WHAT WE'VE LEARNED - WCC BASKETBALL - NON-CONFERENCE WEEK FIVE
As non-conference play enters its final week-and-change before the start of the WCC season on Dec. 27, a few things are starting to sort themselves out. What We Learned is that the Haves of the conference are starting to separate themselves from the plucky Have-Nots.
- Mighty GONZAGA raised its national profile by one rung in climbing up to a No. 8 national ranking on the strength of a 9-1 record. Its only loss was at Arizona in overtime, followed by wins over Washington State and UCLA. That confirms what we postulated a week ago, that Gonzaga would comport itself quite well in the Pac-12.
- After tough overtime losses to No. 19 San Diego State and Purdue and a four-point defeat by No. 14 Utah, it’s time for BYU to step up, starting Saturday at home against Stanford. The Cougars are 8-3 and generally regarded as the second-best team in the WCC. Let’s see if that argument holds up against a Cardinal team that made a little noise in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
- SAINT MARY’s built its 6-1 record primarily on an opening stretch of six games in Moraga, although one of those was a loss to Boise State. However, in its first road game of the season, the Gaels scored an impressive victory at Creighton. Now comes another test for coach Randy Bennett’s team, at No. 20 St. John’s on Friday in New York – Queens, to be precise. Let’s see if Moraga’s Saint is better than New York’s St.
- Also playing in New York, against the Spiders of Richmond (BTW, the only arachnid mascot in Division I) on Saturday, is PEPPERDINE. These Waves are lapping very quietly against the Pacific shore thus far. Coach Marty Wilson’s team is 6-2, with the losses both coming on the road to respectable opponents – at Iowa and at Arizona State. After Richmond, Pepperdine has one more non-conference game, against that collection of Scrabble letters that is IUPUI and spells out Indiana University/Purdue University-Indianapolis, otherwise known as Oooey-Pooey.
Thanks to Saint Mary’s long, long, long pipeline to the Land of Oz, as in Australia, it is possible to come up with an All-Aussie Team for the WCC. While the Gaels have three Australian players on their roster, there are only four of their countrymen scattered about the conference’s other nine teams.
Still, with seven players, that’s enough to trot out a starting five along with two off the bench. Here ‘tis:
Emmett Naar, point guard, Saint Mary’s. The 6-foot-1 freshman is a big contributor with 8.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, the latter figure No. 2 in the conference.
David Humphries, guard, Loyola Marymount. The 6-4 junior averages 20.6 minutes per game and contributes 4.9 points and 3.9 rebounds when he’s on the court.
Kai Healy, G-F, Santa Clara. Pressed into action because of injuries, the 6-5 freshman is still finding his way with averages of 3.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
Dane Pineau, forward, Saint Mary’s. A 6-9 sophomore, he’s averaging 5.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Jock Landale, center, Saint Mary’s. On the theory that a team needs a center, the 6-11 freshman is the choice … the only choice because of his height. He’ll look to get out of the 0’s as the season progresses but for now his numbers are 0.6 points and 0.4 rebounds a game.
Off the bench, it’s 6-7 forward Joshua Spiers of Loyola Marymount and 6-3 Marley Biyendolo of Pepperdine, both freshmen.
More on Healy
As it turns out, there’s more to Santa Clara’s Healy than meets the eye … or ear.
He’s actually a dual citizen, born in Indiana (as were his parents) but raised in Sydney. The Healy family relocated to Australia in 2000 because of his father Mike’s work with a pharmaceutical company. When the company wanted Healy to return to the U.S. a few years later, he balked and chose to raise his family in Australia.
(Having been to the Land Down Under twice, I can’t say I blame him.)
Kai Healy was born Michael Donald Healy IV but has been known as Kai all his life, as much to differentiate himself from his father as anything else.
Healy was supposed to redshirt in 2014-15 but with a season-ending injury to forward Yannick Atanga, coach Kerry Keating needed a warm body. Healy was next man up. In Santa Clara’s 76-67 win over Washington State on Saturday night Healy had 10 points in 15 minutes.
“It was pretty crazy,’’ Healy said. “It was two days before the Michigan State game the coach told me (I’d be playing). Coach was backing me, telling me to be confident out there, do the little things. It’s been fun.’’
Keating said, “He’s getting there. I think he’s going to be very good for us as he continues to figure out his place. For now, he’s a big guard for us. We’re playing him as the fourth guard. He’s a great kid, very unselfish, will do anything you ask him.’’
In listening to Healy, he has an Aussie accent that seems to be losing its “shrimp on the barbie’’ edge, a fact that worries him the more time he spends in the U.S. He said he lays it on thick in certain situations – i.e., chatting up young women at parties.
The giving season
USF’s Memorial Gym may not be considered “venerable’’ for much longer. Alumnus Tom Molloy (’61) and his wife Sharon recently pledged a gift of $5 million to the university, earmarked for capital improvements for basketball and baseball facilities. It’s the largest donation ever to USF’s athletic department.
“I’m very proud to be a USF alumnus,’’ Molloy said in a statement. “Sharon and I are extremely pleased to support an effort that we know will change the lives of students for generations to come.’’
The donation will allow for improvements to the school’s basketball center and Memorial Gym as well as its baseball facilities. Molloy’s son Kevin (’85) and granddaughter Brenna (’13) are also USF alums.
Stat line of the week
In a 78-68 victory over South Alabama, Pepperdine’s Stacy Davis turned in a double-double, hitting 7 of 14 shots from the field and 6 of 9 from the free throw line for 20 points while snatching 10 rebounds. He also had 4 assists and 2 blocked shots.
Quote of the week
“Sometimes he gets out of his mind a little bit – not in a bad way.’’ That’s Pacific forward Gabriel Aguirre talking about his feisty point guard and former City College of San Francisco teammate Dulani Robinson.
Tweet of the Week
Jim Meehan @SRJimm
Triano on hitting 10th 3, free grub for fans: "Yeah, we were talking about it on the bench. Brian (Michaelson) was calling me 'Taco Triano."
Yes, life is good in Spokane these days.
Next favorite Tweet of the Week
USF Dons Athletics @DonsAthletics
MBB | Never know what you'll see on the Hilltop. #USFDons legends Bill Cartwright and Jim Brovelli
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.