As we near the halfway point of conference play in the WCC, we know a couple things: 1) Gonzaga is (once again) far and away the best team, 2) Portland is the worst team and 3) everything else is pretty jumbled.
Gonzaga is going to win the conference handily, but the race for second is especially important this season. A new rule this year gives the top two seeds in the WCC a double bye up to the semifinals. So if you finish third or lower, you’ll have play at least one extra game if you want to make it to the conference championship game.
With that in mind, here’s where we stand with just over a month left of the regular season.
Gonzaga (19-2, 6-0)
Thursday: W at Santa Clara, 98-39
This week: at BYU, vs San Diego
KenPom Ranking: 4
Once again, Gonzaga is the class of the WCC and one of the top teams in the country. With the return of big man Killian Tillie and guard Geno Crandall from injuries, Gonzaga is at full strength and playing its best ball of the season. Their 59-point win over Santa Clara was the largest margin of victory for a road team over another division one team since 1996.
Gonzaga has won the last 4 games over BYU in Provo and will look to keep things rolling Thursday night.
San Francisco (17-4, 5-2)
Thursday: W vs Portland, 83-61
Saturday: L at San Diego, 67-63
This week: at St Mary’s
KenPom Ranking: 41
Despite Saturday’s loss at San Diego, USF has looked like the second best team in the WCC this season. They have good guards, size and are fundamentally sound on offense and defense. Three of their five conference wins have come by 4 points or less, however, so they can be beat on any given night.
Their next two games at St Mary’s and at Gonzaga could slide them down the conference standings.
BYU (13-9, 5-2)
Thursday: W vs St Mary’s, 71-66
This week: vs Gonzaga, vs LMU
KenPom Ranking: 99
In spite of the highs (ish) and lows that have surrounded the season, BYU is tied for second place in the WCC right before the halfway mark. After seeing Gavin Baxter’s performances versus Pepperdine and St Mary’s, BYU could compete for 2nd place in the conference if Baxter plays like that for the remainder of the year.
If BYU’s road woes continues and Baxter is mostly inconsistent/doesn’t get enough minutes, BYU could finish as low as fifth with how close 2-5 are in the WCC.
We’ll get a good barometer of where BYU stands when they take on Gonzaga Saturday.
Saint Mary’s (13-9, 4-3)
Thursday: L at BYU, 71-66
Saturday: L at Pepperdine, 84-77 (OT)
This week: vs San Francisco
KenPom Ranking: 38
The Gaels had arguably the worst week of any team in the conference, dropping from second down to a tie for fourth in the conference standings. They’ll still compete for the top 3 in the WCC, but they are clearly down from where they’ve been in years past.
Guard Jordan Ford and forward Malik Fitts are both all-conference caliber players, but SMC has struggled to get anything consistent from anyone else.
San Diego (15-7, 4-3)
Thursday: W vs LMU, 71-58
Saturday: W vs USF, 67-63
This week: at Gonzaga
KenPom Ranking: 90
After the injury bug bit them in the beginning of conference play, USD is looking like they did in non-conference when they were taking down the likes of Colorado, San Diego State and Washington State.
Now healthier, USD is dangerous and is a real threat for the number two place in the conference. Teams 2-5 will be a very interesting race this last half of WCC play.
LMU (15-6, 3-4)
Thursday: L at San Diego, 71-58
Saturday: W at Santa Clara, 69-61
This week: vs Pacific, at BYU
KenPom Ranking: 138
LMU has come down a bit after knocking off UNLV, Georgetown and Boise State in non-conference play, but guard James Batemon is one of the top players in the WCC and makes them a threat every night.
After finishing 11-20 a year ago, LMU is the most improved team in the league.
Pepperdine: (10-11, 3-4)
Saturday: W vs St Mary’s, 84-77 (OT)
This week: at Portland, at Pacific
KenPom Ranking: 162
Pepperdine’s win over St Mary’s was one of their biggest in years and showed that Lorenzo Romar is turning the program around. The Waves also beat beat San Diego and nearly beat USF and BYU.
Guard Colbey Ross is one of the conference’s top players and gives the Waves upset potential.
Santa Clara (11-11, 3-5)
Thursday: L vs Gonzaga, 98-39
Saturday: L vs LMU, 69-61
This week: vs Portland
KenPom Ranking: 205
Gonzaga is Gonzaga, but the Broncos 59-point home loss had to be demoralizing. Santa Clara had some promise coming into conference play after beat USC and Washington State, but they’ve now lost 4 of their last 5.
A bye on Thursday and home game versus Portland gives them a chance to get back on track.
Pacific (12-10, 2-5)
Saturday: W vs Portland, 74-70
This week: at LMU, vs Pepperdine
KenPom Ranking: 192
Fouls, fouls, fouls. That’s what you can expect when you play Pacific, as they are second nationally in free throw rate. That hasn’t necessarily resulted in a bunch of wins, but the Tigers have at least been competitive.
Portland (7-15, 0-7)
Thursday: L at San Francisco, 83-61
Saturday: L at Portland, 74-70
This week: vs Pepperdine, at Santa Clara
KenPom Ranking: 316
Portland is far and away the worst team in the WCC, with only one of their losses coming by less than 8 points. Even though they lucked out and drew St Mary’s and Gonzaga once each, they may not win a conference game this year.