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BYU, rest of WCC, still chasing top-ranked, perennial power Gonzaga

Gonzaga became only the third team ever to beat three top-15 opponents in its first four games. It has notched convincing victories over No. 3 Kansas, No. 4 Iowa, No. 7 West Virginia and No. 16 Virginia

Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert reacts after making a 3-point basket against Virginia during game, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 in Fort Worth, Texas.
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

Here’s the good news for the West Coast Conference — top-ranked Gonzaga is representing the league in stellar fashion once again, holding the WCC banner high.

Going into the week, the Zags boasted a perfect record and maintained the No. 1 ranking in the polls since the season started.

Gonzaga became only the third team ever to beat three top-15 opponents in its first four games, notching convincing victories over No. 3 Kansas, No. 4 Iowa, No. 7 West Virginia and No. 16 Virginia. The Zags won those four games by an average of 12.8 points.

So what’s the bad news for the WCC, which tips off league play Thursday?

Because of Gonzaga’s dominance, there might not be much of a conference race, again. The Zags are the perennial WCC champions and a national power.

Gonzaga has participated in every NCAA tournament held since 1999 and has appeared in every final Associated Press poll since the 2008-09 season. The Zags have won every WCC regular-season championship but two since 1998.

And this might be coach Mark Few’s best team in his 22 seasons at the helm in Spokane.

Is this the year that Gonzaga finally wins a national championship? Many around the country are saying it is. Based on what the Zags have accomplished during nonconference play, there’s plenty of talk nationally about the possibility of an undefeated season.

But BYU and Saint Mary’s will try to spoil a potential perfect season for Gonzaga.

The Cougars and Gaels figure to continue being part of the league’s Big Three, with San Francisco and Pepperdine hoping to make a push to be included in that conversation.

Will the WCC be a multi-bid league in the 2021 NCAA Tournament?

A year ago, Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary’s were projected to be single-digit seeds in the Big Dance before it was canceled due to the global pandemic.

Here’s a look at all 10 teams in the league, in the order of how the WCC’s coaches predicted them to finish:

Gonzaga’s Drew Timme goes to the basket during a game against West Virginia in Indianapolis Dec. 2, 2020.
Darron Cummings, Associated Press

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Record: (8-0)

Statistical leaders: Corey Kispert (22.4 points), Drew Timme (7.6 rebounds), Jalen Suggs (5.9 assists)

Coach: Mark Few (606-124, 22nd season)

Best wins: Kansas (102-90), West Virginia (87-82), Iowa (99-88), Virginia (98-75) ranking: No. 1

Fast fact: Few entered his 22nd season at the helm with 599 career victories. He earned win No. 600 against Kansas.

BYU forward Caleb Lohner, left, guard Connor Harding (44) and guard Alex Barcello (13) celebrate the team’s win over Utah State Dec. 5, 2020, in Logan.
Eli Lucero, The Herald Journal via Associated Press

BYU Cougars

Record: 9-2

Statistical leaders: Alex Barcello (16.9 points), Caleb Lohner (6.6 rebounds), Barcello (4.8 assists)

Coach: Mark Pope (33-10, second season)

Best wins: at No. 18 San Diego State (72-62), Utah (82-64) ranking: No. 66

Fast fact: Barcello is shooting an astonishing 63% (29 of 46) from 3-point range this season.

Saint Mary’s Tommy Kuhse plays against BYU during the first half of a game in the West Coast Conference men’s tournament Monday, March 9, 2020, in Las Vegas.
Isaac Brekken, Associated Press

Saint Mary’s Gaels

Record: (8-2)

Statistical leaders: Tommy Kuhse (14.8 points), Kyle Bowen (5.8 rebounds), Kuhse (5.7 assists)

Coach: Randy Bennett (448-184, 20th season)

Best wins: Northern Iowa (66-64), UTEP (73-61). ranking: No. 68

Fast fact: Bennett comes into the season with 207 WCC victories, second only to Few.

Pepperdine guard Colbey Ross, center, drives past BYU guard Connor Harding during a game Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Malibu, Calif.
Ringo H.W. Chiu, Associated Press

Pepperdine Waves

Record: 4-5

Statistical leaders: Colbey Ross (19 points), Kessler Edwards (5.9 rebounds), Ross (7.2 assists).

Coach: Lorenzo Romar (78-83, sixth season)

Best wins: Cal (74-62) ranking: No. 143

Fast fact: Ross has 708 career assists, the most in program history and second-most among active Division I players.

San Francisco guard Jamaree Bouyea dribbles the ball during a game against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

San Francisco Dons

Record: 6-4

Statistical leaders: Jamaree Bouyea (17.4 points), Dzmitry Ryuny (6.5 rebounds), Bouyea (4.0 assists).

Coach: Todd Golden (28-16, second season)

Best wins: Virginia (61-60) ranking: No. 74

Fast fact: Before the Dons’ upset of then-No. 4 Virginia, they had not defeated a top-five program since 1982.

Santa Clara forward Josip Vrankic brings the ball up the court during a game against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

Santa Clara Broncos

Record: 6-1

Statistical leaders: Josip Vrankic (16.6 points), Vrankic (8.7 rebounds), Christian Carlyle (2.6 assists).

Coach: Herb Sendek (70-65, fifth season)

Best wins: CSU Bakersfield (53-47) ranking: No. 122

Fast fact: The Broncos lead the league in scoring defense, allowing opponents just 60 points per game.

Loyola Marymount guard Dameane Douglas, right, dribbles the ball while defended by Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins during a game in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

Loyola Marymount Lions

Record: 5-3

Statistical leaders: Dameane Douglas (14.0 points), Eli Scott (8.6 rebounds), Scott (3.4 assists).

Coach: Stan Johnson (5-3, first season)

Best wins: UC Irvine (51-48) ranking: No. 126

Fast fact: Scott ranks No. 32 among active Division I players in career rebounds.

Pacific forward Jeremiah Bailey (13) dribbles the ball while defended by Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

Pacific Tigers

Record: 3-1

Statistical leaders: Jeremiah Bailey (14.8 points), Bailey (8.5 rebounds), Pierre Cockrell (3.0 assists).

Coach: Damon Stoudamire (64-69, fifth season)

Best wins: Montana State (74-70) ranking: No. 136

Fast fact: The Tigers rank last in the WCC in both free-throw percentage (59%) and field-goal percentage (37%).

San Diego guard Joey Calcaterra (2) runs on the court during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

San Diego Toreros

Record: 1-3

Statistical leaders: Joey Calcaterra (15.5 points), Yauhen Massalski (8.5 rebounds), Calcaterra (2.2 assists).

Coach: Sam Scholl (33-43, fourth season)

Best wins: Cal Poly (70-61) ranking: No. 191

Fast fact: Last year’s leading scorer, guard Braun Hartfield, opted not to return for his senior season.

Portland head coach Terry Porter directs his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

Portland Pilots

Record: 6-2

Statistical leaders: Amhed Ali (19.0 points), Eddie Davis (5.2 rebounds), Ali (2.9 assists).

Coach: Terry Porter (43-94, fifth season)

Best wins: Oregon State (87-86) ranking: No. 267

Fast fact: The Pilots have won just one WCC regular-season game the past two seasons (1-31).

2020-21 All-WCC preseason men’s basketball team

Joel Ayayi, Jr. G, Gonzaga

Alex Barcello, Sr. G, BYU

Jamaree Bouyea, Sr. G, San Francisco

Kessler Edwards, Jr. F, Pepperdine

Corey Kispert, Sr. F, Gonzaga

Colbey Ross, Sr. G, Pepperdine

Eli Scott, Sr. G, LMU

Matthias Tass, Jr. C, Saint Mary’s

Drew Timme, So. F, Gonzaga

Josip Vrankic, Sr. F, Santa Clara