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Crumpacker: What We Learned - 11/23/15

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By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist 

While it’s been a rough start to the non-conference season for most West Coast Conference teams, Saint Mary’s scored an impressive 78-61 victory over local but infrequent opponent Stanford at McKeon Pavilion on Sunday night. The Gaels roared back from a four-point deficit at halftime to win comfortably in front of a sold-out but nevertheless relatively sedate crowd in Moraga.

To that latter point, Stanford-Saint Mary’s should be a dandy Bay Area rivalry but due to a variety of dumb factors, the teams rarely play each other these days. It was the first meeting between the schools since 2002, which in turn was the first game between the private institutions since 1988, which in turn was the last time Stanford ventured to Moraga to face the Gaels. It was Saint Mary’s first win over Stanford since 1984.

It’s often said the WCC is a guard-centric conference and that was proven once again as Boston College transfer Joe Rahon and sophomore Emmett Naar combined for 39 points against Stanford. With stalwart pivot man Brad Waldow now playing in Belgium, the Gaels figure to get most of their points from the backcourt until 6-foot-9 junior Dane Pineau begins to assert himself near the basket.

With home games upcoming against Cal State Bakersfield, UC Davis and UC Irvine, the Gaels could be 6-0 before they go on the road for the first time against a strong Cal team on Dec. 12. (Cal is another local school that should be a regular opponent for the Gaels but isn’t, for the same dumb reasons that Stanford isn’t regularly on the schedule.) Furthermore, a 9-1 mark is not out of the question for coach Randy Bennett’s team heading into its WCC opener against San Francisco at home on Dec. 21.

As WCC teams are off and running, or off and taking all 30 seconds of the shot clock before sending the ball toward the basket, here’s What We Learned from early non-conference results:

  1. After its one (half) and done game against Pitt on the 13th in sweaty Okinawa, Gonzaga’s first real test of the season comes Wednesday morning against in-state non-rival Washington in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. Or maybe it won’t be a test for the Zags at all considering the Huskies return only one starter. That would be guard Andrew Andrews, whose name suggests he should be from Walla Walla but instead he’s from Portland. In any event, with a 9 a.m. Pacific start time, it will be Breakfast with the Zags for fans watching the game on ESPN.
  2. In another Thanksgiving week tournament, 2-2 Pepperdine played Duquesne on Monday morning at 11:30 in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla. Following a he Waves will have games on Tuesday and Wednesday against that most fearsome of opponents, “To Be Announced”, in the Gulf Coast tourney. It will be a good opportunity for Pep to show some pep and notch a couple of wins in the early going and live up to the expectations the team has for itself.
  3. At 0-4, Santa Clara really needs to do some good things, like win, when it plays at UC Irvine on Monday night in the opener of the Wooden Legacy tournament that runs until the 29th. After the Anteaters, the Broncos face No. 12 Arizona on Thanksgiving night in Fullerton. Providence or Evansville are up next after Arizona. Junior forward Nate Kratch looks like he’ll be a major contributor along with All- Conference guard Jared Brownridge.

Stat line of the week
Nice game for Saint Mary’s Naar in his team’s victory over Stanford. The versatile guard had 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-4 from three-point range, along with 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal. 

Tweet of the week
Here’s what’s on Stacy Davis’ mind at Pepperdine:
Stacy W. Davis IV ‏@StacyDavisIV Nov 13
S/O to all those who participated in the sit-in. It is bigger than us and those who refuse to understand our vision. #WavesAgainstIgnorance

Quote of the week
“My mom is 100 percent Italian. I won’t count as an American, so (that means) more money.’’

That’s Portland guard Bryce Pressley, expressing a desire to play professionally in Europe after this, his senior season.

Speaking of which
Pressley, a three-year starter for coach Eric Reveno, is the son of Harold Pressley, a standout on Villanova’s 1985 NCAA championship team who played in the NBA for the Sacramento Kings from 1986-90 before venturing overseas.

“I’m the leader of the team, me along with Alec Wintering,’’ Bryce Pressley said. “We are the veterans of the team. We lost seven seniors (from) last year. We have to come to a leadership role for all these new guys. I need to be more of a scoring threat this year. On the defensive end, I’m still that guy who guards the best player on the (opposing) team. Because of my size and length, I’ll guard guys at different positions. I’m used to it and I really like it.’’

If you’ll allow an old curmudgeon a rant or three:

  1. Why do broadcast networks always default to beauty shots of San Francisco when televising events in the Bay Area that are outside of San Francisco? It’s cliché, it’s lazy and it’s geographically bogus. Take Sunday night’s Stanford-Saint Mary’s game in Moraga, 21 miles removed from San Francisco. Other than the game itself on ESPN, there were no other shots of Moraga. Granted, it’s as dark as the bottom of a well in Moraga at night, but by day, the rolling hills of this bucolic little burg are attractive. However, there was a shot of the Powell-Market cable car, by golly.
  2. College basketball is a wonderful game, except when teams that have no chance of actually winning foul their opponents repeatedly in the final minute in the desperate hope of getting the ball back and scoring to reduce the deficit. It’s tiresome, pointless and takes away from a good product, aesthetically.
  3. I’m generally against the NCAA telling universities and their athletes what to do and how to behave but I would like to see a mandate requiring all member institutions to put names on the back of athletes’ uniforms. In the Stanford-Saint Mary’s game, the Cardinal had block letters on the back of players’ uniforms but the Gaels merely had numbers, as if this was the 1920’s. I’m sure casual fans would like to know who No. 21 was (Evan Fitzer) or No. 24 (Calvin Hermanson) or that peripatetic No. 3 (Naar). Just a flesh wound Cuts to the head always look worse than they really are. Ask any boxer. When Hermanson bumped heads with a teammate against Stanford, it created a cut that drew enough blood on his face and white home uniform that he had to come out of the game and change from No. 24 with no name on the back to No. 23 with no name on the back.  

 John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.