Crumpacker: What We Think - 2/14
All the #WCChoops prognostications
By John Crumpacker, #WCChoops Columnist
As the 2017-18 West Coast Conference regular season winds down to the final four games, it’s not too soon to look ahead to 2018-19.
In that spirit, watch out for BYU.
While perusing BYU’s latest game notes, I came to a section that listed all the players by class. Boxes for freshmen, sophomores and juniors were peopled with familiar names. Seniors? Empty.
The Cougars have no seniors on their roster, meaning such players as Elijah Bryant, Yoeli Childs, T.J. Haws, Jashire Hardnett and Zac Seljaas, among others, are expected to return next season. That’s a lot of returning talent for coach Dave Rose, who earned his 325th career victory at BYU last week, second-most in school history.
If he remains at BYU for a few more seasons, Rose will overtake Stan Watts, who rang up 371 wins in Provo from 1949-72.
Under Rose, BYU has won 20 or more games for 13 straight seasons, including this year’s 20-7 mark. That’s fifth most among active head coaches, and the four ahead of him are fellows named Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, Mark Few and Roy Williams. Pretty good company.
As always, the challenge for Rose’s program is to compete with Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s and not settle comfortably for third, which is where the Cougars are this season with a 9-5 conference record, looking up at the Zags and Gaels, each 13-1.
In one respect, this has been, and continues to be, a noteworthy season for BYU in that Childs and Bryant developed into the most productive pair of teammates in the conference. The two could not be closer on the list of top scorers in the WCC, Childs at 17.7 points per game and Bryant at 17.6. Yet the Cougars are more than a two-man team. Haws, for one, had a season-high 26 points in a remarkable overtime win vs. San Francisco last week.
If anyone is going to challenge Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in the upcoming WCC Tournament in Las Vegas, it will likely be BYU in what could be a preview of 2018-19.
What We Think
- Going into the penultimate week of conference play, the best game appears to be Pacific at San Diego on Thursday night. The Tigers can more than double their number of WCC wins from last season (4) and improve to 9-6 (and reach .500 at 14-14) with a win over the somewhat slumping Toreros. At 7-7, USD has already won more conference games than it did in 2016-17 (6). At stake for either team the rest of the way is a chance to finish fourth in conference going into the WCC Tournament.
- Dovetailing off the Pacific-San Diego game, the next best contest also involves the Tigers as they host Santa Clara on Saturday night. A 2-0 week would give Pacific a 10-6 record in WCC play in what would be a nice reversal from last season’s 4-14 conference record. Santa Clara, meanwhile, is lurking in a tie for seventh with USF at 6-8 and is playing much better now after a rough start to the season.
- I was struck by how well, and how classy, Pepperdine handled the news that coach Marty Wilson will not be returning in 2018-19 after seven seasons as head man. The Waves were hit hard by injuries the last two years, and Wilson’s record in this span is 13-44, including 4-22 this season. Athletic director Steve Potts thanked Wilson for his service to his alma mater and said, “Marty Wilson will always be a Pepperdine Wave.’’ Wilson, for his part, expressed gratitude to the school for giving him the opportunity to play basketball and become the first member of his family to graduate from college. At Pep, Wilson met his wife-to-be; their daughter graduated from the Malibu school and their son soon will as well. “My family and I had the opportunity to live on the most beautiful campus in the country and in Malibu for 10 years. We will continue to support and be proud Waves for years to come,’’ Wilson said in a statement.
Game of the Week
While touting two other games, the official WCC Game of the Week is BYU at San Diego, 1 p.m. at the Slim Gym, far and away the best nickname for a college basketball facility. BYU is coming off a remarkable game vs. USF in which it trailed by seven points with 39 seconds left (61-54) yet managed to tie the game at the end of regulation and go on to win in overtime.
Conversely, the Toreros saw their defensive reputation take a big hit in a 70-64 loss to Santa Clara in which K.J. Feagin of the Broncos went off for a career-high 32 points. USD will want to get its defensive mojo back.
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Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams snatched his 900th career rebound last week vs. Pacific. … Saint Mary’s Jock Landale is one of four Division I players averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. … His teammate, Emmett Naar, remains the national leader in total assists with 239 and is No. 2 in assists per game at 8.9. … More on Pepperdine’s Wilson: Of the 22 players who finished their eligibility during his tenure, 21 earned their degrees. “Pepperdine is one of the finest academic institutions in the country and will always be a special place to me,’’ he said.
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.