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Crumpacker: What We Think - 1/6/16

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By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist 

COMPLETE CRUMPACKER ARCHIVES

It may not sound sexy on the surface but Saint Mary’s at Pepperdine on Saturday afternoon should nevertheless prove revealing. That’s why it’s the WCC Game of the Week.

It’s fair to say the Waves have underachieved a little bit this season at 8-6 overall and 1-2 in conference, but they are 5-0 in Malibu heading into Thursday’s game against Pacific. It’s also fair to state that the Gaels’ 13-1 overall record is due almost entirely to a home schedule that saw them post a spotless mark of 12-0. At 4-0 in conference, the Gaels are galloping along nicely as they lead Division I in three categories: field goal percentage (.543), three-point field goal percentage (.460) and assists-to-turnovers (2.04).

Something has to give, or so it would seem. Saint Mary’s beat Santa Clara at the Leavey Center on Dec. 23 but is otherwise untested on the road. Loyola Marymount on Thursday night doesn’t figure to present the toughest of road games, so Saturday’s Game of the Week represents a legitimate challenge to the Gaels.

Having interviewed Pepperdine’s Stacy Davis on several occasions, I can’t see the stalwart senior letting the Gaels march into Firestone Fieldhouse and leave without a fight from the Waves. He and teammates Jett Raines and Lamond Murray Jr. are too experienced, and too accomplished, to let that happen. Still, Pepperdine’s last win vs. Saint Mary’s in Malibu was in 2004. The counterpoint to that is Pepperdine whipped the Gaels in Moraga last season.

That being said, Saint Mary’s has a lot going for itself with players such as Emmett Naar, Joe Rahon, Dane Pineau, Evan Fitzner, Calvin Hermanson and Stefan Gonzalez. That’s a lot of “such as’’ for one team.

Wounded Waves
Pepperdine, however, will not be at full strength going into this week’s games against Pacific and Saint Mary’s. Sophomore guard Shawn Olden will miss the rest of the season following ankle surgery and will seek a medical redshirt year. In nine games this season, all off the bench, he averaged 7.8 points.

“I tried to keep playing after getting hurt in preseason but this is something that had to happen eventually,’’ Olden said.

Pepperdine senior Atif Russell’s career is over after sustaining a shoulder injury. He had not played since Nov. 25. Sophomore center Nate Gehring will redshirt 2015-16.

Aside from the Game of the Week, this is What We Think about the WCC heading into the third week of conference games:

  1. If I had to select a Game of the Week other than Saint Mary’s at Pepperdine, it would be San Francisco at BYU on Saturday night. At 10-5 overall and 1-1 in conference, it seems like the Cougars should be more imposing, given the kind of talent they have with Kyle Collinsworth, Chase Fischer, Kyle Davis and Nick Emery. USF, meanwhile, has to prove it’s road worthy. The Dons are capable of lighting up the scoreboard with their backcourt of Devin Watson and Tim Derksen. Those two will need to be at their best because BYU has scored 90 or more points five times this season.
  2. Saturday could be the day that LMU equals its victory total from 2014-15, when it finished with eight wins. The Lions are 7-7 and host Pacific at 3 p.m. at Gersten Pavilion. That might also be the day coach Mike Dunlap’s team notches its first conference win, as the Lions face Saint Mary’s on Thursday night.
  3. I don’t pretend to be an expert on a sport that has bigs but no littles, elbows but no shoulders and players who score the ball and those who apparently score something else (Balled-up towels? Roundish wads of tape?), but I do believe Santa Clara junior Jared Brownridge should get a look by NBA teams in search of a versatile guard. In addition to being a FYM (fine young man) and OHOAGG (one heck of a good guy), Brownridge can really light it up, as games of 44 and 36 points this season proves. Brownridge, 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, is the only player in the NCAA to rank in the top 15 in made free throws (8th with 91) and made three-point shots (13th with 48). That shows he can function beyond the arc and drive to the basket with equal ability. 

Follow the three dots...
Santa Clara has had seven different starting lineups this season, reason enough for its 5-11 overall record. … Sounds like Broncos sophomore guard Evan Wardlow will miss most of the remainder of the regular season with a broken right wrist. … ESPN came out with an early NCAA “bracketology’’ projection that had Gonzaga as an eight seed, Saint Mary’s as a 10 and BYU on the bubble. Sounds about right to me. … BYU’s Fischer is fourth among active Division I three-point shooters at 3.08 made per game; Santa Clara’s Brownridge is sixth. … Bum luck Broncos: Santa Clara has lost three games in overtime this season.      

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.