Crumpacker: What We Think - 1/10/18
Previewing a big week three of #WCChoops action
By John Crumpacker #WCChoops Columnist
Sympathy is not a quality much in circulation in sports. You deal with what comes and soldier on while hoping for better times. Empathy is another matter. To that, it’s hard not to feel bad for what coach Marty Wilson is going through at Pepperdine.
For the second season in a row the Waves have been hit hard with injuries to key players, particularly to Kameron Edwards. His sophomore season was wiped out before it began with a broken jaw in 2016-17. This year, a concussion has kept him out of the last seven games. Guard Amadi Udenyi has also missed time – after missing most of last season with an Achilles injury.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Waves are 3-13 overall and 0-4 in conference play, after finishing last season 9-22 and 5-13. Wilson must have the patience of Job.
And it doesn’t get any easier for Pep. The Waves are at BYU on Thursday night and host Saint Mary’s on Saturday in the WCC Game of the Week. It’s hard to imagine Pep scratching out a win against these teams, with a combined record of 28-6.
While the tough times continue for the Waves, things are rolling along quite nicely for the Gaels, winners of 10 in a row. During that streak, Saint Mary’s is limiting opponents to 62.1 points per game, a figure that is even better in conference play – 60.5. Center Jock Landale has 10 double-doubles in 17 games and point guard Emmett Naar is second nationally in assists per game and is the NCAA’s active leader in career assists.
And apparently, this chap Randy Bennett can coach a little bit, too. He’s averaged 26 wins a season for the last six years and currently has former Gaels playing in 12 foreign countries in addition to his two NBA players, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavadova.
Saint Mary’s starts this week of conference play at Santa Clara on Thursday night in a game that can be seen on ESPNU at 8. In its last 21 games against its Bay Area rival, Saint Mary’s is 18-3. Doubtlessly, Bennett’s game prep included reminding his players that the Broncos are 3-1 in conference play and are not to be taken lightly despite an overall record of 6-10.
What We Think
- The most interesting game on Saturday night is BYU at Santa Clara, one of those contests in which something has to give. BYU is 12-4 overall while Santa Clara is 6-10. However, the Broncos have the better conference record – 3-1 vs. 2-2. Which is the truer measure, BYU’s overall mark or Santa Clara’s nice start to WCC play? If momentum means anything, the Broncos should have the edge; they lead the conference in turnover margin at +2.9. If total body of work is what matters, the Cougars come out on top.
- Gonzaga at San Francisco on Saturday night is also intriguing. Memorial Gym at the Sobrato Center should be packed with fans hoping to see the Dons pull off a significant upset and in the process, take a good look at the country’s No. 15 team. Kyle Smith in 1 ½ seasons on the Hilltop has demonstrated he was the right man for the job when he was hired before the 2016-17 season. At the very least, the Dons have the depth to put up a fight against Gonzaga’s superior front-line talent. The counterpoint would be the fact the Zags have beaten their first four WCC opponents by an average of 33 points.
- It would be nice to see Saint Mary’s terrific tandem of Landale and Naar receive All-America consideration at the end of the season. The two Aussies are a big reason why Saint Mary’s is one of the most efficient teams in the nation. Naar is second in Division I in assists per game at 9.0 while Landale is in the top 25 nationally in three categories – field goal percentage (18th, .638), rebounds per game (19th, 10.2) and total rebounds (12th, 174).
In 50 career games, BYU’s Yoeli Childs has 79 blocked shots. It would certainly be impressive if the sophomore forward ends his career in Provo with significantly more blocks than games played.
Let’s play two
Well, they have no choice, but this week’s opponents give the suddenly mighty Toreros of San Diego a chance to go 5-1 in conference, 14-4 overall. Coach Lamont Smith’s team is at Pacific (2-2) on Thursday and home vs. Loyola Marymount (0-4) on Saturday. USD is the feel-good story in the WCC thus far, just one game shy of equaling last season’s win total of 13.
For what it’s worth, some people might find meaning in the fact that the WCC is seventh nationally in free throw percentage (71.61) and seventh nationally in field goal percentage defense (46.12).
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.