WHAT WE THINK - PREVIEWING WEEK THREE OF WCC PLAY
With the New Year comes new opportunities and familiar challenges for teams in the West Coast Conference looking to improve their positions in the standings. As coaches are forever emphasizing, and with good reason, it starts with defense, especially for those teams facing tough road games this week. I've often heard it said that defense travels well, no matter the sport. Let's see if that holds true this weekend.
For example, PEPPERDINE (9-5, 2-1) plays at BYU (13-4, 3-1) on Thursday night in Provo. While the Cougars are the top-scoring team in Division I and live large scoring from the perimeter, the Waves can set up a wall around the three-point arc. Their three-point field goal percentage defense is .236, second nationally.
Pepperdine's last three defeats were by 2, 2 and 8 points, proving once again that defense can keep a team competitive until the end.
SAN FRANCISCO (7-9, 1-3) and SANTA CLARA (7-8, 2-2) will need all the defense, and everything else they can muster, when they face No. 6 GONZAGA (14-1, 3-0) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. The Dons come close to matching the Zags athletically at some positions but will need the kind of all-out effort coach Rex Walters has been looking for all season. For Santa Clara, it's simple - guards Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark have to be spot-on offensively for the Broncos to make a game of it.
Meanwhile, SAINT MARY'S (12-3, 4-0) will be motivated to stay at the top of the standings when it faces PACIFIC (9-7, 1-3) on Saturday in Stockton in its only game of the week. The Tigers will need all they can get out of guard T.J. Wallace and off-the-bench sparkplug Dulani Robinson.
Here's What We Think about this week's slate of games:
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As noted earlier this week, BYU's Kyle Collinsworth is one triple-double away from tying the NCAA single-season record for T-D's. Three more double figures in points, rebounds and assists and the junior guard will tie the NCAA career record in this most versatile of categories. ... The WCC leads the nation in three-point field goal accuracy at .3721 percent. ... The voice of Pepperdine basketball, Al Epstein, has done 890 consecutive Waves' games and is showing no signs of slowing down after 30 years. ... Stacy Davis is the 38th Pepperdine player to record 1,000 career points. He's a junior and if he stays on his current pace through his senior season he'll be Pepperdine's career leader in points scored. ... Fun with numbers: Pepperdine is 4-0 when it shoots .400 to .499 from the field but only 2-3 when shooting .500 or better and 3-2 when shooting less than .400. It's all about finding that sweet spot, apparently.
A limited number of single-game and all-session passes to the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas March 5-10 are now available for sale online at WCCHoopsInVegas.com. All-session passes for the event at the Orleans Arena in the casino of the same name cost $135 and $175 for all nine men's games and all nine women's games, 18 games in all.
Breaking it down, that's $7.50 per game for the $135 package and $9.72 per game for the $175 package. Further ticket information is available below: HERE or log on to WCChoopsInVegas.com.
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.