A Deeper Look - West Coast Conference Hoops
by Strike Point Sports - 11/29/2006
Here's a look at the West Coast Conference, one of the true unknowns on the college basketball scene. By now you know of Gonzaga's legitimacy as a top D-I program throughout the country. This weekly following will give you a better sense of the other top teams and players hoopin' on the West Coast.
This conference's spotlight continues this year on Big Monday starting Jan. 8, 2007. Each week we'll see the ESPN network nationally televise a WCC game. This game can be seen approximately midnight EST.
WCC Weekly Review
Hot Team - Gonzaga
Before the year they were looked at as lost without their leader and top scorer, Adam Morrison. However, those who suggested that idea must not know how amazing a job head coach Mark Few does in Spokane. Gonzaga is not going anywhere, particularly because of the job Few does recruiting. Off to a 6-1 start, the Bulldogs still have several big pieces left over from last year's Elite 8 squad. Point guard Derek Raivio may look 15 years old but the kid can play. He is as good a ball handler as there is in the country, and on top of that he has a quick trigger from deep and is the team's leading scorer at 19 a game. With him in the backcourt is Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes (or P-Mac for short) as well as big men Josh Heytvelt and Sean Mallon.
Struggling Team - Pepperdine
The Waves were thought to be competitive this year in the WCC. First year Head Coach Vance Walberg took over a team that loves to push them tempo. They are scoring 80 points a game, however their defense has been suspect, allowing over 86. After giving top 25 Washington all they could handle in Seattle in the opener, though eventually falling 99-91, Pepperdine has not left the state of California during its 1-5 start.
Oddsmaker Mistake (recently) - Northern Iowa at Pepperdine (+7)
The Waves have done well this year to stay within the number they've been assigned as underdogs. In fact, Pepperdine has been underdogs in five of its first six games. However, a tough Northern Iowa team visited Malibu and oddsmakers underestimated how tough the Panthers are. NIU went on to give the Waves their worst loss of the young season, a 25-point embarrassment at home.
Hot Player - Josh Heytvelt | F, Gonzaga
The Bulldogs' top interior player has been a big reason for Gonzaga's hot start. Heytvelt is averaging 17 points and seven rebounds over the first couple weeks of the year. His top performance came in Madison Square Garden when the Zags upset then No. 1 North Carolina, thanks in large part to his 19-point, eight rebound, four-block effort.
Difference Maker - Matt Bouldin | G, Gonzaga
This freshman out of Colorado has been a pleasant surprise for the Bulldogs. His mop-top suggests an Adam Morrison wanna-be, however his game speaks more of Magic Johnson than Larry Bird. Now let's get one thing straight, he is nowhere near that type of talent, but his all-around game is refined way beyond his years. Coming off the bench this 6'5'' newcomer is averaging eight points, four rebounds and four assists a game.
Big Upcoming Game
Texas at Gonzaga (game in Phoenix, AR) Saturday 12/2 12 p.m.
Another big non-conference test for the Zags, as they get a young and talented Longhorn team. Texas starts all underclassmen, led by sophomore shooting sensation A.J. Abrams and all-world freshman Kevin Durant. Abrams is shooting an absurd 51 percent from behind three-point range while the frosh Durant is leading UT in scoring at 22 a night.
Durant will be matched up with Gonzaga's top frontcourt player Josh Heytvelt. Both big men scan stroke the three ball and finish down low. This will be the match-up to watch. Both are in their first year with big minutes, so whoever stays out of foul trouble will give his team the edge.
Line Prediction: Gonzaga -2