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Crumpacker: What We Think - 1/27/16

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By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist 


At first blush, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT at SAN DIEGO as the WCC’s Game of the Week on Saturday afternoon seems to fall short of stirring the soul. It certainly doesn’t have the gravitas of SAINT MARY’S-GONZAGA or PEPPERDINE-BYU. But look a little deeper and there is some there, there – with apologies to that noted hoops fanatic, Gertrude Stein.

Mike Dunlap has a little something going at LMU, very under the radar at the moment but worth noting. His Lions are 10-up and 10-down and 3-6 in conference heading into this week’s games. LMU has already won two more games than it did in 2014-15 and one more WCC win will equal last year’s total.

As detailed in last week’s Friday feature, LMU under Dunlap is in transition. In his second season in Los Angeles he brought in two players, both juniors, who have energized the program. Forward Adom Jacko is the team’s leading scorer (15.3) and rebounder (6.6) and he also has 20 blocks and 15 steals. Point guard Brandon Brown averages 13.1 points and 6.1 assists per game.

It will be interesting to see how far Dunlap can take LMU in seasons to come as he recruits players who reflect his basketball vision. On the other side, rookie San Diego coach Lamont Smith is where Dunlap was a year ago, at the bottom of the conference. Like Dunlap, Smith is alum now coaching at the school he once played for. That carries with it a special responsibility for both men.

Smith doesn’t have a whole lot to work with beyond seniors Duda Sanadze, the only Torero averaging double-figure points (12.7) and Jito Kok, the shot-blocking specialist. However, four freshmen that Smith brought in will assume bigger roles next season in guards Tyler Williams and Olin Carter III and forwards Alex Floresca and Christian Oshita.

Unless the Toreros experience a stunning turnaround in the second half of the conference season, their high-water mark for 2015-16 will be their surprising victory over San Diego State outdoors at Petco Park on Dec. 6.  

As teams head into the second half of the conference schedule, here’s What We Think:

  1. It’s always nice to have goals and SAINT MARY’S, BYU and PEPPERDINE all have something in common – they are undefeated at home this season. Can they keep it going? Defending the old home court is certainly something worth striving for. The Gaels are 15-0 and 6-0 in conference at McKeon Pavilion, the Cougars are 8-0 and 2-0 at the Marriott Center and the Waves are 9-0 and 5-0 at Firestone Fieldhouse. Only BYU is at home this week, facing Loyola Marymount on Thursday night and Pepperdine on Saturday night.
  2. Speaking of which, Pepperdine at BYU is the most attractive game on the WCC slate this week, with third place again possibly at stake. If the Waves defeat 1-7 San Diego on Thursday and the Cougars take care of LMU, third place will be up for grabs. If the Thursday scenario plays out, BYU can move into third place at 7-3, ahead of Pepperdine at 7-4. However, if the Waves score a road sweep, third place will be theirs.
  3. Emmett Naar of Saint Mary’s should be in the conversation for WCC Player of the Year along with Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis of Gonzaga and Kyle Collinsworth of BYU. Naar is not a big scorer, but on such a balanced and efficient team, he doesn’t have to be. Besides which, he’s an absolute deadeye from anywhere on the court, shooting .558 from the field, .597 behind the arc and .867 from the free throw line. He’s averaging 14.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.4 assists and has 25 steals. Naar is vastly improved over 2014-15. Imagine where the Gaels might be without him.

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Wiltjer is on the list for NBWA Player of the Year – that’s the Oscar Robertson Trophy – but not his stalwart teammate, Sabonis. All Sabonis is doing is averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game for a school with a national profile. … The WCC is sixth nationally in conference three-point shooting at .3602 percent. … Same old, same old. Since 2003-04, Gonzaga has been in first place at the halfway point of the conference race 10 times while Saint Mary’s has led five times, including ties. … Portland is 10th nationally in three-point shots made at 206 and is ninth in trey attempts at 555. … It’s almost a ho-hum accomplishment when BYU’s Collinsworth notches another triple-double, and it shouldn’t be. It should be recognized for the special place it occupies in the record books. Collinsworth picked up trip-dub No. 10 last week at LMU to extend his own NCAA career record in this do-everything category. He will also finish the season as BYU’s career leader in rebounds and assists. A tip of the imaginary cap to the WCC’s Swiss Army Knife. Or, as he goes by on Twitter, BigRussia5.

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.