WEST COAST CONFERENCE NOTEBOOK
Although the WCC presents a 10-man all-conference team, a five-man all-WCC team with two guards and three frontcourt players better reflects the conference’s elite players.
There’s also little debate about WCC player of the year, which is St. Mary’s G Matthew Dellavedova. Heading into the conference tournament, he was third in the WCC in scoring, first in assists and second in assist-to-turnover ratio. You don’t have to watch the Gaels for long to realize he is the player that holds the team together and the reason they won the conference regular season title.
Joining Dellavedova in our all-WCC backcourt is Loyola Marymount’s Anthony Ireland. Gonzaga freshman Kevin Pangos is the only other guard who gets consideration, but if you take him off the team, Gonzaga is still a title contender. That’s not true of St. Mary’s and LMU. Ireland is the primary reason LMU knocked off BYU and St. Mary’s on the road this season.
Selecting a three-man frontcourt from among seven players with similar credentials is more difficult.
BYU’s Noah Hartsock, the WCC leader in scoring and blocked shots, and St. Mary’s Rob Jones, fourth in scoring and first in rebounding by a wide margin, would seem like a slam-dunk selections.
However, Hartsock has tailed off over the past several weeks, and teammate Brandon Davies has better numbers than Hartsock in nearly every category in WCC games. In fact, Davies leads was the WCC’s leading scorer and is No. 4 rebounder in regular-season conference games, which makes him a consideration.
Jones has had some great games, but he is inconsistent, especially in big games, scoring 2 and 8 points in the games against Gonzaga and collecting 4 points and 3 rebounds against Murray State.
Gonzaga’s Elias Harris came on strong at the end of the season, especially in big games, and teammate Robert Sacre is still the best center in the conference despite some poor games midway through the season.
Loyola Marymount’s Drew Viney was a driving force inside and outside in the Lions’ surprising season. He missed 10 games recovering from foot surgery but played in all 16 WCC games.
San Francisco’s Angelo Caloiaro does not have eye-popping numbers but he led his team in most categories, and is sixth in the WCC in scoring, ninth in rebounding and third in steals, as of Feb. 26.
Our three picks for the all-conference frontcourt are Jones, because his numbers are too good to ignore; Davies, because he has played so well in conference games, and Caloiaro because of his many contributions to USF’s success.
The all-WCC first team is Dellavedova and Ireland in the backcourt and Jones, Davies and Caloiaro in the frontcourt.
The second team would have Pangos and BYU’s Matt Carlino in the backcourt, with Hartsock, Harris and Viney in the frontcourt.
—St. Mary’s, which shared the WCC regular-season title with Gonzaga last season, captured its first outright conference championship since 1989, and won conference titles for consecutive years for the first time in school history. The Gaels joined a conference in 1952.
— Gonzaga finished a game behind St. Mary’s in the WCC standings, ending the Bulldogs’ run of consecutive regular-season conference titles at 11. That had been the longest active streak of consecutive conference titles in the country and was two short of the record held by UCLA (1967-1979).
However, Gonzaga’s streak of 13 straight NCAA appearances, tied for the fourth longest active streak in the nation behind Kansas, Duke and Michigan State, should reach 14 in a row.
— With the win over San Francisco, St. Mary’s has won 25 games or more for the fifth straight year. BYU captured its 24th victory by beating Portland on Feb. 25, and needs to win one game in the WCC tournament to get 25 wins for the sixth straight year. Gonzaga has 23 victories so it needs to get two wins in the conference tournament or the NCAA Tournament to reach the 25-win mark for the fifth straight season.
— Santa Clara G Kevin Foster probably would have been the WCC’s leading scorer and an all-conference selection, but he missed the final 11 games of the season after being suspended for the season for suspicion of DUI.
The Broncos finished 0-16 in WCC play, the first team since St. Mary’s in 2001 to go winless in conference play.
— It appears the WCC will get at least two teams into the NCAA Tournament – Gonzaga and St. Mary’s – and if BYU wins at least one game in the WCC tournament, the Cougars have a chance to make the field as well. If a team other than those three – such as Loyola Marymount – wins the conference tournament, it’s possible, albeit unlikely, that the WCC will get four teams into the NCAA Tournament. It has had as many as three NCAA teams only once – in 2008.
QUOTE: “We questioned ourselves. Murray State was a good game, although we lost it. We were able to find ourselves again and regroup after that loss.” – St. Mary’s F Rob Jones, after the Gaels beat San Francisco on Feb. 25 to clinch an outright WCC title. The Gaels had lost three of four games heading into the final week of the regular season to put the title in jeopardy.
—BYU’s chances of winning a conference title in its first season in WCC were probably doomed by the knee injury to F Noah Hartsock. The Cougars would have been hard-pressed to beat Gonzaga on Feb. 23 in the battle of second-place teams with a healthy Hartsock, but without Hartsock, they had little chance. Hartsock had twisted his knee in the previous game, and though he started against Gonzaga, he did not attempt a shot and had just one rebound in seven first-half minutes before sitting out the second half. Hartsock did not play in the Feb. 25 victory over Portland, but there is a pretty good chance he will play in the Cougars’ first WCC tournament game on March 3.
—It’s unclear whether BYU needs to win the WCC tournament to earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament. The players said after the less-than-impressive 76-66 victory over Portland on Feb. 25, they didn’t think the Cougars needed to win the tournament to get in. Coach Dave Rose did not say what he thought in that regard. Their best wins were against Gonzaga and Oregon, and they had a close loss (86-83) to Baylor, but none of those games was on the opponent’s home court. BYU’s RPI ranking was 48 as of Feb. 26.
—BYU’s Noah Hartsock was first in the WCC in scoring heading into the conference tournament (16.8 ppg), but in WCC games only, BYU F Brandon Davies was tops in the conference in scoring (18.0), fourth in rebounding (8.1), fourth in steals (1.8) and tied for first in blocks(1.6).
—By beating BYU 74-63 on Feb. 23, Gonzaga clinched the No. 2 seed in the WCC tournament and was the only WCC team to finish unbeaten at home in conference play. The game was a battle between two teams tied for second place with still a chance to win the conference title, but BYU was hampered by the loss of F Noah Hartsock, the WCC’s leading scorer, who played only seven minutes (and not at all in the second half) because of knee injury he sustained in the Cougars’ previous game.
—As it has in recent years, Gonzaga scheduled a home game between the end of the regular season and the first game of the WCC tournament. Because it finished with the No. 2 seed and got a bye into the March 4 semifinals, the Bulldogs would have had eight days between games. The Feb. 27 game against Longwood gave the Bulldogs a game in between and a game against an overmatched opponent for its senior night.
—Gonzaga seldom plays a zone defense, but Mark Few turned to a zone late in the game against San Diego on Feb. 25, and it paid dividends, helping the Bulldogs rally from a one-point deficit with three minutes left to win by eight.
—Gonzaga failed to win or share the regular-season conference title for the first time since 2000, when it finished a game behind Pepperdine. The Bulldogs had also won the conference title in 1998 and 1999.
—Loyola Marymount has been the WCC’s most enigmatic team in recent years. Picked to finish last in 2009-2010, the Lions finished fourth and beat No. 9 Gonzaga along the way and got to the WCC tournament semifinals.
Picked to finish second the next season with nearly everyone back, the Lions floundered badly, finishing tied for last at 2-12. Not much was expected this season, as the Lions were tabbed for a sixth-place finish. But they beat both BYU and St. Mary’s on the road to finish 11-5, the Waves best conference mark since 1990, when Bo Kimble led the Lions to NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.
—Loyola Marymount continued its inexplicable disparity between home and road results by losing to San Diego 60-57 on the Lions home court on Feb. 23 and eking out a home victory over last-place Santa Clara on Feb. 25. The Lions finished 7-1 in WCC road game, losing only to Gonzaga (the only team unbeaten in conference home games) and beating BYU by 14 points and St. Mary’s by seven in a result that was more decisive than the score suggests. But the Lions were just 4-4 at home, including an 18-point loss to BYU and the loss to San Diego, a team LMU beat by 11 on the road. The Lions almost suffered the embarrassment of being the only WCC team to lose to Santa Clara on Feb. 25, but made its free throws in the final minute to win that home game by three.
—Pepperdine was the first WCC team to wrap up its regular season, beating Santa Clara 63-57 on Feb. 23. The Waves won their final WCC game this season and their last one, but won only two in between.
—F Taylor Darby had his fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds against Santa Clara, and G Caleb Willis had 15 points, his season high against a Division I opponent. Willis had 18 points in the season-opening victory over Pomona Pitzer.
—First-year Waves coach Marty Wilson improved the team’s defensive play from last season, but the results were not better. Pepperdine went 4-12 in the WCC this season after going 5-9 in Tom Asbury’s final year last season.
—The 43 points Portland scored in the 70-43 loss to St. Mary’s on Feb. 23 was not only the Pilots’ lowest scoring output of the season, but tied for the fewest points scored by the Pilots since Eric Reveno became coach prior to the 2006-2007 season.
—Senior Eric Waterford was declared out for the season when he injured his knee in the Jan. 21 game against San Francisco. But he made it back to start and play 13 minutes in the final home game of his career on Feb. 23 against St. Mary’s.
—Senior G Nemanja Mitrovic had a satisfying game in his final home game after a terribly disappointing season. An all-conference selection last season when he was one of the nation’s top three-point shooters, Mitrovic entered his final home game averaging less than 8 points and less than 30 percent three-point shooting while being in and out of the starting lineup. But in the Feb. 23 game against St. Mary’s, he hit 3 of 4 three-point shots and finished with 14 points, three points more than his previous season high in a conference game. He had gone scoreless in his previous game.
—F Ryan Nicholas does not do anything that’s particularly impressive on the court, but he has been productive by making the simple plays consistently. He matched a career high with 19 points and established a career high with 14 rebounds in Portland’s 76-66 road loss to BYU on Feb. 25.
—San Diego rivals Loyola Marymount as the most surprising team in the WCC, and the Toreros were one of the hottest teams at the end of the regular season. The Toreros’ 60-57 road victory over Loyola Marymount on Feb. 23 was their fourth victory in the last five conference games. And San Diego gave Gonzaga a significant challenge on Feb. 25, being tied with the Bulldogs with two minutes left before losing 65-57. They finished the regular season sixth in the WCC, just a game behind San Francisco. That’s not bad for a team picked to finish last and starts three freshmen.
—G Darian Norris is the only senior on the San Diego roster, and, after leading the Toreros in nearly every statistical category, he had to adjust to coming off the bench this season with the addition of several talented freshmen guards. He came up big in the team’s final road game of the season, scoring all of his team-high 12 points in the final 10 minutes of a 60-57 victory over Loyola Marymount. He made four three-pointers.
In the final home game of his career on Feb. 25, Norris was back in the starting lineup and scored 10 points in the loss to Gonzaga.
—No San Diego player has started every game. Freshman Johnny Dee was the only player to do so until he came off the bench in the final regular-season game on Feb. 25.
—St. Mary’s celebration of a conference title following its 67-60 victory at San Francisco on Feb. 25 led to a postgame incident. USF G Rashad Green apparently thought the Gaels were too boisterous in their celebration on the court and in the locker room, and, in front of WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich and several reporters, he pounded on St. Mary’s locker room door. When it opened, he told the Gaels to quiet done. He had to be pulled away from the locker room and threw a water bottle in anger.
USF coach Rex Walters later apologized to St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett.
—Although San Francisco played well in the second half of the conference season, the regular season was a disappointment for the Dons. They returned all five starters from a team that finished 10-4 in the conference last season, just a game out of first, and they thought they had a chance to finish first this year. Instead they wound up just 8-8.
—Santa Clara enters the WCC tournament on a 17-game losing streak, five more that the previous school record for consecutive losses. As of Feb. 26 the Broncos had not won since Dec. 29, when they beat Eastern Michigan to improve their record to 8-4. The Broncos played the entire season without Marc Trasolini (knee), the team’s No. 2 scorer last season, and they played the final 11 regular-season games without G Kevin Foster, the WCC’s leading scorer a year ago who was suspended from the team after being arrested for DUI.
—C John McArthur, who had started 25 of the Broncos’ first 26 games, sat out the final two regular season games with a concussion. It’s not clear whether he will be back for the WCC tournament.
— Santa Clara became only the third team since 1972 to go through WCC play without a victory.
—-The health news was pretty good for the Gaels at the end of the regular season. Starting G Stephen Holt (knee) missed the final three regular-season games, and it was assumed he was finished for the season. But there is an outside shot he could play in the WCC tournament, and a better chance he could play in the NCAA Tournament, assuming the Gaels get there.
G Matthew Dellavedova seems to have recovered from the ankle injury he sustained in the Feb. 15 loss to Loyola Marymount, and Clint Steindl (ankle) and Mitchell Young (groin) seem to be completely recovered. Steindl played particularly well at the end of the regular season, replacing the injured Holt in the starting lineup. Young, a starter when the season began, had played very little since his early-season injuries, but he scored 10 points and played 20 minutes against Portland on Feb. 23. Young played 12 minutes in the Feb. 25 game against San Francisco, and although he had just two points, he pulled down five rebounds.
—St. Mary’s victory over San Francisco on Feb. 25 enabled the Gaels to halt the kind of late-season fade that ruined the Gaels last season. The Gaels held a two-game lead with three conference games left last season and lost three straight games, including two WCC games, to drop into a tie for the conference title and ruin its chance for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.
This season, St. Mary’s held a two-game lead with five conference games left, and dropped into a tie in the loss column with Gonzaga with two conference games still remaining.
They had lost three of four games before beating Portland decisively on Feb. 23 and winning on the road on Feb. 25 against San Francisco, which had beaten Gonzaga and lost to BYU by one in recent home games.
—F Rob Jones, who grew up in San Francisco and used to watch games at USF’s gym, had 14 points and 14 rebounds for his 18th double-double of the season against San Francisco on Feb. 25 at USF.
—The biggest surprise for St. Mary’s this season has been the play of redshirt freshman Brad Waldow. He was not expected to play a significant role this season, but his 10 points and 12 rebounds against San Francisco on Feb. 25 represented his third double-double of the season.