Will anything ever change?
Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s face off on Thursday with, once again, first place in the West Coast Conference on the line. The Bulldogs took the first matchup but nearly let a 20-point lead get completely erased by the charging Gaels.
Speaking of charging, USF has won four of its last six games and the remaining bits of its schedule could actually land them at 8-8.
San Diego and Santa Clara are still fighting for the fourth slot and it seems neither team has been able to gain any significant ground. Thursday’s game could clear some of that up… or make it more complicated.
Then there is the battle for LA. Pepperdine and LMU meet for the second time and the Waves are going for the sweep. If Anthony Ireland could get any help, the Lions could avoid it.
No. 3 Gonzaga (23-2, 10-0) at Saint Mary’s (21-4, 10-1), 8 p.m., ESPN2
After all of the talk about other teams in the WCC, we are right back where we always end up. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s with the WCC title on the line. Both teams are among the most efficient offensive teams in the country. Both have elite level players (Kelly Olynyk, Matthew Dellavedova). Both had major flaws in the last matchup. Saint Mary’s fell behind by 20. Gonzaga was outrebounded and allowed the Gaels to get back within three. The difference in the last game was the Kevin Pangos-Dellavedova matchup. Pangos had 22 points and Dellavedova had 14 on 4-for-15 shooting. Expect Dellavedova’s numbers to be better.
Predicted winner: Saint Mary’s
Loyola Marymount (8-16, 1-10) at Pepperdine (11-13, 3-8), WCC Digital, 7 p.m.
Pepperdine is starting to get more consistent contributions from people not named Lorne Jackson, Stacy Davis, or Jordan Baker. Nikolas Skouen is averaging 13.3 points in his last four games and shooting 54 percent from the field and 56 percent from three. Anthony Ireland remains on an island for LMU. He Lions’ second leading scorer Ashley Hamilton is averaging 8.6 points on 31 percent from the field in his last six games.
Predicted winner: Pepperdine
Portland (9-17, 2-9) at San Francisco (11-13, 4-7), WCC Digital, 7 p.m.
The last time these two met it took a Cole Dickerson three at the buzzer for the Dons to get the win. Since that time both teams are playing better. Portland has picked up another win and USF just knocked off BYU in Provo. The Portland guards (Tanner Riley, Bryce Pressley, etc.) have started to show some life and have given that offense a boost. It has also opened the middle for Ryan Nicholas. The Dons have gotten a boost of their own with De’End Parker (13.4 points per game in last five games) and Avry Holmes (11.7 points per game in last six games).
Predicted winner: USF
San Diego (13-13, 6-5) at Santa Clara (17-8, 5-5), WCC Digital, 7 p.m.
Santa Clara’s record may not be completely indicative of their play. All but one of the Broncos’ losses (LMU) comes to a team outside of the top three. Essentially, they have beaten who they should and haven’t made a mark against a top tier team. San Diego’s mark is similar except they have a win against BYU. Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson are playing well right now and it helps the Toreros to have a defensive anchor like Jito Kok in the middle. Santa Clara’s defense needs to appear. They have allowed teams to shoot 46 percent from the field, second worst in the league.
Predicted winner: San Diego