WHAT WE'VE LEARNED - WCC BASKETBALL - CONFERENCE WEEKEND NO. 2
Well, that was quite a week for WCC basketball, wasn't it?if
The conference started to clarify itself on the top and the bottom while the middle, being the middle, is just plain muddled.
GONZAGA won twice to push its record to 5-0. SAINT MARY'S played just one game, at PACIFIC, and its close victory over the Tigers led to a similar 5-0 mark. Surprising PEPPERDINE scored a road sweep at BYU and SAN DIEGO and is sitting pretty at 4-1 - but will it last?
PORTLAND (2-3), SAN DIEGO (2-4), SAN FRANCISCO (2-4) and SANTA CLARA (2-4) are all in the Terrible Two's, capable of sliding into irrelevance with another bad week or two but just as capable of rising up, as the Dons did by winning at Portland.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT is still searching for its first WCC win at 0-5. Pacific dropped to 1-4 after its loss to Saint Mary's.
In addition to eyeballing the won-lost record, here is What We Learned:
- By upsetting the Cougars in Provo and beating the Toreros in the city that gave us Ted Williams and fish tacos (thanks, San Diego), Pepperdine established itself as a team to be reckoned with. Coach Marty Wilson's Waves play some stout defense on the perimeter and are No. 1 in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage defense at .237.
- It won't be long before we know if Saint Mary's is for real. The Gaels have won seven in a row but their mettle will be tested in a home game against BYU on Saturday and against Gonzaga in Spokane on the 22nd.
- BYU is the nation's highest-scoring team while Gonzaga is tied for the WCC lead in defense at 61.0 points per game. Tied with whom, you ask? See No. 1, above.
- There may not be a more efficient player in the conference, if not the country, than Gonzaga's Domantas Sabonis. Coach Mark Few's first player off the bench leads the WCC, and NCAA, in shooting percentage from the field at .705. Give him the rock in the post and there's a good chance it will be two points for the Zags. Or at least seven out of 10 times.
- Gonzaga, meanwhile, is so good it is almost taken for granted that it is so good. Pick a statistical category in the WCC and chances are the Zags are at or near the top, as in points allowed, field goal percentage defense, rebounding margin, scoring margin and turnover margin, to name a few.
The secret of his success
Now it can be told: The reason Saint Mary's Brad Waldow has such admirable composure during the heat of battle, when he's being pushed, hacked, bumped and double-teamed, can be traced to basketball camps in the Napa Valley when he was in high school and his coach would whack him with a PVC pipe during drills.
Not to worry - we're not talking abuse here.
"It was nothing sketchy,'' Waldow said, smiling. "My coach always taught me to finish through a lot of stuff. We had these camps in Napa Valley and he'd have his PVC pipe and he'd hit me when I was shooting. We had a `Carlos Boozer drill' where two guys fouled me all the time.''
As a result, Waldow is able to keep his composure when other players might strike out. Such as Saturday night at Pacific, when he was fouled hard on a couple of occasions, most notably with 12 seconds left and the Gaels holding onto a 48-47 lead.
Waldow was fouled by Eric Thompson and made one of two free throws. After a lengthy consultation among the three officials, it was determined that Pacific's Gabriel Aguirre had committed a dead ball technical foul when he hit Waldow on the back of the head after the Thompson foul. Aaron Bright made the two technical free throws and the Gaels went on to win 54-47.
"He's got pretty good composure,'' Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said of his 6-foot-10 pivotman. "He gets bumped, pushed, double-teamed. He gets a lot of different (defensive) looks. A lot of guys would be frustrated. Brad's been in that position for so long. He doesn't get rattled. Like all good players, you have to have composure and Brad's is pretty good.''
In addition to his composure, Waldow is also consistent. He came into the game averaging 20.0 points and 10.1 rebounds. Against Pacific, he had 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Tweet of the week
Greg Welch @ArtDirectorBYU
Tyler Haws cuts to the chase: "I hate losing." "I just love playing for BYU." Put that on my gravestone
Stat line of the week
Now about a non-starter contributing 23 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals? That's what Pepperdine's Stacy Davis did in 32 minutes in the Waves' 67-61 upset of BYU in Provo. Davis proved, again, that it doesn't matter who starts but rather who finishes as he played 32 minutes.
Quote of the week
"I need to do a better job of coaching these guys so we have more discipline.''
That's Pacific coach Ron Verlin, on a dead ball technical foul with 12 seconds left against Saint Mary's that was pivotal in his team's 54-47 loss.
In a nutshell
In virtually any sport involving a ball, the difference between winning teams and losing teams usually comes down to how well they take care of the old pelota. In the WCC, 5-0 Gonzaga is first in turnover margin at +2.4 per game while 0-5 Loyola Marymount is last at -3.59.
Follow the three dots
BYU continues to lead NCAA Division I in scoring at 86.7 points per game. ... While still last in the conference in free throw percentage, San Francisco is at least over 60 percent at .602. ... With center Jito Kok averaging 3.1 blocks per game (No.11 nationally), San Diego as a team rejects 4.3 shots per game. ... Do-everything guard Kyle Collinsworth of BYU continues to play like he wants to be named the conference player of the year. He's averaging 12.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. No wonder he has three triple-doubles this season. ... At the moment, San Diego's Johnny Dee is "only'' tied for 17th in the nation in free throw percentage, .895, making 68 of 76 chances. Let's see where he is at the end of the season; likely, .900 or better.
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.