Crumpacker: What We Think - 12/18/17
Recapping the penultimate week of non-conference action
By John Crumpacker #WCChoops Columnist
In what is the last week of non-conference games for WCC men’s basketball teams, the surprise is there is only one surprise, with San Diego under third-year coach Lamont Smith sitting relatively pretty at 8-3, behind the 9-2 marks of the big three, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU. The Toreros will look to close out non-conference play on Friday against Life Pacific and, ideally, take a 9-3 record into conference play.
USF, at 6-4, gives the conference five teams with winning records while Loyola Marymount is at even par, 5-5. Pacific (5-7), Portland (4-7), Santa Clara (3-7) and Pepperdine (3-8) round out the bottom of the standings.
The final week of non-conference games contains a mixed bag of significant contests and geographically diverse encounters along with a couple of local non-rivalries.
As schools approach the last week before a brief Christmas break, the best games appear to be Dayton at Saint Mary’s on Tuesday night, No. 12 Gonzaga at San Diego State on Thursday night, Pacific at No. 4 Arizona State on Friday afternoon and San Francisco vs. Nevada on Saturday night in the Las Vegas Classic.
San Diego State (7-3) should be a dandy test on the road for Gonzaga, which revels in significant non-conference challenges. The Aztecs are 7-3, having lost to a trio of Pac-12 teams in Arizona State (90-68), Washington State (93-86) and Cal (63-62).
Pacific looks to be in the deep end of the pool in its Friday game at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are 10-0 and have already dispatched two WCC teams, San Diego in an exhibition and USF by 20 earlier this month.
Two games are of local interest this week as San Jose State plays at Santa Clara on Thursday night and Cal State Fullerton and LMU tangle at Gersten Pavilion on Friday night.
Elsewhere, the week ahead is chock full of geographically odd encounters such as IUPUI (see below) at Gonzaga, Radford at USF, UNC Ashville at Saint Mary’s and Texas Southern (alma mater of former NFL great and current gap-toothed talking head Michael Strahan) at BYU. For the record, IUPUI is in Indianapolis, Radford is in Virginia (Radford, to be specific) and Texas Southern is in Houston.
What We Learned
- While some folks across the college basketball landscape might bemoan the sheer volume of graduate transfers in much the same way that one-and-dones are perceived by purists, they are two different issues entirely. Graduate transfers work to the benefit of the players and their new schools. Take Santa Clara as one example. The Broncos are not having the kind of start to the season they hoped but there is no question grad transfer Henry Caruso has been an invigorating presence. He’s a Bay Are native (Burlingame) averaging 12.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting .902 from the free throw line.
- As WCC teams head toward the end of their non-conference schedules and prepare for conference play, Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins and Portland’s Franklin Porter are engaged in a lively duel for best long-range marksman in the conference. Both are hitting exactly half of their 3-point shots. Perkins has had more chances and is at 36 of 72 while Porter is also at .500 on 18 of 36 shots.
- The WCC is rife with undiscovered gems (see below), one of whom is James Batemon of Loyola Marymount. A transfer from North Dakota State, specifically, North Dakota State College of the Sciences, Batemon is second in the WCC in scoring at 18.1 per game to go with 4.8 assists. A Milwaukee native, Batemon escaped the frigid northern Midwest and is presumably enjoying more sanguine weather in Los Angeles. His scoring average seems to like the change in climate.
Goodbye to the Commish
Lynn Holzman was named Commissioner of the West Coast Conference in June of 2014. Coincidentally (?) that was the year this byline started appearing on the WCC Sports website. With Friday’s news that Holzman will move on to the NCAA as Vice President of Women’s Basketball on Feb. 1, I would like to wish her well in her new endeavor and say that I enjoyed our interactions over the last four years as I sought to tell the many fascinating stories just waiting to be discovered throughout the conference like so many nuggets in a rich vein.
I can say without hesitation that during Commissioner Holzman’s tenure, the academic standing of the WCC remained, and remains, high. Virtually all the senior men’s and women’s basketball players I have interviewed are on course to graduate. That’s no small matter these days.
Stat Line of the Week
Despite 30 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists by Loyola Marymount’s Batemon in an 80-78 loss to Washington in Seattle, the SLOTW goes to BYU’s Elijah Bryant for his across-the-board excellence. In a 77-65 win for BYU over in-state rival Utah, Bryant had 29 points on 8 of 13 shooting (5 of 7 on 3-point shots, 8 of 8 from the free throw line), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 1 block. That’s one of the best games turned in by a WCC player this season, if not the best considering it came in a victory. It also makes Bryant this week’s WCC Player of the Week.
Quote of the Week
“I think our guys are not naïve. On any night, if we don’t prepare the right way, we can be beat. Our margin for error is small.’’
That’s San Diego’s Smith, on his team’s outlook in finishing off its non-conference schedule. Sure enough, the Toreros lost at home to North Texas 86-83 on Saturday.
Tweet of the Week
Seems like a good time to remind everyone that Elijah Bryant’s middle name is Brigham. #GoCougars
Found this gem while perusing the cyber landscape of Twitter. Remarkable. Will pursue further, as in Friday’s profile posting.
Follow the three dots...
How about that? Seven of the 10 WCC teams are averaging between 71.4 and 78.4 points per game, the outliers being Gonzaga (91.0) and Saint Mary’s (81.4) on the high end and San Diego (69.5) on the low end. … It’s all well and good scoring 69.5 points per game when you are allowing opponents 62.0 per game, the best defensive figure in the conference. … Saint Mary’s (.509) and Gonzaga (.502) are the only WCC teams shooting better than .500 from the field. … In an annual event, BYU is taking part in a Christmas party to benefit Mac’s Gift Children’s Cancer Foundation, which collects financial donations and toys for Utah families that have children dealing with cancer. … One of my favorite college acronyms is Gonzaga’s opponent on Monday evening – Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. That’s IUPUI for short, which I take delight in pronouncing “Oooey-pooey.’’ You take your amusement where you find it, my friends. … Saint Mary’s Jock Landale is humming along, leading the WCC in scoring (21.6) and rebounding (9.5). … Portland’s Philipp Hartwich continues to lead the conference with 3.0 blocked shots per game.
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.