Based on what’s happened so far, this might be the best basketball season ever for the West Coast Conference.
Here we are, in early January, and four WCC teams — Gonzaga, BYU, Saint Mary’s and San Francisco — are projected to make the NCAA Tournament in March.
That would be a historic feat because the WCC has never had four teams in the Big Dance.
Gonzaga, which played in the NCAA championship game last season, BYU, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and Santa Clara have combined to win 81% of their nonconference games.
The WCC has earned multiple wins over teams from conference that will likely receive multiple NCAA Tournament bids — Pac-12 (6), Mountain West (9), Big 12 (3), AAC (2) and ACC (1).
Every metric utilized by the NCAA Tournament selection committee ranks the top four WCC teams similarly — NET (four in the top 50), KenPom (four in the top 40), Sagarin (four in the top 40), KPI (four in the top 40), BPI (four in the top 50) and SOR Strength of Schedule Record (four in the top 40).
The WCC, boasting four projected NCAA Tournament teams, trails only the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Big East in probable NCAA bids. The WCC is tied with the ACC (four berths) and ahead of the Pac-12 (three) and AAC (2).
“In a WCC that’s better than it’s ever been before, I think by the metrics, that’s pretty accurate,” said Cougars coach Mark Pope. “This is the best this league has ever been. It’s the league’s best nonconference performance; the most teams ranked in the top 40. It just gets harder from here.”
Problem is, the WCC season was supposed to tip off last weekend but due to COVID-19, every game was postponed.
In early January, five teams are on COVID-19 pause — San Diego, Santa Clara, Portland, Pepperdine and Gonzaga.
The league is trying to reschedule games that have been postponed, which could make things somewhat chaotic, similar to last season.
BYU is scheduled to open WCC play Thursday at home against Pacific. The Cougars host Saint Mary’s on Saturday.
Here’s a look at all 10 WCC teams heading into conference play, in order of their current NET ranking:
Statistical leaders: Drew Timme (16.7 ppg), Chet Holmgren (8.4 rpg)
Coach: Mark Few, 23rd season
Best win: Beat UCLA 83-63
NET ranking: 4
Fast fact: Gonzaga has been ranked in the top five of 39 consecutive AP polls.
Statistical leaders: Alex Barcello (17.3 ppg), Fousseyni Traore (7.4 rpg)
Coach: Mark Pope, third season
Best win: Beat Oregon 81-49
NET ranking: 31
Fast fact: The Cougars have never lost back-to-back regular-season games under Pope
San Francisco Dons
Statistical leaders: Jamaree Bouyea (17.8), Yauhen Massalski (7.9 rpg)
Coach: Todd Golden, fourth season
Best win: Beat Alabama-Birmingham 63-61
NET ranking: 34
Fast fact: The Dons entered the new year with the most victories in college basketball
Saint Mary’s Gaels
Statistical leaders: Matthias Tass (12.5 ppg), Kyle Bowen (6.5 rpg)
Coach: Randy Bennett, 21st season
Best win: Beat Oregon 62-50
NET ranking: 41
Fast fact: The Gaels are surrendering just 58.1 points per game, best in the WCC and No. 14 nationally
Santa Clara Broncos
Statistical leaders: Jalen Williams (18.8 ppg), Keshawn Justice (8 rpg)
Coach: Herb Sendek, sixth season
Best win: Beat TCU 85-66
NET ranking: 76
Fast fact: Four different Broncos starters have scored at least 20 points in a game, led by Williams (seven times).
Loyola Marymount Lions
Statistical leaders: Eli Scott (15.6 ppg), Eli Scott (6.7)
Coach: Stan Johnson, third season
Best win: Beat SMU 76-70
NET ranking: 158
Fast fact: Scott is the only player ranked among the top 10 in the WCC in scoring (sixth at 15.6), rebounding (seventh at 6.7) and assists (ninth at 3.8).
San Diego Toreros
Statistical leaders: Marcellus Earlington (13.6 ppg), Terrell Brown-Soares (7.7 rpg)
Coach: Sam Scholl, fourth season
Best win: Beat Nevada 75-68
NET ranking: 216
Fast fact: The Toreros have been bolstered by three transfers — Earlington (St. John’s), Brown-Soares (Pittsburgh) and Jase Townsend (Denver).
Statistical leaders: Tyler Robertson (15.6 ppg), Tyler Robertson (6.3 rpg)
Coach: Shantay Legans, first season
Best win: Beat UC Davis 65-60
NET ranking: 247
Fast fact: The Pilots have posted a 1-42 record over the last three seasons in WCC play.
Statistical leaders: Jan Zidek (12.4 ppg), Keith Fisher (6.3 rpg)
Coach: Lorenzo Romar, seventh season
Best win: Beat UC Davis 72-67
NET ranking: 255
Fast fact: Four Pepperdine freshmen have combined to score 37% of the Waves’ points, led by guard Houston Mallette (11.3 points per game).
Statistical leaders: Jeremiah Bailey (10.8 ppg), Alphonso Anderson (6.2 rpg)
Coach: Leonard Perry, first season
Best win: Beat UC Santa Barbara 80-71, OT
NET ranking: 304
Fast fact: Eleven different players have started at least one game for Pacific and eight different players have led the team in scoring in a game.