WHAT WE'VE LEARNED - WCC BASKETBALL - NON-CONFERENCE WEEK THREE
By John Crumpacker, WCC Columnist | @CrumpackerOnWCC
There was a period in my professional life when, immersed in covering pro football, I didn't pay much attention to college basketball. During that time the language of the roundball game changed, apparently.
The old-timey designations of "guards,'' "forwards'' and "centers'' were reduced to numbers, although not many teams have true 5's anymore. More like a couple of 1's, several 2's, a bunch of 3's and maybe a 4 or two living large as 3's.
Coaches are slaves to the new jargon, sad to say. When their forwards and center turn in a good game, coaches invariably say, "Our bigs played well.'' It stands to reason that if you have "bigs,'' you have to have "littles,'' but no one refers to guards as "littles.'' Why the heck not?
Even more annoying is the term "score the basketball'' that is in common usage today. Please explain to me how you can score without the basketball.
Lastly, there is apparently a place on the court, two places, actually, called the "elbows.'' How this differs from the wings, those spots on the court usually occupied by 3's or sometimes 2's or 4's masquerading as 3's, I have no idea. Again, please explain.
While pondering these existential issues, WHAT WE LEARNED from last week's games is fairly straight-forward and not couched in unacceptable terminology.
- GONZAGA is good. Really, really good. If the No. 9 Zags can pull off an upset when they play at No. 3 Arizona on Saturday, they will be really, really, really good.
On a day of college football conference championship games, this early-season meeting of Top 10 college basketball powers qualifies as must-see TV at 2:15 p.m. on ESPN. Gonzaga proved something about its mettle in defeating St. John's in New York, but playing Arizona on its home court in front of its adoring fans is something else entirely.
This is an all-hands-on-deck game for Gonzaga. Kevin Pangos needs to play like what he is, an All-American, supported by backcourt mate Gary Bell Jr. Transfer Kyle Wiltjer needs to settle into his role as a 6-foot-10 complimentary scorer. The mid-range game of shooting guard Byron Wesley will be important, as will the contributions off the bench from 6-10 freshman Domantas Sabonis and maybe Angel Nunez.
- SANTA CLARA will need to get all it can out of its superb backcourt tandem of Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark. The Broncos endured a tough four-game losing streak to Utah State, Michigan State, Tennessee and Rhode Island, the latter two in the Orlando Classic, before defeating Rider 68-60, also in Orlando. In that game, Brownridge and Clark combined to score 50 of their team's 68 points.
The Broncos might have had a chance to beat Tennessee and Rhode Island but slow starts to the second halves of both games made the job that much more difficult.
- BYU's ability to put a pair of deflating overtime defeats in the rear view mirror will be put to the test as the non-conference season progresses. At the Maui Invitational, the Cougars lost 92-87 in double overtime to No. 13 San Diego State before falling again 87-85 in single OT to Purdue. BYU stands at 5-2 going into Tuesday night's game at Utah State.
- Top scorer Tyler Haws is averaging 22.1 points per game in a little more than 30 minutes of playing time. More than a few WCC observers think he could end up leading Division I in scoring this season.
- If SAN DIEGO does not come out on top Thursday, at least the Toreros won't have far to go to get home. In the Battle of San Diego, USD takes on nationally ranked San Diego State at the Aztecs' Viejas Arena. It doesn't get much easier for coach Bill Grier's team, either, as it plays at UCLA on Sunday.
- In similar "Battles of,'' LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (3-3) plays at USC and PORTLAND (5-1) hosts Portland State, both on Wednesday night.
Stat line of the week
If he remains in his current role throughout the season, Sabonis, Gonzaga's 6-foot-10 freshman, could be regarded as the Sixth Man of the Year. Certainly he would be starting at most every other Division I school. In the Zags' 73-66 victory over St. John's in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-off at Madison Square Garden, Sabonis shot 6-for-6 from the field and finished with 14 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists in 26 minutes.
Tweet of the week
Joe Lunardi @ESPNLunardi
Updated Seed List (CAPS=AQs): 01-UK, 02-DUKE, 03-WISC, 04-TEXAS, 05-ZONA, 06-Lville, 07-UVa, 08-ZAGS, 09-WICH, 10-NOVA, 11-Unc, 12-Kansas.
Quote of the Week
"Tomorrow, I have no classes. It's awesome. It's how school should be.'' That's Saint Mary's guard Aaron Bright, working towards a master's in Leadership in Moraga after earning his undergraduate degree from Stanford. That's called preparing oneself for the Real World.
Good Wishes of the Week
To Gonzaga's Josh Perkins, who broke his jaw against Georgia in the NIT Tip-off when an opponent's flying leg caught him flush on the mandible in an inadvertent encounter that was cringe-worthy every time replays showed the incident. Enjoy those shakes and smoothies, Josh. And what a great post-script it was to learn that his father plans to go on a similar liquid diet for the length of his son's recovery.
FOLLOW THE THREE DOTS...
Slow start, relatively speaking, at the free throw line for San Diego's Johnny "Deadeye'' Dee. He's making them at an .867 clip (26 of 30) after missing one chance in the Toreros' 68-66 loss to Western Michigan. ... At this early point in the season, ESPN bracket guru Joe Lunardi (see above) has three WCC teams making the NCAA Tournament in March: Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary's. ... I want to call the tournament in Nashville that Portland participated in the Music City Challenge, which seems oh so reasonable, but no, the official name apparently is the Challenge in Music City. ... Speaking of which, the 5-1 Pilots lost to Valparaiso 70-55 in the championship game but may have found a gem in 6-5 freshman guard D'Marques Tyson. In just 17 minutes he pumped in 25 points, making 6 of 8 shots from three-point range. ... Pacific got a dandy game from reserve guard Dulani Robinson in its 75-64 loss to Colorado State at the Great Alaska Shootout. The 5-9 junior from Oakland and City College of San Francisco had 26 points on 7-of-10 shooting from beyond the three-point line. ... How about that? Saint Mary's received one vote in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll.
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.