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West college basketball notes: WCC producing some surprises

Published February 4, 2014 8:37 pm

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On the surface, the West Coast Conference men's basketball race seems as predictable as ever. Gonzaga is way out in front again. BYU, San Francisco and Saint Mary's are near the top, but three games behind the Zags in the loss column with most teams having seven games left to play.

That's how the league's coaches predicted it would go way back in October at the WCC Tip-Off event.

In fact, the coaches were really off with their predictions on just one team: Pepperdine. The coaches picked the Waves to finish last; Coach Marty Wilson's team is currently in fifth place.

But dig a little deeper, and there have been plenty of other surprises this season, plenty of head-scratchers.

"Not just the results, but some of the scores are really intriguing," BYU coach Dave Rose said Saturday.

For instance, San Diego routed Saint Mary's 61-43 on Thursday, holding the Gaels to a season-low point total, then turned around Saturday and gave up 84 points to last-place Pacific at home in a 17-point loss.

Even Gonzaga isn't immune, although the Zags are clearly the class of the league again.

"There are a lot of [unpredictable] things going on," Rose said. "But that's what makes this sport exciting."

Lousy tipoff times

Imagine the outrage locally if a BYU-Utah or BYU-Utah State basketball game was scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m. on a weeknight.

That's what is going on in the Bay Area this week, as bitter Pac-12 rivals Stanford and California are slated to begin their long-awaited showdown Wednesday at 6 p.m. PST

As Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News pointed out Monday, that's way too early for the working class to get to the game. If you have ever driven around the Bay Area during rush hour, you know what he's talking about.

It's a shame, too, because both teams are on a roll. Cal (15-7) upset No. 1-ranked and previously undefeated Arizona on Saturday, its first win over a top-ranked team in 20 years, and Stanford (14-7) has won five of its last seven.

Of course, TV is to blame.

BYU fans can also relate. Last Saturday's 84-71 win over Saint Mary's, televised by ESPN2, tipped off at 9 p.m. MST and didn't end until 11:15 p.m. Thursday's game against Santa Clara won't begin until 9 p.m. and will be televised by ESPNU.

Differing responses

It was interesting how differently the Mountain West and West Coast conferences handled the announcements of player suspensions earlier this week.

The Mountain West issued a news release early Monday morning saying Wyoming guard Josh Adams will miss the Cowboys' game at New Mexico on Wednesday night for "striking an opponent" during Saturday's win over Utah State. Adams was issued a flagrant 2 foul and ejected for hitting USU guard Spencer Butterfield in the stomach.

Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman also issued a statement on Monday, accepting the suspension, apologizing, and noting that Adams was "disappointed in his actions" late in the game.

A flagrant 2 foul and ejection also took place in Saturday's BYU-Saint Mary's game, after SMC forward Garrett Jackson struck BYU's Eric Mika in the face with his forearm and elbow during a dead ball.

WCC basketball spokesperson Ryan McCrary acknowledged via email late Monday night after an inquiry from The Salt Lake Tribune that "since the Garrett Jackson incident was entered in the official book as fighting, he will serve a one-game NCAA-mandated suspension."

Why no official announcement?

"The WCC policy on releasing details of suspensions/reprimands is considered on a case-by-case basis," McCrary noted.

Saint Mary's basketball spokesperson Richard Kilwien said Tuesday that SMC will have no comment on the matter.

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay