The time has come.
It is time for West Coast Conference play and it should be a wild ride. Here is a look back at some of the highlights of the preseason and we’ll hand out some modified awards as well.
Conference play begins Wednesday with San Francisco at Santa Clara on ESPNU.
Best single game performance: Tyler Haws, 42 points vs. Virginia Tech
Haws scored the most points in a single game of any player in the country this year. I think you deserve to get the best performance. He went 14-for-25 from the field, 6-for-8 from three, and joined his dad, Marty, in BYU’s 40-point club. Better yet for BYU, they got the win over the Hokies.
Others considered: Cole Dickerson vs. Montana, Kelly Olynyk at Oklahoma State, Brandon Davies at Baylor
Best comeback: Saint Mary’s vs. Harvard, Dec. 31
Sure it took to the last day of 2012 to get it but the best comeback has to be Saint Mary’s vs. Harvard. The Gaels erased an 18-point deficit and even trailed by 10 with less than four minutes to go. It was a win Saint Mary’s absolutely needed and the hero was an unlikely one, Mitchell Young. What looked like Saint Mary’s most embarrassing loss turned into possibly their gutsiest win.
Best win: San Francisco vs. St. John’s
Is best win the one that means the most for your RPI? Possibly. Is it a win against the biggest name? Maybe. In this case, the biggest win was one for a team’s confidence and the impression they left on the rest of the league. USF was picked to finish seventh in the WCC and they ran St. John’s off the floor.
Others considered: Pepperdine at Hawaii, Gonzaga at Oklahoma State
Best impression left: Santa Clara at Duke
Before the Broncos went to Cameron Indoor, they had a nice record but really hadn’t made an impression enough to stick. This was their opportunity and they did not miss it. For Santa Clara to hang in the game late into the second half with the No. 1 team in the country, on the road, in a place where Duke had won 100 straight nonconference games, let everyone know Santa Clara would be a team to watch the remainder of the season.
Most surprising team: Pepperdine
Pepperdine was picked to finish last in the conference. Last. They still could but this team is starting to do some key things right. They have rebounded and played solid defense throughout the preseason. It always helps when you have most of your healthy bodies. Moriba De Freitas has been their defensive leader and this team has improved leaps and bounds over last year’s squad. Now if only they could put points on the board…
Others considered: Santa Clara, San Francisco
Most disappointing team: Loyola Marymount
This was a team that was predicted to finish fourth in the WCC and they look nothing like the team that won in Moraga and Provo a year ago. Their athleticism has been curbed, the shooting woes have become more highlighted as a result. Anthony Ireland and Ashley Hamilton have had to carry the team and if one of them is off, the Lions struggle to win.
Others considered: San Diego, Saint Mary’s
Most Improved Player: Kelly Olynyk, F, Gonzaga
The Kelly Olynyk who has played this season in no way resembles the one the WCC last saw in the 2010-11 season. He has very quickly turned into one of the more dynamic players in the conference, if not the country. His ability to shoot inside and out and create his own shot make the 7-footer an incredibly tough matchup.
Others considered: Cole Dickerson
Best Newcomer: James Walker III, G, Saint Mary’s
Saint Mary’s entered the season with their best three-point shooter hitting 37 percent of his shots. That was Stephen Holt. The Gaels now have three players shooting better than 40 percent from distance and it is led by Walker. The Citrus College transfer is shooting at a Mickey McConnell-like pace. He has hit 52 percent of his threes and has scored in double figures seven times.
Others considered: Stacy Davis, Przemek Karnowski
Player of the Preseason: Tyler Haws, G, Brigham Young
Nobody could have expected the immediate and overwhelming impact Tyler Haws has had on BYU, except for maybe those in Provo. He has been nothing but stellar since returning from mission, averaging 20.9 points, second in the WCC, and 5.1 rebounds entering conference play. His 42-point outing against Virginia Tech got the attention of the nation as he put on a performance Jimmer Fredette would be proud of.
Others considered: Elias Harris, Anthony Ireland, Kevin Foster
Most dangerous team: San Francisco
Bear with me. The Dons are a team nobody should want to play. There is talent on the roster but it has yet to figure out that whole consistency thing. When right, they can beat the likes of St. John’s or hang with Ole Miss. When wrong, they can fall to Holy Cross or Pacific. Remember this team was picked to finish seventh. De’End Parker, Cody Doolin, and Cole Dickerson are a very dangerous trio.
Others considered: Santa Clara
Follow Zack Farmer on Twitter: @Zack_Farmer