College Basketball Third State of the WCC Betting Report: Could San Diego Rise in Conference Standings?
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The West Coast Conference season is in full swing and the Gonzaga Bulldogs still sit atop the standings.
BYU, San Francisco and Saint Mary’s also all look like potential NCAA Tournament teams.
San Diego has announced its welcome, as it is sitting at 3-1 to open conference play.
Drew Timme, Chet Holmgren and the rest of the Bulldogs are the heavy favorites to win the league title, and have their next test at home against San Francisco on January 20.
This matchup will provide a better idea of where both the Bulldogs and Dons stand as we get closer and closer to March.
The Toreros have wins over Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Portland, and suffered a loss to San Francisco.
They have completed these results with Jase Townsend sidelined since the beginning of December. He is poised to make his return in the next week or so from a hand injury. This could be the jolt the Toreros needed to potentially contend with the top teams in conference.
Townsend put up 19.2 points per game during the 2020-2021 season, paired with 4.2 boards.
The 6-foot-3 guard can also splash some 3-pointers. Before his injury this season, he was hitting 46.7% of his outside shots. This was a slight improvement from years prior.
Since the Toreros struggle offensively, his addition could bolster this roster.
If Townsend were to return for a tough stretch of games — at LMU, home against Santa Clara and at Saint Mary’s — the Toreros might be able to pull off a couple upsets.
KenPom has these games at +7, +4 and +15 for San Diego, respectively. Adding in Townsend puts the team within striking distance vs. LMU and Santa Clara, and these could be solid look-ahead bets.
Getting PJ Pipes back was a much-needed add on to the Broncos’ offense. He notched 10 points in each of the two games he has played since his return. Pipes also has the ability to find the open man, averaging 3.5 assists per outing this season.
However, Santa Clara is still missing depth in the post. Jaden Bediako has been sidelined since December 4th, and his return is still in question. He averages 4.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, but the rebounding is much more crucial for the Broncos.
Santa Clara ranks 301st in offensive rebounding and 183rd in defensive rebounding. The Broncos average less than 35 boards per game as a unit, and behind Keshawn Justice, Parker Braun and Josip Vrankic (the three leading rebounders for the Broncos), they are sorely lacking depth.
Bediako’s return will surely help against the better teams in the conference. His absence hurt Santa Clara drastically in its game against Gonzaga, as it allowed 39 defensive rebounds to the Bulldogs.
Once he returns, the Broncos could surprise some fans, particularly in the WCC Tournament.
Wooden Award Update
In the last couple of WCC breakdowns, Holmgren presented the best value for the Wooden Award in the conference.
Timme is still +900 at DraftKings to take home the prestigious award, but given Holmgren’s versatility and unusual length, he could propel himself to the top of the futures boards in due time.
After all, Holmgren leads the Bulldogs in rebounding (at 8.5 per game), he can shoot from the outside (17-for-44 on the season) and he averages 3.4 blocks per game.
All of these are distinguished advantages over his teammate, Timme, who is one of the front-runners for the Wooden. Holmgren still has upside and has displayed similar numbers in conference play, so taking him until his odds reach +4000 has some value.
Conclusion for West Coast Conference
The WCC race will not necessarily be close. Gonzaga is a clear-cut frontrunner, with BYU, Saint Mary’s and San Francisco in the next tier and fighting for NCAA Tournament berths.
San Diego and Santa Clara present upside with significant contributors returning from long injury spells. Once Townsend (Toreros) and Bediako (Broncos) come back, the middle of the WCC could be a bit more congested.
If Townsend comes back in time for games against LMU, Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s, the market may not catch up to how strong of an addition he is. The Toreros could be an upset pick in any of these three games. In fact, with a recent win against LMU at home, they could easily snag that game on the road, especially with a sizable addition to their offensive attack.
Santa Clara’s addition of Bediako may not be flashy, but he will bolster the depth. This is sorely needed due to the Broncos’ shortcomings crashing the glass. His return could prop up the Broncos with the likes of the top contenders in this conference — outside of Gonzaga, of course.
For now, settle in with a Holmgren Wooden future and see how the next few weeks of conference play pans out.
Pick: Chet Holmgren +4500 to win Wooden Award
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