College Basketball State of the WCC Betting Preview: Dark Horse Team & Latest Injuries
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Herb Sendek (Santa Clara)
The West Coast Conference sits in a similar position to the first State of the WCC article, with four or potentially five teams willing to make a run to the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren maintained solid value as a possible Wooden Award Candidate at +6000. Much of this value has been depleted, though, as he sits around +2000 now at DraftKings, for example.
As conference play takes place across the next few months, Gonzaga looks poised to take the crown and be the heavy favorite in the WCC Tournament.
BYU, Saint Mary’s and San Francisco look to follow suit. Santa Clara is one team not much discussed in regards to the rest of the contenders, but it could cause some damage with how efficiently it matches up with opponents.
One significant nugget of WCC information is the COVID-19 pause affecting at least three programs: San Diego, Pepperdine and Santa Clara.
3 WCC teams on COVID pause so far and have this weekend’s games postponed — San Diego, Pepperdine, and Santa Clara. BYU’s game at Portland this Saturday still on for now.
— Robby McCombs (@rtmccombs) December 28, 2021
With the fluidity of the pandemic and the rise of COVID-19 cases across the country at the moment, this could be a trend to be cognizant of as the season progresses.
As one of the teams currently on pause, the Broncos look to open their WCC season on January 6 against Saint Mary’s.
Santa Clara's first two WCC games postponed
📰 – https://t.co/uAcFCuNhYW#StampedeAheadpic.twitter.com/cpeQ9QmrkV
— Santa Clara Men's Basketball (@SantaClaraHoops) December 28, 2021
Regarding actual basketball, Santa Clara currently ranks 78th, according to KenPom, with much of its production coming from its offense.
The Broncos love to shoot. They average only 15.8 seconds per possession, hit 37.6% from 3-point range and drill 54.5% from inside the arc. There’s a reason their KenPom Effective Field Goal Percentage ranks 21st at 55.2%.
However, they do not shoot much from downtown. In fact, only 28.5% of their scoring distribution has come from outside the 3-point line.
This does not mean they do not have multiple outside threats, though. Keshawn Justice is their predominant 3-point shooter, hitting over 43% of his shots. Jalen Williams and Giordan Williams both shoot around 38%, as well.
The Broncos’ most significant weakness is rebounding. Regardless of their quick pace, this team only averages 34.3 boards per game. They only snag 23.7% of offensive rebounding chances and 29.5% of rebounds on the defensive end.
Justice and forward Parker Braun are Santa Clara’s best opportunity to contend with the likes of Gonzaga’s Drew Timme. They average a combined 14.3 boards per game, which is almost 42% of the team’s rebounding production.
In order to be far more effective on the glass, Josip Vrankic and Jaden Bediako may need increased production.
Here is a clip of Justice’s ability to attack. His inside presence is able to keep the Broncos in many of their games:
Oh, my! Keshawn Justice 😳@SantaClaraHoopspic.twitter.com/Zzi5G1yFja
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 13, 2021
P.J. Pipes has missed two games in a row — due to undisclosed reasons — so hopefully his return is eminent. He is one of the team’s best distributors, averaging 4.0 assists per game, as well as 10.5 points.
Without one of their quarterbacks, the Broncos may struggle a bit versus stronger inter-conference competition.
Teams With Injuries
Currently, the Brigham Young Cougars look to slot in right behind the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the league standings, but they will need a few bodies to return to the lineup soon.
Otherwise, the depth on this roster is lacking, and they could drop a couple of early games in conference play. They open at home against Pacific, but quickly play both Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga shortly thereafter.
Losing Gavin Baxter to a knee injury for the season definitely does not help this team. Baxter averaged 7.6 points and 3.0 rebounds per game before his extended absence. This limits BYU’s size on the interior.
Baxter’s absence did not seem to impact BYU in its losses to Utah Valley, Vanderbilt and Creighton, but it could against its fellow WCC foes.
Other than that, Spencer Johnson and Seneca Knight are both questionable for their first game of the new year due to illnesses. Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for the both of them as they head into consistent WCC play.
San Diego is one team that could potentially benefit from its pause.
At the moment, Jase Townsend and Joey Calcaterra are injured. Townsend should return sometime in January after recovering from a broken hand, while Calcaterra is out indefinitely with a severe ankle sprain.
These two account for over 20 points, six rebounds and three assists per game while providing artillery from beyond the arc.
Once these two are back from injuries, it could allow the Toreros ample weapons to propel themselves up the standings — instead of relying heavily on Marcellus Earlington.
Marcellus Earlington is having a career high in MPG (27), PPG (13.6), RPG (6.3), FG% (46%), and 3PT% (43.4%). Excited to see his production during conference play. @firstname.lastname@example.org/GWM8CyoKMP
— José Martínez (@coachMartinezJ) January 3, 2022
State of the WCC Wrap Up
With part of the season on hold for a few of these teams, the WCC stands at a similar spot it did a few weeks ago.
Gonzaga is still a clear favorite, but the conference is as strong as ever with a possible four NCAA Tournament bids.
Santa Clara remains a dark horse, if it can manage to figure out its rebounding woes. If BYU and San Diego return to full health, they will be tough opponents to deal with.
The most exciting part of the season is soon to come, as WCC play will sort out the true contenders from the rest of the conference.
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