COMMENTARY — With the BYU Cougars beginning West Coast Conference play tonight against Loyola Marymount, it is the perfect time to educate ourselves on the WCC in 2012-2013.
Fans of other schools in the state of Utah are foolish enough to think BYU took a step down when it joined the West Coast Conference after having been in the Mountain West. I contend the WCC is better than the old MWC, much better than the current MWC and the WAC and (at least at the top) better than the Pac-12. Here is some evidence:
Gonzaga – The Bulldogs are 13-1 and ranked No. 10 in the country. They regularly schedule the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation and have beaten some impressive foes this year, including West Virginia (formerly Big East, now Big 12), Clemson (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 12), Kansas State (Big 12), Baylor (Big 12) and most recently, a 1-point win at a Top 25-ranked Oklahoma State. Gonzaga has one of the most dynamic guards in the country in Kevin Pangos (13 points, four assists and two steals a game, plus 43 percent 3-point shooting) and a pair of NBA quality post players in 7-footer Kelly Olynyk and 6-foot-8 Elias Harris. The Zags are a perennial NCAA Tournament team and are a lock to make it this year. Oh, and did I mention Gonzaga finished SECOND in the conference last year?
St. Mary’s – The Gaels already have impressive wins at Utah State and over a good Harvard team and feature phenomenal guard Matthew Dellavedova, the Australian-born sharpshooter who is averaging 17.4 points and 6.6 assists a game. St. Mary’s went 14-2 in conference last year.
Loyola Marymount – The Lions were snubbed by the NCAA Tourney committee, but still made the postseason last year (the CIT) and had a good late-season run, including a win over St. Mary’s. They have one of the NCAA’s top scorers in guard Anthony Ireland, whose numbers are eye-popping (21.3, ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.3 apg). LMU is 7-6 so far this season.
San Francisco – The Dons are another 20-game winner from a year ago and shoot 40 percent as a team from beyond the arc.
San Diego, Pepperdine, Portland and Santa Clara – Even the bottom half of the conference feasts pretty well on other conferences and is very capable. For example, Santa Clara finished dead last in the WCC last year, but the Broncos have already compiled a 12-3 record this season. The three losses include two overtime nail-biters and a 13-point defeat inside Cameron Indoor Stadium against No. 1-ranked Duke.
So fans of other teams can try and tout the merits of Louisiana Tech or Washington State, but BYU is in a perfect conference for the sport of basketball and a first or second-place showing in the WCC is a guaranteed tourney bid, even a high seed.
When the Cougars tip off tonight (7 p.m. on BYUtv) against Loyola Marymount, they have a chance to make this the first step in a special trek to the NCAA Tournament. But considering the strength of the West Coast Conference, it’s not going to be easy.
By the way, we went up to the BYU-Virginia Tech game at the Energy Solutions Arena and were disappointed with two things. First, the crowd was lousy. Supposedly there were 15,684 people there, but I would guess it was more like 10,000, which the ESA swallowed up easily.
Also, Virginia Tech was supposed to be a decent team with a bona fide star in Erick Green. Well, Green was lousy (12 points on 4 of 17 shooting) and the Hokies were worse, falling down 9-0 to start the game and 56-31 by halftime. It was never close and ended up 97-71.
Tyler Haws did not disappoint as he had 32 at halftime and 42 in the game. But the Techsters, who had beaten some good teams (Oklahoma State and Iowa) in compiling a 9-3 record going into the game, never had a chance. Unless they learn how to play defense soon, they are going to really struggle in the ACC.
BYU also plays Saturday at San Francisco (8 p.m. on BYUtv). The Dons are 7-7 and 0-1 in conference.
Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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