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The Morning Dish – Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23, 2016 The Morning Dish No Comments

Thursday was a very good night for the West Coast Conference. It came very close to being an out-of-sight awesome night, but it was still a very productive evening for the conference.

WCC teams won five of the eight games they played Thursday, despite playing just three of those contests at home. The league’s haul included two signature wins-one on the road, one at a neutral site-and the WCC collectively was a few more points in regulation from being perfect through all eight games of the day.

Perhaps most importantly, it was teams other than Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU doing some damage Thursday. While Saint Mary’s (74-47 over South Carolina State) and BYU (81-71 over Cal State Bakersfield) did their part with wins Thursday, it was teams from that remaining seven that made the biggest noise of the evening.

Santa Clara earned the biggest win of Herb Sendek’s first year there, going across country and stunning Valparaiso 87-80 in two overtimes. In a game matching the Broncos’ Jared Brownridge (30 points) against Valpo’s Alec Peters (35 points, 13 rebounds), it was Brownridge who got more from his supporting cast and SCU earned a huge road win. That’s a terrific win for the Broncos.

Not to be outdone by its Bay Area rival, San Francisco pulled off the first upset in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, outlasting Utah 89-86 for a huge win over a Pac-12 team. The Dons hit 16 of 28 from three-point range in the game-USF’s seventh game this year already with at least 11 triples. Kyle Smith has quickly gotten the Dons to play his way, and they’re one of the more pleasant surprises of the early season.

(By the way, side note: Utah falling came through no fault of Sedrick Barefield. The SMU transfer in just his second game for the Utes scored 35 points, almost single-handedly keeping his team in it down the stretch.)

San Diego also won at North Texas 69-68 as Olin Carter hit the game-winning three-pointer with seven seconds left, saving the Toreros from a loss in a game they led by 20 in the second half. USD has quietly had a respectable non-conference showing with a 7-5 mark, and as a whole the WCC is now 69-43 out of conference per CBSSports.com, good enough for 12th in the conference RPI as of Thursday night.

That non-conference record bodes well for the WCC and for teams’ power ratings and also shows that a number of league members’ recent coaching changes are already paying dividends. And the WCC’s evening would’ve been even better if Pepperdine hadn’t lost at Montana by a point (71-70) and Portland hadn’t surrendered a late lead in regulation and fallen at Cal State Fullerton 77-72 in overtime. And then there was Loyola Marymount, which trailed much of the way at home against surging Texas-Arlington but still drew close in the final seconds and missed a tying three-point attempt at the buzzer, falling 80-77.

The WCC’s renowned top three have carried the flag for several years now while the remaining schools have struggled to keep up, and Gonzaga coach Mark Few has been blunt in saying the rest of the league needs to pick up its pace for the good of the conference. That’s easier said than done, especially with the torrid pace the top three schools set, but this is a league with a ton of history and plenty of members capable of better than their recent struggles. Thursday may have been just a taste of just how good the WCC can be.

Side Dishes:

  • Marshall hit 14 three-pointers in one half Thursday night against Cincinnati-a terrific defensive team. The Bearcats weathered the storm, though, and defeated the Thundering Herd 93-91 in overtime, as Troy Caupain hit the game-winner with a second left.
  • We haven’t heard much about Arkansas this year, but the Razorbacks are now 11-1 after blowing out Southland favorite Sam Houston State 90-56. Still hard to know for sure given the schedule, but this is starting to look like a classic Mike Anderson team, with depth and multiple contributors.
  • Ohio State edged UNC Asheville 79-77, as the Buckeyes were pushed for all 40 minutes but held off the plucky Bulldogs.
  • What a game in western New York between longtime rivals Canisius and St. Bonaventure, as the Golden Griffins surprised the Bonnies 106-101 in overtime behind 27 from Phil Valenti.
  • Akron won the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, handling Maryland-Eastern Shore 76-60. The Zips are a quiet 10-3, with two of their three losses at Creighton and Gonzaga. The Sun Bowl invite is the rare four-team, two-day tourney still left that the sport could use a lot more of.
  • Other Diamond Head Classic quarterfinal results saw Tulsa dump struggling Stephen F. Austin 74-51, San Diego State ease by Southern Misssissippi 66-51 and Illinois State rip host Hawaii 71-45. The semis today will feature Tulsa against SDSU and San Francisco against ISU, two underrated matchups that are setting up for what should be a good championship game on Christmas Day.
  • The Las Vegas Classic is another of those exempted tourneys advancing four teams automatically to the semifinals, and the title game will have Wyoming against USC. The Cowboys warmed up in the second half to dump DePaul 72-58 while the Trojans remained undefeated by topping Missouri State 83-75.
  • Before the games even began yesterday, Duke made news when it announced it had suspended star guard Grayson Allen indefinitely as a result of his latest kicking incident, which drew a technical foul Wednesday night against Elon. There are all sorts of hot takes around the internet about this, but we’ll give credit to Duke for taking this action, and doing so fairly quickly. This is a case where the adults have to step in and set the example. Allen has received the benefit of the doubt from some for a time for his previous incidents, but he has lost it, and it’s time it is corrected. Hoopville’s Phil Kasiecki also had some good comments on the controversy in his piece yesterday.
  • Kansas got thinner in the frontcourt Thursday when it was announced freshman 7-footer Udoka Azubuike will miss the rest of the season with wrist injury. Azubuike was averaging five points and better than four rebounds per game and had moved into a starting role. The Jayhawks were fine Thursday in a 71-53 win over rebuilding UNLV, and the surfeit of talent there means KU will survive this better than most will, but a 13th straight Big 12 title just got tougher.
  • Northwestern State has had some miserable injury luck the last two years, and it continued as the Demons lost leading scorer Zeek Woodley to a broken wrist that will keep him out 6-to-8 weeks. Woodley has led NSU in scoring each of the past three years, and he formed a terrific backcourt with Jalan West two years ago. West suffered ACL injuries each of the last two years, though, and now this. Unfortunate for two terrific players.

Today’s Menu:

  • The schedule is light the day before Christmas Eve, but games start early with Marist at Holy Cross at noon Eastern.
  • Auburn has a chance for a name brand win when it faces Connecticut (2:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2).
  • Providence is at Boston College in a meeting of two more old Big East rivals.
  • Richmond goes to Oral Roberts as the Golden Eagles continue their brutal non-conference schedule but could also come out with another nice win from it here as the Spiders are struggling.
  • Rutgers faces Seton Hall (6:30 p.m., FS1) in what is easily, far and away, without a doubt one of the toughest games the Scarlet Knights have played so far.
  • Georgia is at Oakland, a nice home get for the Golden Grizzlies and an opportunity for a quality win for a Horizon League team.
  • Arkansas State has cooled some after its hot start but is still dangerous, but Minnesota continues to impress and can get another nice power-rating win here (7 p.m., Big Ten Network).
  • Harvard travels to Houston, an interesting non-conference trip for the Crimson (8 p.m., ESPN2).

Have a wonderful Friday and a blessed Christmas weekend.

Twitter: @HoopvilleAdam
Email: hoopvilleadam@yahoo.com

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