2013-14 Conference Previews: West Coast (WCC)
Dave Rose’s Cougars notched 24 wins last season, but there was no NCAA appearance to go with it. Though 2nd leading scorer and leading rebounder Brandon Davies is now in the NBA, Rose has enough talent to challenge for the top of the WCC. Junior Tyler Haws returned from his 2-year Mormon mission to become one of the leading scorers in the country. Able to score from most spots on the court, it will be important for Haws to show some defense this season. Point guard Matt Carlino has continued to improve as the leader on both ends of the floor, though he needs to become a more consistent shooter. Sophomore guard Kyle Collinsworth is back from his mission and he should be able to provide solid defense and rebounding. 6’11 Nate Austin hasn’t played significant minutes, but he is experienced and skilled, and should fill some of the void left by Davies. Freshman center Eric Mika was one of the top of high school big men in the country and will likely be a major contributor from Day 1.
What to Watch For – There isn’t much depth on the bench, and the only player with experience is guard Anson Winder. The rest of the bench is made up of BYU newcomers, including 3 freshmen. With the WCC getting tougher, it will be important to get some of these newcomers’ time and experience as quick as possible.
Everything came together last year for Mark Few’s Zags, reaching #1 in the polls for the 1st time and getting a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, though they were knocked out in the Round of 32. Kelly Olynyk headed to the NBA after his breakout junior season and Elias Harris is now a Laker, but the Zags will still be the favorite to win the WCC. The team’s focus will shift back to the backcourt this season, led by juniors Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. Their scoring took a bit of a dip last season as Olynyk emerged, but their ability to hit from the perimeter will keep defenses on their toes. Providence transfer Gerard Coleman will provide a slasher on the wing who also rebounds well. There is depth in the backcourt with point guard David Stockton and sophomore Kyle Dranginis are both capable of extended minutes when needed. Forward Sam Dower has shown some nice scoring ability over the past few years, but not playing big minutes.
What to Watch For – 7’1, 310 pound sophomore Przemek Karnowski is a massive post presence who has some skill and is tough for anyone to stop if he gets the ball around the basket. He didn’t get many minutes last season, but is expected to contribute much more this year. The thing to watch though is how having Karnowski slows down a team that likes to get out and run when they can. It’s tough to take advantage of Karnowski’s presence and play a quick tempo.
Max Good’s Lions had an expectedly tough season with a team filled with young players, but made a surprising run to the WCC semifinals to end the their season. The offense revolves around senior point guard Anthony Ireland. At 5’10, Ireland finds ways to get shots off on the perimeter and around the basket, and I would expect the same his senior year to look much like last year. Senior Ayodeji Egbeyemi and junior Chase Flint will fill out the backcourt. Flint showed some playmaking ability in his first year with the Lions, and this allowed Ireland to play off the ball a bit more. Egbeyemi was a versatile scorer who did a good job helping the Lions on the boards. Seniors Alex Osborne and Godwin Okonji will likely start in an undersized frontcourt, and at least one of them hopefully takes on some of the scoring and rebounding Ashley Hamilton had provided.
What to Watch For – Good’s bench should be a bit better than it was last year, with a nice combination of freshmen and sophomores who have the chance to make an impact. Sophomore forward Nick Stover came on in the WCC Tournament, showing athleticism and the ability to score. 6’10 freshman Patson Siame will give some much needed size in the frontcourt if he can work his way into consistent minutes. Freshman guard Nino Jackson is a potentially high-level scorer who could get into the backcourt rotation to help Ireland out with scoring.
Legendary Pacific coach Bob Thomason ended his career in fantastic fashion, leading the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in the program’s last year in the Big West. Now, long-time assistant Ron Verlin takes over and though last year’s top 2 scorers are gone, there is an experienced group of players ready to take on the WCC. Senior forwards Khalil Kelly, Ross Rivera, and Tony Gill were all key pieces to last year’s squad. Though not a very big group, they are athletic and capable scorers and defenders. Senior guard Sama Taku will likely take over the point guard spot, but in Pacific’s offense, his main role is to just get the team into their sets quickly and get the ball moving.
What to Watch For – Pacific functions well as a team, but they are lacking strong depth and a go-to scorer, both which will be needed in the WCC. The backcourt other than Taku is Andrew Bock, who played sparingly last season, as well as junior Spencer Llewellyn. There is more talent in the frontcourt, but it is made up of freshmen. Experience will help Pacific early on in games, but they need the bench to step up as the season progresses.
The Waves showed some improvement in coach Marty Wilson’s second year at the helm, though it didn’t translate to a better WCC season. Now with a core of experienced players, the Waves will look to move towards the top half of the conference. Sophomore forward Stacy Davis was the WCC’s Newcomer of the Year winner last season and he gives the Waves a consistent, albeit inefficient, scorer and rebounder around the basket. Fellow sophomore Jett Raines showed an ability to get to the rim and finish and should snag more touches this year. UCLA transfer Brendan Lane should round out the frontcourt and hopefully brings a defensive toughness the team lacked last year. The backcourt is a little less sorted, with Jordan Baker transferring and leading scorer Lorne Jackson graduating. Sophomore guard Austin Mills should get first crack at the point guard spot after appearing in 24 games last year. At the other spot, Nicholas Skouen is the team’s best deep-threat and the team should look to get him more shots.
What to Watch For – Another WCC team, another team without a good bench. There is hope for Pepperdine’s bench, but the talent is young and needs to prove itself at the college level. Forwards Lamond Murray Jr. and David Jesperson, along with point guard Jeremy Major, all should have a serious chance at cracking the rotation early. JUCO transfer Malcolm Brooks was a strong scorer at the junior college level, and may provide some scoring pop off the bench.