Crumpacker: What We Think - 1/2/18

Jan. 2, 2018

By John Crumpacker #WCChoops Columnist

As my dear, late mother was wont to say about my various slovenly habits as a young adult, “It is ever thus,’’ an elegant way of articulating the more common expression, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.’’

So it is with the men’s side of the West Coast Conference basketball ledger.

Although San Diego is a refreshing presence in the top tier of the conference standings at 11-3 overall and 2-0 after week one, the top two are, as always, Saint Mary’s at 13-2 and Gonzaga at 12-3. The Gaels and Zags seem headed for another home-and-home duel to determine the regular season champion.

Saint Mary’s was particularly impressive in beating BYU in overtime 74-64 at the Marriott Center on Saturday as it outscored the home team 14-4 in the extra period. The Gaels fell behind by eight points early in the second half but, seasoned bunch as they are, they did not panic.

Instead, coach Randy Bennett’s team stayed the course despite an uncharacteristic number of turnovers and pulled ahead 60-58 on a 3-point shot by 6-foot-6 guard Tanner Krebs, only to have T.J. Haws hit a shot in the final seconds for BYU to send the game into OT.

Gonzaga had a much easier time in its Saturday game, racing past Santa Clara early and often on the way to a 101-52 decision. Not much else need be said about that one, other than it gave coach Mark Few a chance to empty his bench and give his deep reserves an opportunity to play.

The first week of WCC play gave fans a reason to circle Jan. 18 and Feb. 10 on their sporting calendars. On the earlier date, Saint Mary’s visits the McCarthey Center in Spokane while Gonzaga faces the Gaels at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga on the latter date. It’s hard to imagine these two games will not go a long way in determining the regular season conference champion.

Unless San Diego, with its splendid defense, has something to say about things.

What We Learned
1)  After the first week of the conference schedule, I’m ready to declare an All-WCC team for 2017-18. Why wait? These guys are deserving. My starting five is composed of guards Emmett Naar of Saint Mary’s and Jahlil Tripp of Pacific, even if he isn’t a true guard; I want him on my team for his versatility. My forwards are Johnathan Williams of Gonzaga and Yoeli Childs of BYU and my center is Saint Mary’s Jock Landale. Every team needs a dependable bench and my guys here are Calvin (Headband) Hermanson of Saint Mary’s, the rapidly improving Rui Hachimura of Gonzaga, Josh Perkins of Gonzaga and Souley Boum of San Francisco, as sneaky good as he is slight of build.

2)  Of the four teams that ended the first week of conference play at 1-1 (BYU, San Francisco, Pacific, Santa Clara), the Cougars and Dons seem the most likely to remain in the top half of the standings by the end of February. BYU learned a lesson about playing a full 40 minutes in its home loss to Saint Mary’s while USF’s strength is in its interchangeability as coach Kyle Smith sends out guys who defy easy description as “guards,’’ “forwards’’ or “centers.’’ Smith coaches a thoroughly modern game.

3)  In considering the three teams that started out 0-2, Portland, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine, we think Portland (6-9 overall) has the best chance to move up in the standings. Pilots coach Terry Porter is getting more and more productivity from his son, Franklin, and his team is second in the WCC in blocked shots per game (4.5), with 7-foot-2 Philipp Hartwich averaging 2.9 per game.



Stat Line of the Week
It would be easy, as in chalk, to pick Landale, who had 31 points on 13-of-15 shooting along with 13 rebounds and was named WCC Player of the Week, or Childs, with his 29 points and 10 rebounds in the loss to the Gaels, as our SLOTW. Sorry. We’re going with USF’s Boum (Goes the Dynamite), who had 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in the Dons’ 84-61 road victory at Portland. The slender Boum had a hefty game to help USF start conference season 1-1.

Play of the Year (already ) | WATCH 
Late in what would be an 87-59 victory by Saint Mary’s over Loyola Marymount on Thursday in the conference opener, Naar bounced a pass between the very long legs of 7-foot-3 Mattias Markusson to Landale, who scored on an easy dunk. It was a play that had to be seen again, and again, and again, for the deftness of Naar’s assist, the unerring timing it took to execute a pass of such an audacious nature. Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd and the WCC’s own Steve Nash and John Stockton would have been proud.

A half-second earlier, or a half-second later, and it might have been a turnover. But it wasn’t. Naar smiled as he ran back up court. Which leads us to …

Quote of the Week
“Ridiculous. I see the ball pop into my hands between the guy’s legs. I went down the court saying, ‘We’re you trying to do that?’ ‘’

- That’s Landale, recipient of the most sublime assist in the WCC this season, if not the nation. As they say in Naar’s and Landale’s native Australia, “Good on ya, mate!’’

Tweet of the Week
Which leads us to this:

Follow the three dots…
In a dynamic play that ultimately did not count, Gonzaga’s freshman forward, Corey Kispert, took a pass on the baseline and drove for a dunk as the halftime buzzer sounded on the Zags’ home game against Santa Clara. Fans at The Kennel went wild. One problem: Kispert still had the ball in his hands as the red Christmas lights around the backboard flashed, indicating time had expired. Assistant coach Brian Michaelson said on the ROOT Sports broadcast, “I’m glad the fans liked it, but not a good play.’’ The implication being, Kispert should have taken a 3-point shot to get the ball out of his hands in time. … Funny how the top two teams in the conference have the two best field goal percentages, they being Saint Mary’s (.516) and Gonzaga (.506). … Even funnier is how those same two top dogs are 1-2 in assists per game: Gonzaga 17.7, Saint Mary’s 17.5.

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. Crumpacker has been covering #WCChoops since the 2014-15 season.


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