Over the course of a 10-minute phone conversation, Pacific women's coach Lynne Roberts used the word "crazy'' three times when describing how she thinks the West Coast Conference race will play out.
In a conversation of a similar duration, San Diego coach Cindy Fisher implied that Gonzaga is the favorite until someone proves otherwise.
After the first week of conference play, the standings reveal a clear division between those teams ipositon to challenge for the title and those that will probably remain in the bottom half. At least in the early going, it's a 5-and-5 proposition.
As in, PACIFIC (11-3, 3-0), SAINT MARY'S (10-4, 3-0), GONZAGA (9-4, 2-0), SAN DIEGO (11-2, 2-1) and BYU (10-4, 2-1) are off to a good start while PEPPERDINE (6-7, 1-1), LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (2-11, 0-2), PORTLAND (2-11, 0-2) SAN FRANCISCO (9-5, 0-3) and SANTA CLARA (5-7, 0-3) are, at least at the moment, falling behind quickly.
"I think it's going to be a crazy race,'' Roberts said. "At this point, I don't think anything is set in stone. Santa Clara was predicted to finish 10th and we were lucky to beat them. BYU was down 14 at Portland and came back to win. You have to always go with who it's been. Gonzaga is tough, BYU is tough, San Diego is tough. Those guys have earned it.''
Farther south, San Diego coach Fisher said, "Gonzaga has a lot of talent on that team. I think Gonzaga, especially at home, is the front runner. I think everybody is really going to have to be strong at home and steal some on the road. It's going to be a battle to the end.''
The Toreros look to be battle-ready. They should defeat Santa Clara on Saturday to boost their WCC record to 4-0 and 12-2 overall. Fisher's team is leading the conference in scoring at 69.8 per game and is second in scoring defense at 58.2. Fraternal twins Malina and Maya Hood contribute nearly 28 points per game as a tandem while post player Sophia Ederaine has robust averages of 12.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game.
"We have a lot of depth and we can go pretty deep on our bench,'' Fisher said. "We're definitely eight or nine deep. We spend a lot of time on defense. Our defense is capable of creating a lot of offense for us. We're pretty athletic and versatile.''
Pacific, meanwhile, is also in good position to push its conference record to 4-0, and 12-3 overall, when it hosts Pepperdine on Saturday. The Tigers rely heavily on senior forward Kendall Kenyon, who leads her team in scoring (15.1 ppg) and is No. 1 in the WCC in rebounding at 11.0 per game. She was named the most recent WCC player of the week in leading the Tigers to wins at USF and Santa Clara while averaging 21 points, 11.5 rebounds and 5.0 blocks.
Roberts' team also relies heavily on its pilfering proficiency; that is, the Tigers lead the conference in steals at 10.5 per game. They also lead the WCC in scoring defense (57.6 per game) and are second in scoring offense (69.0 per game).
"We're doing a pretty good job,'' Roberts said. "I feel like we've won the games we should have won. I don't feel we've hit our stride yet. I don't know how good this group can be. I like our team's toughness and competitiveness. We have the potential to be very good.''
Gena Johnson update | JOHNSON PROFILE
Before the season started we had an opportunity to profile the remarkable return to basketball of Pacific's Gena Johnson, who survived a horrific car crash in June of 2013 that left her with most of the bones below her waist broken.
Through admirable determination and the work of doctors and trainers and the support of her coaches and teammates, Johnson is back, albeit a far cry from her all-conference form before the accident. In 10 games Johnson is averaging 6.6 minutes of court time and has hit 6 of 12 three-point shots.
"She's doing pretty good,'' Roberts said. "She's playing limited minutes. She's very good against zone (defenses). She's getting opportunities here and there and making the most of it.''
Follow the three dots
Keani Albanez of Gonzaga and Nici Gilday of Santa Clara look to be in a season-long battle for top free throw shooter in the WCC. Albanez at .906 (29 of 32) is marginally ahead of Gilday's .900 (36 of 40). ... Saint Mary's leads the conference in rebounding margin at +9.9 per game, similar to the rebounding prowess of its men's team. ... BYU must be the most selfless team in the conference based on its average of 16.4 assists per game. ... Saint Mary's (99), Pacific (98) and Pepperdine (98) all flirted with 100-point games against lesser opponents in non-conference contests.
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 Orelans 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.