Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Around the WCC: 11/24-12/3 Edition

Sorry for the delay, but with the Old Spice Classic running through Sunday night, TKR was unable to get to its WCC weekly recap. This will be an extended version, as it will cover how all the WCC teams did from November 24-December 3.

LMU (0-7, 0-3 this week): If their start to the season is any indication, it appears that LMU has set itself up to be in the cellar of the WCC this season. It is disheartening to see this LMU team struggle so much without head coach Bill Bayno. Bayno is currently on an indefinite leave of absence, and there have been no reports about any timetable for his return. Since the last edition of Around the WCC, LMU was defeated by Wagner (72-51), Arkansas-Little Rock (67-59), and the University of Arizona (84-57). Even more frustrating for Lions fans is that Vernon Teel, who has been the best player for LMU this season, will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken foot. The one shining light for LMU has been the play of Jared Dubois. The freshman has become the main offensive threat since the injury to Teel, and he responded last week with a career high 23 points against Arkansas-Little Rock.

Schedule this week: 12/6 vs. Wyoming

Pepperdine (1-5, 0-1): Since opening the season by defeating Cal State Monterey Bay, the Pepperdine Waves have lost five consecutive games. This week saw the Waves play only one game, and they fell to Cal State Bakersfield by a 79-72 score. In defeat, Pepperdine got terrific play from the freshmen combo of Keion Bell and Lorne Jackson. Bell led the way with 23 points, while Jackson scored 17. While both committed some costly mistakes during the game, the future looks bright for both of these young men.

Schedule this week: 12/3 @ Long Beach St.; 12/7 vs. UC Irvine

Portland (4-1, 1-0): I'm really starting to believe that this Portland Pilots team can make some noise in the WCC this season. After opening the season with a surprising victory over the University of Washington, the Pilots have maintained their strong play. This week saw Portland defeat the Nevada Wolfpack 63-61. While Nevada is young and has struggled so far this season, this is still a terrific win for the Pilots. Kramer Knutson led the way with 15 points, and Portland continues to receive terrific play from JC transfer T.J. Campbell, who scored 13 points and had 6 assists in the victory.

Schedule this week: 12/3 vs Eastern Washington; 12/6 vs. Idaho

St. Mary's (5-1, 2-1): Over the Thanksgiving weekend, St. Mary's participated in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, California. Although the Gaels went 2-1 in the tournament, I would classify their performance as a huge disappointment. St. Mary's came out flat in the opening game against UTEP and fell 75-62. This was a frustrating and disappointing loss because a victory in the opening round would have setup a match up against Wake Forest. By losing in the opening round, the Gaels were forced to play in the consolation bracket, and were unable to face high level opponents like Arizona St., Baylor, and Wake Forest. Although the Gaels responded by defeating Cal State Fullerton (79-54) and Providence (81-75), this tournament will likely by considered a failure by Randy Bennett and his team.

Schedule this week: 12/4 @ Kent State

San Diego (4-3, 2-1): Like St. Mary's, San Diego will look back on their preseason tournament as a failure. The Toreros ended the Paradise Jam Tournament with a 80-45 defeat at the hands of Miami (FL). While the Hurricanes came into the season ranked, I thought that USD had the talent and experience to secure a victory. However, USD played poor basketball from start to finish in the defeat. Since the conclusion of the tournament, USD has gone 2-0. The Toreros defeated San Diego Christian (82-48) and Cal State Bakersfield (77-65). Brandon Johnson and Gyno Pomare continue to lead the way for USD, but the Toreros must take advantage of games against Oregon, San Diego St., and Mississippi St. if they want to be in at-large contention in March.

Schedule this week: 12/6 @ San Diego St.

San Francisco (5-2, 2-1): USF has proven to be one of the pleasant surprises in the WCC so far this season. This past week saw the Dons pick up impressive victories over UC Santa Barbara (73-72) and Colorado St. (65-63), while falling to USC (74-69). While the two wins were very impressive, I came away most pleased with the performance against USC. Although the Trojans have struggled to start the season, they have tons of talent and some very strong athletes. However, the Dons were up in this game with less than eight minutes remaining. Dior Lowhorn continues to prove that he is one of the top PF's in the nation, as he is averaging 20.6 points per game.

Schedule this week: 12/3 @ Cal Poly; 12/6 vs. Long Beach St.

Santa Clara (2-4, 1-2): I honestly have no read on how good this Santa Clara team can be. The Broncos have lost four games by a combined 16 points. They have been competitive against quality teams like UAB, Georgia, and Arizona, but it doesn't really matter if they keep losing to these type of opponents. They were able to end their four game losing skid by defeating the Montana Grizzlies 71-68. Perhaps all these close games can serve as a learning experience for Kerry Keating's team. With John Bryant and his 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game anchoring the paint, Santa Clara has one of the more talented big men in the entire country. I expect Santa Clara to build some momentum heading into WCC play and challenge Portland for 4th place in the conference.

Schedule this week: 12/3 @ San Jose St.; 12/6 vs Sacramento St.

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