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:
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)
Kenpom.com ranking: No. 1
Fast fact: Few entered his 22nd season at the helm with 599 career victories. He earned win No. 600 against Kansas.
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)
Kenpom.com ranking: No. 66
Fast fact: Barcello is shooting an astonishing 63% (29 of 46) from 3-point range this season.
Saint Mary’s Gaels
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).
Kenpom.com ranking: No. 68
Fast fact: Bennett comes into the season with 207 WCC victories, second only to Few.
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)
Kenpom.com 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 Dons
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)
Kenpom.com 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 Broncos
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)
Kenpom.com ranking: No. 122
Fast fact: The Broncos lead the league in scoring defense, allowing opponents just 60 points per game.
Loyola Marymount Lions
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)
Kenpom.com ranking: No. 126
Fast fact: Scott ranks No. 32 among active Division I players in career rebounds.
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)
Kenpom.com 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 Toreros
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)
Kenpom.com ranking: No. 191
Fast fact: Last year’s leading scorer, guard Braun Hartfield, opted not to return for his senior season.
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)
Kenpom.com 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