier were good, and the Bulldogs definitely challenged Illinois and Michigan State. As for conference play, the 3-0 record comes with an average win margin of 30 points per game. While St Mary's did beat BYU in conference, Gonzaga's "body of work," as they say, is supreme. Of note (as you will see below in the stat leaders), Gonzaga does it as a team. While the best team in the conference, its players are notably quite absent from the top-5 stat leaders lists. That says a lot for Mark Few's squad.

2. SAINT MARY'S (14-2, 3-0) -- The Gaels' only losses are to 13-3 Denver and 15-0 Baylor. Wins over Missouri State and Weber State bolster the non-conference schedule. Obviously, the win over BYU gives SMC an easy claim on the two-spot. Matthew Dellavedova has been fantastic for the Gael's, scoring anytime needed and distributing the ball as well. Stephen Holt has been a good surprise for SMC. While only scoring 9.4 points per game, the sophomore is shooting over 50% and has shown the ability to score in bunches. He'll be good for the Gaels as he becomes more experienced.

3. BYU (14-4, 3-1) -- Our beloved Cougars have clearly separated themselves from the bottom of the WCC, winning at home twice by an average of 30 points. The road win at Loyola Marymount was key for BYU to get confidence to win on the road in conference. Brandon Davies has worked into a perfect role and gets more assertive each game, while Hartsock is the glue that makes BYU what it is. The road domination by the Gaels over the Cougars means that BYU isn't ready to top this list, not yet at least.

4. LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (9-7, 2-1) -- While the Lions have been inconsistent (for instance, losing to a Morgan State team by 24 that would later lose to sliding San Francisco), they do have nice wins against UCLA and Saint Louis. LMU also played a good Harvard team well, and has picked up its two WCC wins on the road.

5. PORTLAND (5-11, 2-1) -- It feels weird to put Portland here, but on-the-court results show the Pilots at 2-1 in conference, which is clearly ahead of the rest of the field as far as conference play is concerned. While just 5-11, the Pilots did schedule Kentucky, Saint Louis, Nevada, and Montana, who are all at or near the top of their conferences (and Kentucky is Kentucky).

6. PEPPERDINE (7-8, 1-3) -- Pepperdine's season hasn't been horrible, but I'm sure the Waves had wished to be 2-2 in conference at this point. Losses to SMC and Gonzaga were expected, but losing at Portland moves them down the list. Pepperdine has been up and down as well, beating Arizona State but getting destroyed by UCLA, beating Montana State but losing to Central Michigan at home.

7. SAN FRANCISCO (10-7, 0-3) -- The Dons seemed to have a strong season going early, but conference play has not treated them well. The high of the 9-3 start, which included a three-point loss to now 16-0 Murray State, has ended abruptly. The Dons lost to a 5-7 Holy Cross team, then fell to Pepperdine a week later. 0-2 is a bad place to start when games 3 and 4 are on the road at BYU (a 81-56 loss) and Saint Mary's (tonight).

8. SANTA CLARA (8-7, 0-2) -- Early, it seemed the Broncos could have a solid year, with a great win over New Mexico and another over Villanova. Since, they've been all over the map, and lost the conference opener to Portland.

9. SAN DIEGO (5-10, 0-3) -- The Toreros haven't played the greatest of schedules and have struggled to win. They did only lose to SMC by 6, but it's been a bad year so far.

STANDINGS AND STAT LEADERS

School

Conf

Overall

RPI

Saint Mary’s

3-0

14-2

34

#21 Gonzaga

3-0

13-2

8

BYU

3-1

14-4

39

Loyola Marymount

2-1

9-7

171

Portland

2-1

5-11

162

Pepperdine

1-3

7-8

219

Santa Clara

0-2

8-7

188

San Francisco

0-3

10-7

210

San Diego

0-3

5-10

257

POINTS

PLAYER

SCHOOL

PPG

Kevin Foster

Santa Clara

17.5

Noah Hartsock

BYU

17.1

Rob Jones

St Mary’s

15.2

Anthony Ireland

LMU

14.6

Johnny Dee

San Diego

14.5

REBOUNDS

PLAYER

SCHOOL

RPG

Rob Jones

St Mary’s

10.6

Corbin Moore

Pepperdine

8.6

Brandon Davies

BYU

8.1

Ryan Nicholas

Portland

7.9

Elias Harris

Gonzaga

7.7

ASSISTS

PLAYER

SCHOOL

APG

Matthew Dellavedova

St Mary’s

6.6

Evan Roquemore

Santa Clara

5.9

Anthony Ireland

LMU

5.3

Chris Anderson

San Diego

4.4

Caleb Willis

Pepperdine

4.0

BLOCKS

PLAYER

SCHOOL

BPG

Noah Hartsock

BYU

1.8

Robert Sacre

Gonzaga

1.5

Brandon Davies

BYU

1.2

Taylor Darby

Pepperdine

1.2

Dennis Kramer

San Diego

1.1

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