It's Gonzaga and everyone else once again in the West Coast Conference, but the Bulldogs hope to do the league proud by again flirting with the top 10 in the national rankings. In conference play, Gonzaga is going to be challenged by BYU and Pepperdine, two programs that will be playing with a chip on their shoulders.
They are itching to play the role of spoiler, and BYU guard Kyle Collinsworth is a must-see player every time he hits the floor. Still, this is Gonzaga's world, and the likes of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis hope to use the WCC as a tune up for bigger things.
WCC Basketball Preseason Rankings
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Bulldogs continue to be the team to beat in the West Coast Conference, and they will once again be a serious contender on the national stage. In fact, this could be the year Gonzaga goes beyond just being the team that bites at the blue-bloods' heels. This could be a really special year in Spokane. Convincing Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski all to return for another year was a huge coup for Mark Few, and Wiltjer and Sabonis are two of the best forwards in the country. The question mark comes on the perimeter, but Few is excited about Josh Perkins and Silas Melson. Getting everyone on the same early will be key, but this is a team that doesn't have a lot of weaknesses.
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2. BYU Cougars
Grab a program, Cougar fans. There have been a lot of changes to the roster, and head coach Dave Rose had had to deal with transfers, LDS missions and all manner of upheaval. The good news is guard Kyle Collinsworth is back, and if he comes anywhere close to replicating the six triple-doubles he threw up last season, BYU won't take too much of a step back. Utah State transfer Kyle Davis and UNLV transfer Jamal Aytes will immediately shore up the frontcourt, and the Cougars feature better balance than they did last season. Watch guard Nick Emery, who is back from his LDS mission and ready to make his presence felt.
3. Pepperdine Waves
All five starters return for the Waves, and head coach Marty Wilson hopes to see his team continue its defensive intensity while finding a few more players who can score. Yes, Stacy Davis is a star who averaged better than 15 points and seven boards last season, but the drop-off beyond him was stark. Wilson needs guards Jeremy Major, Shawn Olden and Lamond Murray Jr. to step up, but this team still lacks size inside, which will keep it from taking the next step this season.
4. Saint Mary's Gaels
Saint Mary's won 21 games last season, but it also lost Brad Wadlow and Kerry Carter from last season's squad. A total of 80 percent of the Gaels' offensive production is no longer with the program, and that means it's a transition year for head coach Randy Bennett. That's the bad news. The good news is some of the newcomers could surprise. Boston College transfer Joe Rahon will be asked to carry the bulk of the load on offense, and he has the skills to average 20 a game if his shot is falling. Bennett also welcomes a trio of Australians to the roster, including 6-5 Tanner Krebs, who should help balance the floor on the perimeter.
5. Portland Pilots
Head coach Eric Reveno doesn't have his usual stable of quality bigs this year, and that means a lot of the load will move to the backcourt on the offensive end of the floor. Point guard Alec Wintering and guard Bryce Pressley can both put points on the board in a hurry, and few duos in the conference work together better than Wintering and Pressley. There is a bit of size in 7-foot Philipp Hartwich, and former Tulane center and JUCO transfer Ray Barreno stands 6-11, but neither player is a consistent scorer, and this team is going to have a different look than Pilot teams of the past. Whether or not that translates into wins remains to be seen.
6. Pacific Tigers
Pacific has struggled during its first two years in the WCC, and the reason has been a lack of talent. That convinced head coach Ron Verlin to hit the junior-college ranks to find some instant impact players, and he may have found a couple. Guard Maleke Haynes and forward Tonko Vuko should help boost the team inside and out, and their maturity should help guide this ballclub. Freshman Anthony Townes will help with scoring, and guard T.J. Wallace should be ready to take the next step. The Tigers won't turn it around this year, but they are on their way.
7. San Francisco Dons
The Dons went 14-18 last season, and the offseason saw a lot of coming and going. Only five players from last season remain on the roster, and only guards Tim Derksen and Devin Watson played significant roles last year. Derksen was a quality scorer who will be expected to take on more this season, and Watson will have to find consistency on the perimeter now that his freshman season is in the past. Seven newcomers, including five freshmen, dot the roster, but the most intriguing newbie is Ronnie Boyce, a 6-3 JUCO transfer who will be a slasher.
8. Santa Clara Broncos
Santa Clara boasts one of the better shooters in the WCC in Jared Brownridge, a 6-2 guard who averaged a tick short of 16 points last season. He can knock down shots from all over the floor, but the problem is he's a one-man band. The drop-off behind him is steep, and this is a team that is seriously lacking size. Head coach Kerry Keating will be expected to make some progress this year or his seat is going to get a little warm, and the team's lack of rebounding and inability to shoot the ball could make for another rough campaign.
9. San Diego Toreos
New head coach Lamont Smith isn't exactly sure what his team is going to look like this season, but he wants his Toreos to play fast and try to create havoc on every possession. Senior Jito Kok can provide a presence on the defensive end and will be expected to trigger the break at every opportunity, and look for senior Duda Sanadze to attack the basket whenever he has the ball in transition. Four freshmen should provide quickness and athleticism, but this figures to be a season of adjustment for the Toreos.
10. Loyola Marymount Lions
OK, yeah, so 2014-15 wasn't exactly great for the Lions. They won just eight games, and roster turnover this offseason has been staggering. Only one player remains from the roster head coach Mike Dunlap inherited two years ago, and all the churn should make this season another struggle. Still, the Lions are setting the foundation for the future, and forward Marin Mornar is a solid piece to set the tone. The senior can do a little bit of everything on the court, and his leadership will be critical this season.
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