Week 2 of the West Coast Conference season brings upon some intriguing matchups, highlighted by the conference’s marquee game of the year.
Saint Mary’s entered the West Coast Conference season as the defending champion but somehow is not the team to beat in the league. That honor once again belongs to Gonzaga.
Pepperdine is on the rise but can they rise to the occasion at BYU? Can USF get into the win column and beat visiting San Diego? Will Santa Clara bounce back or will LMU pull off the upset?
Here is a look at Thursday’s games:
Saint Mary’s (12-3, 1-0) at No. 9 Gonzaga (15-1, 2-0), ESPN2, ESPN Pacific Rim, 8 p.m.
This game is perennially one of the best across the nation. Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s. This is the first time in this matchup Gonzaga is coming in not as the defending WCC champion. Saint Mary’s has the depth at the guard spot. Gonzaga is deep on the post. Both teams have a player recognized as one of the best in the nation (Matthew Dellavedova and Kelly Olynyk). What this game will come down to is the Gaels’ ability to slow down the Gonzaga frontcourt. The spotlight will be on Mitchell Young. Matt Hodgson, Brad Waldow, and Beau Levesque to give Saint Mary’s a chance.
Predicted winner: Gonzaga
Pepperdine (9-6, 1-1 WCC) at Brigham Young (12-4, 2-0), BYUtv, 6 p.m.
Pepperdine showed they could hang with Gonzaga for a while but free throws killed the Waves. Keeping BYU from the free throw line will be critical for them. The Cougars shoot 72 percent from the line as a team, third in the conference, and have taken the third most. Pepperdine has taken the fewest free throws in the conference. The free throws may not matter now that Matt Carlino has come alive. He is averaging 21.5 points in the first two conference games, picking up the slack behind Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies.
Predicted winner: BYU
San Diego (8-8, 1-0) at San Francisco (7-8, 0-2), WCC Digital, 7 p.m.
Once again, San Diego faces a team that has a double-double machine. This time it is San Francisco and Cole Dickerson. The junior forward was highly productive again against BYU with 22 points and nine rebounds. San Diego did a good job making it difficult for Ryan Nicholas last week, as he went 4-for-14 from the field. On offense, the Toreros shot 40 percent from the field which will likely not be good enough to beat USF. The Dons are shooting 45 percent from the field and hit 50 percent of their shots against BYU.
Predicted winner: San Francisco
Santa Clara (12-4, 1-1) at Loyola Marymount (7-8, 0-2), WCC Digital, 7 p.m.
Santa Clara reaffirmed its place as a team that will be dangerous down the line with its close loss to then-No. 10 Gonzaga. Kevin Foster picked apart the Gonzaga man-to-man defense but struggled a bit more when they switched to a zone. LMU will have to do something similar if they hope to slow down the senior guard. But LMU has to find some points themselves. Ayodeji Egbeyemi is one of three players who average double figures for the Lions but as teams focus in on Anthony Ireland, it becomes even more important for Egbeyemi and others to step up.
Predicted winner: Santa Clara
Follow Zack Farmer on Twitter: @Zack_Farmer