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College basketball: Breaking down every WCC team as conference play begins

Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss (5) holds the ball while defended by South Dakota guard Tyler Peterson (22) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Spokane, Wash., Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016.
Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss (5) holds the ball while defended by South Dakota guard Tyler Peterson (22) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Spokane, Wash., Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

Although the West Coast Conference features four new head coaches this season, things are likely to go down in similar fashion as in years past with Gonzaga and Saint Mary's entering conference play as clear and overwhelming favorites.

The Bulldogs feature a spotless 12-0 record and enough size inside to likely overwhelm conference foes. Saint Mary's brings big man Jock Landale as its centerpiece and is considered by most as the likely second-place finisher.

The third spot is likely to be owned by either BYU or San Francisco, with the rest of the conference looking for improvements.

Four teams will be directed by first-year coaches, hoping to make improvements and a rise from relative obscurity. While improvements could be made, rising to unseat Gonzaga, or even Saint Mary's, from the top two should prove difficult for the coming 2016-17 season.


BYU

Record: 9-4

Statistical leaders: Eric Mika (20.5 ppg); Mika (8.8 rpg); L.J. Rose (5.5 apg)

Best win: vs. Colorado (79-71)

Worst loss: vs. Utah Valley (114-101)

Fast fact: The Cougars have finished in the top three of the WCC regular-season standings in every season since joining the conference for the 2011-12 season.


Gonzaga

Record: 12-0

Statistical leaders: Nigel Williams-Goss (14.0 ppg); Przemek Karnowski (6.3 rpg); Williams-Goss (4.8 apg)

Best win: vs. No. 16 Arizona (69-62)

Worst loss: None

Fast fact: Gonzaga has put together many stellar seasons, but has never started a season with 12 straight wins. The Bulldogs feature balanced scoring this season with six players averaging 9-14 points per game.


Loyola Marymount

Record: 7-4

Statistical leaders: Brandon Brown (15.4 ppg); Stefan Jovanovic (5.5 rpg); Brown (5.3 apg)

Best win: vs. Colorado State (69-66)

Worst loss: vs. Boise State (80-79)

Fast fact: Brandon Brown stands at only 5-foot-11, but has risen quickly to a team-leader role, leading the team in scoring and assists.


Pacific

Record: 6-7

Statistical leaders: Ray Bowles (14.1 ppg); Anthony Townes (6.7 rpg); T.J. Wallace (3.3 apg)

Best win: vs. Wyoming (73-65)

Worst loss: vs. Rider (73-66)

Fast fact: Pacific is hoping to make waves after hiring longtime NBA player Damon Stoudamire as head coach.


Pepperdine

Record: 4-8

Statistical leaders: Lamond Murray Jr. (19.3 ppg); Chris Reyes (8.1 rpg); Amadi Udenyi (5.3 apg)

Best win: vs. Cal Poly (77-68)

Worst loss: vs. Portland State (91-85)

Fast fact: The Waves enter WCC play having lost seven straight games, although the last four losses have come on the road.


Portland

Record: 7-5

Statistical leaders: Alec Wintering (21.5 ppg); Gabe Taylor (7.0 rpg); Wintering (6.1 apg)

Best win: at San Jose State (79-66)

Worst loss: Cal State Fullerton (77-72 OT)

Fast fact: The Pilots, like Pacific, are looking for a boost in play after hiring a former NBA player as head coach. Portland has Terry Porter now directing the program and working toward improvements.


Saint Mary's

Record: 10-1

Statistical leaders: Jock Landale (17.9 ppg); Landale (9.5 rpg); Joe Rahon (6.3 apg)

Best win: at Stanford (66-51)

Worst loss: UT-Arlington (65-51)

Fast fact: Saint Mary's is considered by most the second-best program entering the season. Big man Jock Landale paces the Gaels — complemented by a solid and experienced guard line.


San Diego

Record: 7-5

Statistical leaders: Brett Bailey (18.6 ppg); Bailey (7.2 rpg); Bailey (2.4 apg)

Best win: vs. Cal State Fullerton (82-75)

Worst loss: vs. Samford (83-65)

Fast fact: The Toreros feature 6-foot-6 swingman Brett Bailey and will feature a largely undersized roster in hopes of improving on last year's disappointing performance.


San Francisco

Record: 10-3

Statistical leaders: Ronnie Boyce (15.8); Nate Renfro (5.6 rpg); Frankie Ferrari (2.8 apg)

Best win: vs. Utah (89-86)

Worst loss: vs. Portland State (82-78)

Fast fact: The Dons enter WCC play looking much improved under the direction of first-year coach Kyle Smith.


Santa Clara

Record: 6-7

Statistical leaders: Jared Brownridge (19.2 ppg); Nate Kratch (6.0 rpg); Matt Hauser (5.6 apg)

Best win: at Valparaiso (87-80 2OT)

Worst loss: vs. UC Davis (63-58)

Fast fact: Brownridge is one of the most exciting players in the league and should be able to cause a lot of headaches for opponents. The Broncos are headed by first-year coach Herb Sendek.