Crumpacker: What We Learned - 12/11/17
Forecasting a pivotal week as non-conference play winds down
By John Crumpacker - #WCChoops Columnist
This is the week in which fully half of the teams in the WCC will learn a little more about themselves as the start of conference play nears. Are their records after nine or 10 non-conference games indicative of the kind of teams they will be at the end of February? We shall see.
On Tuesday, San Diego will take its 7-2 record to Boulder and test itself against Colorado of the Pac-12. The Buffaloes are also 7-2.
Two days later, Santa Clara, after winning two of its last three games for an overall mark of 3-6, will measure itself against another Pac-12 team when it travels to USC (4-3).
On a busy Saturday, the most significant games around the WCC are UC Irvine at Saint Mary’s, UNLV at Pacific and Utah (7-2) at BYU. For the Gaels, Tigers and Cougars, these are the kinds of games that carry weight at the end of the season. Saint Mary’s and BYU are both 8-2 and want to keep the train rolling, while Santa Clara is trying to shake off a three-point loss to Portland State in which the Vikings hit 16 straight field goals in a furious comeback.
“We’re still trying to define ourselves, working to become a team,’’ Sendek said. “We’re just in the beginning stages. I like our group. We have a balance of experienced guys and new guys.’’
One of Sendek’s experienced guys, guard K.J. Feagin is second in the conference in scoring at 18.9 per game, behind the 21.3 figure of Saint Mary’s Jock Landale.
Speaking of Saint Mary’s, coach Randy Bennett (see below) thinks the Gaels, at 8-2, are well positioned once again for a run at the WCC title.
“I like our team. We have good leadership,’’ he said. “Our senior leadership is good. We’re going to be fine. It’s exciting. This team has a chance to be really good.’’
At BYU, coach Dave Rose is big on scheduling in-state opponents during non-conference play, which makes sense. Nevertheless, some college basketball coaches shun games against local Division I opponents for fear of – horrors! – actually losing to them. Thus far, the Cougars have stepped up and defeated Utah Valley, Utah State and Weber State in advance of Saturday’s more revealing game against Utah.
“I’m hoping this is a together group,’’ Rose said. “Our ability to make big plays, the toughness and discipline are what we spent a lot of time on. I’m excited about that.’’
In Stockton, Pacific is hovering around .500 at 5-6 following an 86-72 loss at Wyoming with Saturday’s home game against UNLV upcoming. The Tigers finished 2016-17 at 11-22, so signs of improvement in coach Damon Stoudamire’s second season are there.
“I definitely want to go into the conference tournament above .500,’’ forward Jahlil Tripp said. “I have high goals for my team, once we jell. I’m hoping we can eventually make the NCAA Tournament and do well.’’
What We Learned
- At least in the early going, San Diego looks to be the most improved team in the conference. The Toreros, under third-year coach, and alum, Lamont Smith, are 7-2, the losses coming to San Diego State and UC Santa Barbara. Smith’s team is getting it done with defense and two guys named Isaiah – Pineiro and Wright. San Diego is leading the WCC in points allowed at 59.7 per game and is also first in field goal percentage defense (.373) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (.224). As for the Isaiah’s, Pineiro is averaging 15.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while Wright contributes 13.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Tip ‘o the hat to the Toreros.
- He looks like the last guy you’d point to in selecting players for a pickup game, but Saint Mary’s point guard Emmett Naar is the most efficient player in the WCC. Ask the other nine coaches in the league and you’d get nine nods of the head in the affirmative. Naar is leading the conference in minutes played per game at 37.7, scores 12.7 per game, hands out 9.1 assists and has a 4.3 assists-per-turnovers ratio.
- Is there a better teammate combo in the WCC than BYU’s Elijah Bryant and Yoeli Childs? It’s hard to argue otherwise. In an 8-2 start for the Cougars, Bryant and Childs are both averaging 16.2 points per game. Childs, who will surely contend with Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams and Naar for WCC Player of the Year, also checks in with 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game while Bryant contributes 5.8 rebounds.
Stat Line of the Week
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, when Gonzaga’s Williams is recognized as SLOTW recipient for the week. In an impressive individual showing in the Zags’ dominant 97-70 victory at Washington on Sunday, Williams had 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field, 12 rebounds (6 offensive, 6 defensive) and 4 assists.
Tweet of the Week
— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) December 10, 2017
Nice vignette of Toreros celebrating with their coach after beating New Mexico State on the road.
Quote of the Week
I don’t feel like we’ve played that well yet. We’re a little behind where I thought we’d be.’’
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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.