The college basketball season is approaching fast, and you know what that means, right? Yep, it's conference preview time! So over the next 13 weekdays I'll be here counting down the Top 13 leagues in the nation from a list that includes (in alphabetical order) the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Colonial, Conference USA, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Pac-10, SEC, Western Athletic and West Coast.
|Coach Mark Few can bring Gonzaga its eighth consecutive conference title. (US Presswire)|
Then on Nov. 3 and 4, we'll all relax because it's the weekend.
Then on the morning of Nov. 5, I'll publish a preseason Projecting the Field.
And then on the night of Nov. 5, I'll be at the season opener between Memphis and UT-Martin.
Anyway, that's the plan, one that is etched in stone and unchangeable. So grab your favorite sneakers, lace 'em up and get in a defensive stance. It's time to start the conference previews with the 13th-best league in the nation ... the West Coast Conference.
I went to the WCC website to gather statistics and such and realized the official preseason poll, as voted on by the league's coaches, had been released. To my surprise, Saint Mary's received three first-place votes. Which is crazy. And I like Saint Mary's. But why anybody would think the team that has won this league the past seven seasons -- and returns stars like Josh Heytvelt, Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin -- will not win this league this season is beyond comprehension. Voting for anybody not called Gonzaga is silly, kinda like how Steve Spurrier always opens the season by putting Duke on his preseason football ballot. It's cute. But that doesn't make it any less wrong.
|2. Saint Mary's||none|
|3. San Diego||none|
|4. Santa Clara||none|
|5. San Francisco||none|
2. St. Mary's
Let me use this space to apologize to Saint Mary's for using all of the above space to write about Saint Mary's and how it is stupid for people to vote for the Gaels to win the league. It's nothing personal. The Gaels have some nice players -- like Diamon Simpson and Omar Samhan -- and as a team they aren't bad. It's just that, well, they aren't quite Gonzaga either.
3. San Diego
What's the best way to maybe one day challenge Gonzaga? Steal a Gonzaga coach, of course. That's what San Diego did this offseason when it hired Bill Grier, who was on staff at Gonzaga for 16 years. He inherits a decent core consisting of Brandon Johnson and Gyno Pomare. But those guys aren't Pargo and Heytvelt, so Grier will have to adjust his eyes and get used to seeing something different from what it is he's used to seeing.
4. Santa Clara
Kerry Keating had his choice of jobs after helping Ben Howland to back-to-back Final Fours at UCLA. The hotshot assistant opted for Santa Clara over Long Beach State, and he already has four early Class of 2008 commitments and two early Class of 2009 commitments, which is extremely rare for a mid-major program. Translation: Things are going to work out well for Keating. He's recruiting at a high level relative to the rest of the league, and that's always the first step to ensuring future success.
The Dons have the talent to finish higher than this thanks to Texas Tech transfer Dior Lowhorn. He got 10 starts for Bob Knight two years ago and should team with Manny Quezada and Jay Watkins to form a nice nucleus. Also on the roster is Hyman Taylor, a former Virginia Tech signee. His nickname is 'Swat.' That's gotta be a good sign, no?
|G -- Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga|
|G -- Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga|
|F -- Dior Lowhorn, San Francisco|
|F -- Josh Heytvelt, Gonzaga|
|F -- Gyno Pomare, San Diego|
|G -- Brody Angley, Santa Clara|
|G -- Brandon Johnson, San Diego|
|G -- Manny Quezada, San Francisco|
|F -- Diamon Simpson, St. Mary's|
|C -- John Bryant, Santa Clara|
| Player of the Year |
Josh Heytvelt, Gonzaga
| Newcomer of the Year |
Dior Lowhorn, San Francisco
| Breakthrough Player |
Manny Quezada, San Francisco
Vance Walberg has probably had more stories written about him than any other person with an 8-23 Division I record in history. The reason, of course, is his system -- that high-octane way of playing that has garnered national attention primarily because of how Memphis used a variation of it to make back-to-back Elite Eights. The style is intriguing on many levels, innovative and fun. And prospects are starting to take notice because Walberg has two Class of 2008 Top 100 prospects -- Paul McCoy and Brad Tinsley -- on the way to join Class of 2007 Top 100 standout Tyrone Shelley. They should all be on the same court next season. So though this season could be rough again, just trust me when I tell you Pepperdine is on the verge of being really, really good.
The Pilots won a WCC Tournament game last season for the first time in more than a decade. Then they lost their top two scorers, which is why it's rough being Portland. But I'd like to thank coach Eric Reveno for keeping a WCC tradition alive. He signed Nik Raivio, brother of former Gonzaga star Derek Raivio. So if nothing else, we are ensured of another year of announcers butchering that last name, and what's more fun than that?
Remember the good old days when the Lions had Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble and they would score 110 points and beat people by 20? Those were fun times at Loyola Marymount. These are not. Such is life for a team that loses five of its top six players.
|2007-08 Season Preview/Conference Countdown Schedule|
|Monday, Oct. 15||Preseason Top 25 (and one)||Thursday, Oct. 25||No. 7: Missouri Valley|
|Tuesday, Oct. 16||Preseason All-Amercia Team||Friday, Oct. 26||No. 6: Big 12|
|Wednesday, Oct. 17||No. 13: West Coast||Monday, Oct. 29||No. 5: Big Ten|
|Thursday, Oct. 18||No. 12: Colonial||Tuesday, Oct. 30||No. 4: SEC|
|Friday, Oct. 19||No. 11: Mountain West||Wednesday, Oct. 31||No. 3: ACC|
|Monday, Oct. 22||No. 10: Western Athletic||Thursday, Nov. 1||No. 2: Big East|
|Tuesday, Oct. 23||No. 9: Conference USA||Friday, Nov. 2||No. 1: Pac-10|
|Wednesday, Oct. 24||No. 8: Atlantic 10||Monday, Nov. 5||Preseason Projecting the Field|