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West Coast Notebook

December 9, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

West Coast Conference Notebook

by Joaquin Mesa

When most people think of the West Coast Conference they think of upstart Pepperdine or the competitive Gonzaga teams of the past, but what they don’t realize is that there are three one loss teams in the conference so far. That’s more then the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West Conferences, each with two teams with one loss or less. They have three teams with at least five wins, something that the Pac-10, Conference USA, Big Ten and the Big 12 cannot claim. And they are doing it without the help of Pepperdine which has only two wins in six tries.

Who else is showing up so far? Well, look no further then Loyola Marymount. The small Jesuit school on the hills above Playa Vista in Los Angeles doesn’t get a lot of attention. A few years ago it was ranked by Playboy as having the seventh most beautiful group of undergraduate women in the country, but nobody in Los Angeles realized it because they had no idea where the school was. As far as basketball is concerned, other then Bo Kimble and a certain basketball hero/icon in Hank Gathers, the greatest thing to happen to the University is when Bill Russell and the University of San Francisco Dons came to town and promptly expelled of the Lions. In fact, the only basketball image in the newest building on campus is one of Bill Russell rejecting a ball from an unnamed Lions player.

After going 11-20 last year, and scoring some upsets that helped give hope to those in Westchester that were avid Lion fans (I have my sweatshirt), the team is looking to take advantage of the experience they now have. They have scored quality wins over CSU Northridge, UC Riverside and Cal Poly (that’s right, the team that beat Cal). Instead of losing the close games, they seem to have finally learned how to close them out. Let’s take a look at who else is making headlines in the WCC.

Gonzaga Bulldogs (6-1)

86-62 W at Washington
82-68 W at Maryland
96-91 W at George Washington

Blake Stepp only leads his team in assists, which doesn’t bode well for my pre-season choice for point on the All-American team. Come on Blake, I don’t want to look bad. Instead, the team is led by powerful forward Ronny Turiaf, another pre-season Wooden Award ‘whoops’. His 2 blocks a game and 16 points are enough to make him the early season MVP of the team. Those of you who would disagree based on the fact that he often sits out at the end of games because of foul trouble or because of his lack of consistency at the line might have a point, but I don’t want to hear it. He is simply doing more for the team then anyone else, and as soon as Stepp starts showing his worth I’ll jump right back onto his bandwagon, fair enough? All joking aside, Gonzaga has proven to its doubters after that early season loss to St. Joseph’s (PA) that it can beat big time programs, with dominant wins over Georgia, Washington and Maryland. Its nest two games are deadly, against Missouri and Stanford…good luck.

Loyola Marymount Lions (5-1)

68-67 W Cal Poly
78-61 L UNLV

The Lions had won its two games before UNLV by a point a piece. This was a sign of experience, a team that could pull these types of games out. Well, it also shows that the team wasn’t prepared for a UNLV team that had beaten two Pac-10 teams in USC and Cal. Though weathered, the Lions were not invincible. Led by seniors Keith Kincade and Sherman Gay, the Lions have established one of their best pre-season to date. Their next test comes against UCLA on Saturday, where they will be playing a team that is as good as a two point loss to Kentucky and as bad as a two point win against Vermont. It is the battle of Los Angeles, with no raging against the machine.

Portland Pilots (5-1)

86-70 W Nevada
60-53 W Portland State

The Pilots are led by two sophomore sensations in Eugene Jeter and Donald Wilson. Where are these guys from you ask? Well, Los Angeles of course. Well, technically, Jeter is from Gardena, but that is close enough to the city to consider him ours. This is why Portland is doing so well, because the Southland has inspired them. Every year, Los Angeles recruits make big news in other parts of the country. In the NBA, we have Paul Pierce, Baron Davis, Tyson Chandler, the Collins twins, Jason Kapono, Tayshaun Prince, Elden Campbell, Reggie Miller, Lucious Harris, Richard Jefferson, Brian Scalabrine, Stacey Augmon, Sean Rooks (Fontana baby!!!!), Lamond Murray, Mitchell Butler, Gilbert Arenas, Chris Anderson (the rejection machine), Andre Miller, Jeff Trepagnier, Cherokee Parks, Bryon Russell (San Bernardino baby!!!), Jamal Sampson, Mark Madsen, Casey Jacobsen, and Scott Williams. Perhaps Jeter and Wilson are next. You never know. Their next game is against Duke, so we will all see what they have got.

Santa Clara Broncos (5-2)

90-62 W Holy Names
66-64 W at San Jose State
74-56 W at Montana State

Santa Clara beat Central Michigan, which beat Notre Dame. If this was the BCS, this team might be ranked by all seven of the computers, and be challenging Florida for the top spot in the BCS Sugar Bowl. But, alas, college basketball has a system that works, and the Broncos aren’t ranked. However, they have a chance to prove themselves at Oregon on December 17th. This team is very well-rounded, with only one player getting thirty minutes, and ten players in double digit minutes. They only have one player in double digit scoring, which makes it all the more amazing that they are 5-2 overall. I don’t know how long this balanced attack is going to work. I am of the belief that a team needs at least one player to be a leader, and willing to take the big shot. I don’t know who that is on this team. Kyle Bailey might be that guy, but he is shooting himself in the foot by putting up brick after brick.

St. Mary’s Gaels (4-3)

86-39 W Norte Dame de Namur
84-83 L USC

The Gaels should have won the game against USC, but the Trojan Gods were shining on them. It would have been their second quality win, with an earlier win against UC Santa Barbara. However, 4-3 isn’t bad for a team that lost two starting guards. The two guards that took the starting roles are now two of the top six scorers, and four guards are in that group as a whole. Sophomore Daniel Kickert is leading the team with 16 points a game and 6.4 rebounds per game, and he is my early pick for conference MVP, screw Stepp.

San Francisco Dons (4-4)

84-52 L at St. Joseph’s (PA)
72-71 W at Montana

The Dons are not yet on the same page as Gonzaga, proven by their devastating loss to St. Joseph’s (PA). The good news? Well, they have beaten Big Ten’s Ohio State, and they have proven that they can win close games against Delaware and Montana. Hoopville writer Andria Wenzel has this team finishing third in the conference, and I think that once they work out a few problems, they are definitely that kind of team. The problems that are most glaring are turnovers and steals. They turned the ball over 24 times against St. Joseph’s (PA), while only taking the ball away twice. Only twice? Good lord, how come they didn’t lose by thirty? Oh, wait, they did. Even in their wins against Montana and Delaware, the Dons were minus 6 and minus 5 in turnover margin, while only stealing 6 in each game. Fix this, and this team will be a good team in the WCC.

Pepperdine Waves (2-4)

65-62 L at UC Santa Barbara
87-73 W Long Beach State

The Waves got back on the right path by beating Long Beach State on Saturday after three straight losses brought them to the brink of hopelessness. They didn’t play bad ball in any of these games, and it must have felt as if someone was working against them. Against Santa Barbara, Casey Cook hit a game winning three. This wouldn’t be so hard to come to terms with had Cook been a hot shooting point guard coming around a screen; however, he is a 6-8 forward who probably won’t be taking another three the rest of the season. Against Oklahoma, it was a free-throw that killed them with 2.5 seconds remaining. Against Cal State Fullerton, the Waves rallied to tie the game at 74-74 with 1:13 left. Then, four free-throws did them in. Perhaps the Waves should consult the Dons on how to win games in the final minute.

San Diego Toreros (1-6)

66-63 L San Diego State
82-39 L at Utah

The Toreros have been the biggest disappointment in the conference to date. They were picked to finish second by Hoopville writer Andria Wenzel, and there was no objection from any of us. Instead of living up to it, the Toreros have become the punching bag of the conference, not even putting up a good game against Coppin State or Creighton. They played San Diego State well, but Coach Brad Holland made a costly error by receiving a technical foul with 31 seconds to play, and both free-throws were made. Had he not received the violation, there could have been a chance to take a two pointer instead of a three, which the Toreros eventually missed. Brad Lechtenberg had made five three pointers in a row before missing the final shot, a shot that became the norm in the game against Utah. The Toreros shot a dismal thirty percent from the field against the Utes. They got doubled up, and it doesn’t look to be a good year for the folks down in the shopping district of San Diego. Maybe if they got a new stadium…


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