West Coast Conference

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WCC releases revised bracket for 2016 conference tournament

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With the Pacific men’s basketball program not eligible to compete in this year’s WCC tournament after the school self-imposed a postseason ban as a result of an ongoing NCAA investigation, the conference had to make a quick revision to its bracket for the event.

Friday the WCC released the updated bracket, with the first round scheduled for Friday, March 4 now consisting of just one game. The eight and nine-seeds will play that night, with the winner advancing to take on the top seed in Saturday’s quarterfinal round. All four quarterfinals will be played Saturday, March 5, with the semifinals scheduled for Monday, March 7 and the title game Tuesday, March 8.

All games will be played at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, which has hosted the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments every year since 2009.

Pacific self-imposes postseason ban in response to NCAA investigation

Ron Verlin
Associated Press
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The West Coast Conference tournament in March will be a nine-team affair, as the University of the Pacific announced Thursday that it was self-imposing a postseason ban for this season. This is one of the penalties the school handed down to its men’s basketball program in response to an ongoing NCAA investigation into academic misconduct.

The Tigers are currently playing without head coach Ron Verlin and assistant Dwight Young, as both were suspended by the school December 11. The school did not announce the length of the suspensions, so it remains to be seen when the coaches will return to their respective positions.

Pacific also announced that the program will lose a total of six scholarships over the next three years, and there will be limitations on recruiting as well.

“This is a difficult decision to make, but it seems clear that Level I violations have occurred, and thus immediate actions by the university are warranted,” Pacific Athletic Director Ted Leland said in the release. “Taking these actions at this stage demonstrates our steadfast commitment to integrity and fair play, and serves as a crucial step for moving the program forward.”

The WCC has yet to put together a bracket for the 2016 conference tournament. Last season seeds seven through ten played in the first round of the tournament, with the winners advancing into the quarterfinals to take on the top two seeds (1 vs. 8/9 winner; 2 vs. 7/10 winner). With that being the case, it would be easiest for there to be just one first round game (8-seed vs. 9-seed) with the winner taking on the top seed in the quarters.

 

VIDEO: Pepperdine rewards Jake Johnson with a scholarship

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The walk-on experience isn’t an easy one as those players do everything their teammates on scholarship do, with little more than a few minutes towards the end of blowouts serving as a reward. But every year many continue to work as hard as they can, pushing their teammates to succeed with the hope of at some point earning a scholarship themselves.

For Pepperdine senior forward Jake Johnson, that goal became a reality on Wednesday. Head coach Marty Wilson announced to the team that Johnson would be placed on scholarship, with Johnson’s teammates mobbing him shortly thereafter. Walk-ons may not see the court much in games, but the work they do in practices to help prepare for games is invaluable.

Above is video of Wilson informing the team at practice that Johnson would be on scholarship for the remainder of the season. Johnson’s played a total of 14 minutes in two games this season, averaging two points and one rebound per game.

h/t Bleacher Report

West Coast Conference reprimands BYU’s Nick Emery

Associated Press
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Less than 24 hours after BYU guard Nick Emery was ejected from the Cougars’ 83-75 loss to rival Utah for striking Brandon Taylor underneath the basket, the West Coast Conference issued a public reprimand.

With Emery’s ejection, which was for a flagrant 2 “fighting” foul, comes a mandatory one-game suspension meaning that he will miss the Cougars’ game against Weber State this weekend. The WCC did not announce any further punishment for Emery, which means that he will only miss the one game.

Emery apologized to Taylor, the Utah program and both fan bases for his actions in the press release.

“I apologize to Brandon Taylor for the incident that happened in the game last night,” Emery said. “He’s a great competitor and I got caught up in the intensity of the game and let my emotions get the best of me. I also want to apologize to Coach Krystkowiak, his team, the fans of both schools, and my teammates and coaches.

“I regret what happened and will definitely learn from this experience. I’ll continue to play with passion to help our team but will do better in representing myself, the team and BYU.”

With Emery out of the rotation BYU will have a spot in its starting lineup to fill, with sophomore guard Jake Toolson being the most likely option. Toolson scored six points Wednesday night, shooting 3-for-5 from the field in 24 minutes of action.

VIDEO: BYU’s Nick Emery ejected after striking Utah’s Brandon Taylor

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Rivalry games can get a bit heated at times, with the dislike amping up the intensity between the two teams. But what occurred during the second half of Utah’s 83-75 win over in-state rival BYU went beyond that, as can be seen in the video clip above.

BYU guard Nick Emery would be ejected from the game after he hit Utah’s Brandon Taylor underneath the BYU basket. Following the game BYU head coach Dave Rose said that Emery told him that he was hit with a forearm by Taylor before retaliating.

With that Rose asked the officials to review the entire sequence, and after doing so they ruled that Taylor had done nothing wrong. Now the question is if Emery will miss more time, and just how long will he be sidelined for if the powers that be decide to suspend him. The Cougars return to action Friday when they host another in-state foe in Weber State.

Video credit: ESPN

 

Guard situation unsettled at No. 9 Gonzaga, front court set

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) No. 9 Gonzaga will enter the season set just about everywhere except at guard, a position of stability for years that now raises questions.

Not that coach Mark Few is without potential answers.

Four-year starting guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. graduated along with senior transfer Byron Wesley, leaving the Zags looking for the right back court combination among a host of talented options as they seek another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Freshman Josh Perkins, who is a candidate to replace Pangos at point guard, said practices have been intense as he battles with fellow guards Kyle Dranginis, Eric McClellan and Silas Melson to catch the eye of coaches.

“We are all playing for minutes,” Perkins said. “We’re going to push each other.”

Gonzaga’s situation is settled elsewhere. The Zags return the talented front court of Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski to a team that reached the Elite Eight last season, though Few said “this team is a little void of leaders.”

“This is very much a team that will hopefully be on a growth trend all year,” Few said. “We are trying to hit the Zags standard.”

Much of Gonzaga’s success will depend on the three big men, who are all considered pro prospects.

The 6-foot-10 Wiltjer led the Zags in scoring with 16.8 points per game last season and added 6.2 rebounds.

“Kyle is as skilled a player as there is in college basketball,” Few said. “As skilled as I’ve ever coached.”

Sabonis, the 6-11 son of former NBA center Arvydas Sabonis, averaged 9.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a freshman off the bench.

“With Domas, you get the heart of a lion,” Few said. “The guy is so physical, tough and aggressive and yet has a good feel for the game.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and blocked 39 shots.

“Shem is the unsung hero in all this and a guy I think will be a solid NBA guy for years,” Few said. “An excellent passer, great footwork and a high-level defender.”

The Zags went 35-3 last season, losing to eventual national champion Duke in the Elite Eight. They were 17-1 in the West Coast Conference, losing only at home to BYU.

WCC coaches have picked the Zags to win their fourth straight league title and 15th in the past 16 years. They have played in 17 straight NCAA tournaments, one of the longest streaks in the nation.

Things to watch at Gonzaga this season:

THE SCHEDULE: Gonzaga plays its typical killer nonconference schedule, designed to make up for playing in the modest WCC. This year they open against Pittsburgh in Okinawa, Japan, play Washington in the Bahamas, host No. 12 Arizona and UCLA in Spokane, play Tennessee in Seattle and SMU in Dallas.

THE GREAT KARNOWSKI: Karnowski, who goes by Shem, is on the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year watch list. The native of Poland clogs up the middle with his bulky frame and shot .622 from the field last year. Karnowski played with the Polish national team in the European Championships.

WILTJER DOESN’T WILT: Forward Kyle Wiltjer was named the CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year. Last season he led the team with 16.8 points per game and shot a team-best .466 from behind the arc while making 68 3-pointers. Wiltjer played two years at Kentucky, where he won a national title. Last year was his first with the Zags, and he was named an AP Third-Team All-American.

RELOADING: The cupboard is never bare at Gonzaga. This year they have three transfers sitting out who become eligible next season. They include Nigel Williams-Goss, who led Washington in scoring last season, plus Johnathan Williams from Missouri and Jeremy Jones from Rice.